About a month ago I published a blog post on Etsy's Code as Craft blog detailing the company's Engineering Rotation program. I did not expect it to reach as many people as it did.
I remain humbled by all the feedback I've received from people all over the world.
"It says a lot about the management of Etsy that they encourage designers and product managers to do a rotation on the coding side, when I wasn't able to convince my team leaders to let php developers from one project rotate to work on another."
"That is just the coolest idea ever. For non-engineers, software can be a sort of black box filled with "code," whatever that means. This knowledge gap frequently leads to conflicts when engineers take longer to build a feature than non-engineers would like, or when things break that just seem so simple. Getting everybody involved in the deliberate, painstaking process of writing quality software is a fantastic way to ensure the everybody is on-board with the way code is written and minimizes interdepartmental friction. Kudos to Etsy!"
"Great idea. I'd love to see a writeup about a rotation in the other direction, ie give engineers a taste of the business side of the house. As a data scientist I speak a lot with Sales and Engineering and sometimes the two teams seem worlds apart..."
"I loved everything about this article."
As a result of this tremendous response I got the opportunity to speak with folks doing or trying to do similar programs at their own companies. I've learned a lot from these conversations. First, there is a large demand from people in the technology sector to learn about what their colleagues are doing.
"Just as it's valuable for designers to more deeply understand the craft of engineering, it seems like it would also be valuable for engineers to understand the craft of design! Or product management..."
Second, I have talked to several people in leadership roles at their companies. To them rotations aren't just fun and games. They are looking to them to solve serious problems in their business. What starts as a cultural rift between two departments can quickly result in employee turnover and a breakdown in communication.