Twilio #TweekWeek Celebrates the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Two weeks ago, we tried an experiment at Twilio.  We gave everyone in R&D a week to work on any project they chose with whomever they wanted.  No product cycles, no specs, no meetings, no restrictions.  We called it Tweek.

Of course providing employees with time to innovate outside of the usual framework isn’t new.  In the past at Twilio we’ve hosted half-day “fix-it-fridays” where engineers could tackle those annoying issues that never seem to make the top of the backlog.

But we weren’t feeling like fix-it-fridays were cutting it.  Twilio is a company full of DOers:  everyone drives hard to finish and release whatever they’re working on.  A week gives people enough time to get to the finish line.  Just as importantly, a week also gives people a chance to be thoughtful, to refine, to create quality – things we’re always striving to do at Twilio.

Here’s how it worked.  On Friday afternoon a bunch of engineers and other folks pitched their ideas.  Anyone could pitch anything, and ideas spanned the gamut from internal deployment tools to public-facing web products to new biz-dev ideas.  Some people pitched things they knew well, others pitched projects totally foreign to their areas of expertise.  Teams self-assembled over the weekend and got to work on Monday.  Throughout the week we kept a strict Maker’s schedule with very, very few meetings.  Every afternoon at 5pm we made a batch of cocktails for happy hour (side-note: Twilio may have the best cocktail bar of any startup in SF).  It was an amazing week: both relaxing and intense.  Creative juices flowed.

On Friday the teams demoed what they’d built: 16 demos in all.  We’ll be getting six of those to production in the next two months.  We’re already seeing immediate benefits at Twilio with some infrastructure tweaks deployed to production.  And, I can’t wait for our customers to see the public-facing products our tweekers built.

#TweekWeek Demo Day

At Twilio, we believe in the entrepreneurial spirit.  We hire for it, we encourage it in our day-to-day work, we believe everyone at Twilio can “draw the owl.”  And, we trust in the power of small teams to self-assemble and achieve amazing things.  Tweek was a way to celebrate these values in a big way.

Tim Milliron is the Director of Engineering at Twilio. He makes a mean cocktail.