How I got my job as a Product Design Manager at EtsyFeatured

Working at Etsy seemed totally out of reach. It hardly seems that I’ve been there since 2015. Before Etsy, I was a UX Designer at Shutterstock on their video site and helped them launch a stock music site. In late 2014, there was a “changing of the guard” at Shutterstock. I felt like I was ready for a new challenge and thought about moving on too. The product manager I was working with left, and my manager suggested I transition to being the PM for video. He kept finding me pouring over metrics, connecting with other product teams, and obsessing about our long-term strategy. Video was a small but fast-growing area of the business that I knew inside out. I was working with a great engineering team that I loved, and I’d be able to help hire a designer to take my old position. It was a great opportunity to drive the strategy on a project that I’d been working on for years, and I was excited! I took it. The responsibility, authority, and pressure on PMs became vicerally clear. (They also get lots of well-deserved credit.) I loved my team, but was still uncertain about whether it was best to stick it out or try out a new company.One day, I received a one-line LinkedIn message from a design manager at Etsy, asking if I’d be interested in chatting. I got random LinkedIn recruiting messages all the time, but I couldn’t believe this one; working at Etsy was my literal dream job. Plus, it meant a lot to me that the LinkedIn message came from a design manager instead of a recruiter. I’d been to the office for public events, read the blog, and had obviously shopped on Etsy. After waiting a couple of days (to not seem overeager), I replied. I wasn’t actively looking so I didn’t have a portfolio ready, but I could pull together some work samples. We set up a coffee. I pulled an all-nighter. (My amazing husband even stayed up to give me feedback.) I went in for a 30-minute informal chat, and I realized we had a mutual friend who tipped him off that I was thinking about leaving. It was someone who I had a good relationship with, but never would have asked for a favor. The tech community is surprisingly small, even in New York, and it proved to me the importance of every relationship.The interview went well, and I had a second round “project deep dive” with another Design Manager. The first manager let me know that this guy really loved metrics and A/B testing, which luckily I did too. I came prepared to talk about how I’d worked with a data analyst to iterate on my work. That interview also went well, so they scheduled me for a full-day on-site.At that time, Etsy’s interview process was *intense*. It kicked off with a “portfolio review”. Candidates gave a one-hour presentation about their practice and their work to several design managers, designers, a product manager, UX researcher, and engineer. I think there were 10 people. Then I had a few more sessions with almost everyone from the morning meeting. Etsy was also focused on hiring technical designers then, so one session was to evaluate my CSS skills. By the end of the day, I was spent!It seemed like a big fork in the road: keep my PM gig of a fast-growing, successful business division with a team of engineers that I loved, but at a company in transition, or go back to being a designer and embrace the unknown, but at my dream company.It turned out my on-site went well, so I was scheduled for a 1:1 with Etsy’s then design VP. We met up and had a really nice chat. I flat out told him it felt like I had been playing an interviewing video game and had finally reached the boss level.As all of this was going on, the recruiter from Etsy’s HR was calling me during the day to check in. That was super hard to balance while plugging away at my PM gig! Open office plans...not the best for private phone calls. Recruiters want to chat over the phone so they can get a read on you. I wanted to use email so I could reply asynchronously. Especially when it came to negotiating my comp, I felt I had a better position and sounded more together in writing.On top of that, I had started talking with folks in my network about other opportunities too. If nothing else, I wanted to know what was out there. When Etsy asked me about salary expectations, I deferred, then panicked. I did some serious homework. I called an old boss to ask what designers at my level were making at his new job. I called my brother, a really talented PM, to ask his thoughts. I called a friend who co-founded The Recurse Center, where they support engineers in the program with job placements and negotiations. I used Glassdoor. I felt like I could only have a strong position with context and research. Honestly, I took the highest number that someone recommended and added $5 or $10k. (YOLO!) One person told me, “What’s the worst that could happen? They’ll say no and offer less.” I knew the worst that could happen was that they wouldn’t hire me, but they had a few roles open and had spent a lot of time interviewing me already. I’d also recently helped set up a negotiation workshop at Shutterstock as part of the women’s leadership group I co-organized there. I reflected on one thing I learned; think outside the box, don’t just focus on base salary. I thought about bonus, stock, professional development opportunities, or extra vacation time. I didn’t end up negotiating on any of those aspects, but it made me feel like I had something in my back pocket.I finally got the offer! It was a healthy amount more than what I was making before. I think I managed to get another bump by asking one more time and