Etsy awarded a senior software engineer the 2020 Etsy Three Armed Sweater award last week, a dubious distinction, but one that is meant to highlight the culture of blamelessness at the online marketplace.
The award clearly gets its name from the “oops” cartoon graphic Etsy displays on error pages that shows a dismayed seller holding up a sweater she knit that has three arms instead of two. (Rival Amazon takes a somewhat similar approach to error pages, displaying the “dogs of Amazon.”)
The 2020 Etsy Three Armed Sweater Award went to a senior software engineer “involving a tiny code change that unexpectedly brought down Etsy.com.”
The post, published on Etsy’s LinkedIn page, explained: “All of her coworkers rallied around her to help get the site back online, while offering words of encouragement and reassurance.”
Etsy said the award celebrates a person or team who experiences a surprising mishap and finds an innovative solution, which “helps the entire organization to evolve and improve. It demonstrates our willingness to embrace moments of struggle on the path to success – a key value of ours in the continued use of complex systems and development of complex outputs.”
In an article in 2012, Business Insider said the culture of blamelessness at Etsy was started by Chad Dickerson when he was Chief Technology Officer, taking it company-wide when he was named CEO. (He left Etsy in 2017.)
As for the engineer at the heart of the “nail-biting” incident last year, she said the way Etsy reacts to such situations is incredible. “Blame and shame help no-one; encouragement, learning, and growth bring everyone up.”