Last summer I was half way through my MBA at the Schulich School of Business within York University. I chose to go to Schulich because it is the only Canadian MBA program with an arts and media specialization. A requirement to get this specialization is to complete a summer internship between the first and second year of the MBA in a company that is related to either arts or media. Over the years my interest and passion for tech and digital media had started to significantly increase. I was so happy to land my summer internship with the e-commerce platform Etsy, Inc. Although I had previously worked on various digital elements such as web posts, digital and social content, working at Etsy, Inc. was my first taste of working in tech. I wrote this blog post to share a few interesting things about my time there and to explain why this internship helped solidify my decision to work towards a career in the sectors of tech and digital media.
Etsy is a marketplace where people around the world connect, both online and offline, to make, sell and buy unique goods. As someone who grew up in the arts and culture communities of Toronto I could personally connect with the company's strong focus on arts and creativity. The summer I worked with Etsy I assisted primarily with the brand partnerships and brand activations. I was with the company from June-September and within that time the company had activations all across Canada, executing partnerships with The Calgary Stampede, Evergreen Brickworks, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Wayhome Music Festival, Toronto Pride Parade and many more. It was a VERY busy summer to say the least but! These activations helped to forge enduring and meaningful relationships between the site’s makers and buyers, transporting the entire marketplace created by Etsy into a “real life” context with each and every activation. In my opinion, the importance for a tech or digital company to give consumers and fans a tangible offline experience is crucial to develop brand awareness and to share the values and personality of the brand. Etsy’s participation in events such as the Toronto Pride Parade is just one example of its ability to communicate the company’s inclusive culture and brand meaning.
Transparency of the Company
Throughout my internship I found the transparency of the company to be absolutely fascinating. Every single week the CEO, Chad Dickerson would do a live video update and Q&A session with all staff around the world once a week. It was captured in the Brooklyn office and Etsy employees from satellite offices around the world could tune in to hear the latest news and ask ANY question they wanted. It was pretty incredible to see employees of all seniority levels being able to directly ask the CEO any questions they wanted and they’d get an honest answer. Even when those questions were about the struggling share price of company. The transparency and candidacy displayed by the CEO set a tone for those values to trickle down throughout the company, allowing employees to openly communicate with each other. It was really quite incredible.
Community Building Events
The Toronto’s team is responsible for growing both the seller and buyer communities across Canada. That’s a pretty massive task for a small office of only 9-10 people. To stay focused and clear about the mission and values of the company, there are programmed events to keep employees engaged and closely connected with the feeling of being a “maker”. While I was part of the team I got to take part in events such as Craft Party and a few “crafternoons”. Here’s what those were all about:
Craft Party – this was a global initiative where Etsy offices all made the same craft. For the 2015 event we all made these really cool art pieces where you weave two photo prints together. Every office was sent amazing images to choose from as well as detailed instructions. I ended up framing mine and it’s a part of the gallery wall in my room. Just call me Pablo Picasso.
Crafternoon: These were monthly craft activities where the entire office would get together for the afternoon to make a cool craft. Things like crotched hanging potted plants, jewelry and papery succulents were among the few cool things the team has made during these.
Before working at Etsy I had heard tons about the cool perks of being an employee with some of the tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Some people may think these things seem trivial or unimportant in the workplace, but in my opinion they helped to shape the company culture and remind you multiple times a week that you’re working for a kick-ass company. Here are a couple of the unexpected perks that came with completing an internship with Etsy.
1. Monthly massages
Each month a RMT would come to the office and transform a meeting room into a mini spa. I don’t think this one needs much more explaining, pretty incredible!
2. Manicure allowance
This perk was made for me because I am all about having nice nails. Each month all employees are given a credit for a manicure or pedicure.
“Eatsy” is the name for the communal lunches that happened twice a week. We often ordered from great local restaurants like Fresh, Me Va Me, and Sud Forno to name a few. All of the office is encouraged to eat together at a communal table, a great chance to catch up with your co-workers, take a break and build overall morale in the office. It was also a great way to make sure people aren’t eating at their desk every single day.
During the summer of 2015 I was working this full time internship while also balancing a full-blown consulting gig for a major Canadian animation studio. You’d think that would be a pretty rough summer, but it was actually one of the best. A lot of this had to do with the people I was working with at Etsy. The Toronto Etsy office is comprised of a group of individuals with extremely diverse backgrounds and skills. Everyone is excited to be doing his or her work and I think a lot of that comes from doing something that hasn’t been done before. Maybe there is a certain level of excitement and passion that comes with venturing into unknown territory. Etsy is truly unique, just like its employees.
One Etsy Canada employee that I must shed some light on is Partnerships Specialist, Trisha Lepper. In addition to her influential partnership work within Etsy she is also a bomb entrepreneur and branding champion. Her and long time friend Danielle Suppa (Owner and Creative Director) opened up Souvenir in Toronto just over a year ago, after a run of multiple successful pop-ups. Souvenir has established itself as a concept shop, design studio and event space with features in Toronto Life, House & Home and most DesignLines. Recently the Souvenir team worked to secure an extremely exciting partnership by launching a Uniqlo pre-shop opportunity in advance of the first Canadian store opening in Toronto. Uniqlo also announced it will be giving all the preview retailers a section within the Uniqlo flagship at Toronto Eaton Centre for 2 months after it opens. So make sure you go and check it out! Trisha's ability to curate incredibly beautiful products while enhancing brand profiles through partnerships is nothing short of amazing. But listen, no one’s perfect, her love of llama imagery is questionable.…but who am I to talk given the amount of pug paraphernalia I own. (After I wrote this, she sent me a photo of her latest ceramic llama purchase).
What Happened Next?
After this internship, it became official, I was hooked on the tech industry. Between the work, the culture, the perks and the inspiring people, I knew this was the sector for me. As I was approaching the end of my MBA on exchange in Milano, Italy I started looking for jobs in the tech scene that would allow me to work in both a creative and business minded capacity.
I’m happy to say I have found a pretty incredible gig that will allow me to flex both these muscles with one of the most exciting tech companies around. Stayed tuned to find out where this is and what I’ll be doing soon!