deferring because of other interviews I was taking. The other interviews were mostly so I could say I was taking other interviews! I’d read that women tend to negotiate less than men (or not at all), so asking for (what felt like) a lot and then getting another bump felt good.I thought I’d been interviewing for a Senior Product Design position though, but found out it was only a Product Design role. I was definitely disappointed and discussed it with the recruiter, but had already made my mind up that I wanted to make the move. Since I was happy with the compensation package, I ate the lateral title thinking about new opportunities at Etsy. Now that I’ve been at Etsy for awhile, I’ve leveled up a couple of times and worked on amazing projects. As a manager, I look back on my interview experience and see how much time it took from the team. While we still have several rounds and want cross-functional folks involved in hiring, we’ve streamlined and tightened up the process to be faster, easier, and more consistent between candidates. (We have an awesome Diversity & Inclusion team that supports hiring too.)If I were to do it again, I’d lean on the title a little more and start exploratory, informal interviewing earlier. It’s good to know what’s out there! You never know. I also learned the value of having a real, authentic network when I wanted to get more negotiating context. Lastly, I’m forever grateful to the contact who referred me! You never know who’s going to be the key to your dream job.--Erin’s the Product Design Manager of Native Apps at Etsy and has also worked as a Product Manager, Graphic Designer, Gallery Assistant, Muralist, and children’s Taekwondo instructor. She has a BA with Distinction in Art History and Visual Art from Duke University. When she’s not supporting her kick-butt power team, she’s usually hanging out with her husband and son in Brooklyn.
Thank you, Erin for sharing your story with us! If you have a good story to tell, or know someone who does, let us know via DM!
Hi Erin! I love how from your own interview experience you've been able to improve the future interview experiences for the sake of the Etsy employees and team. I'm interested to hear more about how you handled finding out that you weren't actually applying for the senior role and how this miscommunication occurred, as well as how Etsy HR handled it. I'm sure this happens more often than we realize and I think discussing it in depth would be awesome.
Hi! I actually didn't find out until I received the official offer, and I definitely had a conversation with the internal Etsy recruiter about it. The team here is really strong, and in retrospect, I was probably right on the border of what we consider to be a mid-level vs. senior designer. I've now seen hiring managers on the team have a conversation with candidates about this instead, to talk about specifically where they could grow to be considered senior.
Thank you for sharing Erin. This was quite insightful. I am looking to transition into a PM role so this is right on time for me. I pulled out three areas to use as a game plan from part of your post "...pouring over metrics, connecting with other product teams, and obsessing about our long-term strategy".Do you have any more useful tips for digging into these 3 areas? How did you connect with other product teams?Did you already have access to metrics based on your UX role or was it something you had to figure out a way to get access to it? My role does not exactly give me access to metrics so I'm curious as to how I could work on that and what to do in terms of getting familiar with it. Also, when you pored over metrics, were you looking at specific things and how did you use the insights you got from the metrics?Finally, please give an example of how you obsessed over the company's long term strategy?Thank you!
Thank you for sharing your story Erin. It’s great to hear how other women navigated compensation negotiation.
It's important and there's not a lot of transparency about it. What worked for me was research, research, research!
Thanks so much for sharing, Erin! You mentioned that your team at Etsy has since streamlined the interviewing process. I'm curious: What did you take out or reduce? What ended up not being as useful in evaluating candidates?
We're always evolving to balance being thorough and efficient. I can't take credit to the changes to our process, but we did reduce the number of people in a portfolio review. We can get a good read with fewer perspectives.
Makes sense! Thanks, Erin.
Thanks for sharing - It is really nice to read an account that I can relate to. What was it like presenting a portfolio to so many people? What was the point of that? Also, what kind of script did you use to do the negotiations?
It was a little intimidating, but I'm also fairly comfortable with speaking in front of a group. The rationale (which is also in the book Org Design for Design Orgs) was that everyone on individual interviews in the day gets the same context on the candidate's work. If you're interviewing, you don't have to talk over the same project or questions with each person, you can just dive into more specific topics. I kind of liked it, but it is an "expensive" meeting!I don't remember exactly what my script was like with comp negotiations. (It was over 4 years ago!) I remember having a lot of notes handy, but also, you don't always need to explain your number. It's okay to ask for something and listen/wait for a response. I tend to over-talk, so I think sometimes making a statement and waiting is more effective and portrays more confidence.