You can’t find couches made of frozen solid lake-harvested ice blocks on Wayfair.com, but on a cold winter day, look no further than co-founder Steve Conine’s backyard to find that kind of glacial decor. While the comfort and longevity of ice-based furniture might be up for debate, the lessons that creating it can teach are undeniable: “When you’re getting ready to hack off a chunk of slippery ice, the consequences of rushing to action without thinking ahead are obvious. It’s a strong reminder of the importance of managing risk and taking the right steps toward achieving your desired outcome,” said Steve. “With a chainsaw running, it’s a good idea to ask yourself, what am I OK with losing and what can I never get back if I make a mistake?”
Steve is always looking for the next challenge. Whether that means harvesting and sculpting ice with his family or building more conventional furniture in his workshop, he takes a hands on approach to bringing ideas to life. His imagination extends well beyond cabinets and couches — he’s a lifelong tinkerer who is constantly asking, “How does this work?” Steve likes to find answers through experimenting and learning from first-hand experience.
In the early days of building the company, Steve and fellow co-founder and CEO Niraj Shah gained plenty of first-hand experience — sitting back-to-back in the basement of their shared Boston apartment, they not only coded themselves, they also fielded phone calls from customers. To this day, Steve and Niraj like to drop in to answer customer questions personally from time to time.
As important as hands-on experience is to Steve, his interests exemplify the type of orthogonal thinking that is imbued into Wayfair’s technology culture and across its global team of more than 3,000 world-class engineers and data scientists. “Incorporating a range of interests into your life trains you to see the unexpected connections between disparate ideas,” said Steve.
“Sometimes inspiration can only strike when we’re focused on something besides the core issue at hand,” according to Steve. Other times, it takes a bit of hacking to push through mental blocks — one of Steve’s many homemade creations includes a small wooden cube with an LED display that emits a random word when tapped. Steve calls this his “writer’s block” and unlike his ice sculptures, at one point it was actually available to buy on Wayfair.com.
On a clear morning in Boston, commuters are treated to the sight of early risers enjoying the Charles River on different kinds of watercraft. One of them might be Steve, who enjoys paddleboarding on the river with his family. If he’s not on the water, he might be mountain biking through backcountry trails. How do these activities connect to building cutting-edge technology? They don’t, and that’s the point. “To be creative and engaged, it’s important to find opportunities to disconnect and explore interests that allow you to feel rejuvenated and inspired,” said Steve. While getting outdoors is one way to recharge, not everyone should feel that it’s necessary to rappel down the Prudential Center.
Talk to Steve on any given day and you’re likely to discover a brand new interest that he’s found. He may be 3D printing a new design, creating kinetic art installations or learning a new woodworking technique. But most often, he’s diving headfirst into the cutting-edge technology that Wayfair is creating. Like the company’s thousands of technologists, Steve still maintains the same laser focus on creating an exceptional experience for Wayfair shoppers that he had while coding and fielding customer service calls in his basement. “It’s incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to continue working alongside our team of innovators, all of whom are applying a broad range of expertise and interests toward making Wayfair not only the best place to shop for the home, but the best place to work.”
Interested in learning about technology at Wayfair? Visit the Wayfair Tech Blog to learn more about how our thousands of engineers and data scientists are building transformative technology.