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Inspiration starts here: Pinterest’s annual conference, Knit Con!

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Why Pinterest employees take two days off each year to learn new skills

So much of the last year has been uncertain, but a tradition we knew we had to keep alive at Pinterest was our annual employee conference, Knit Con. Enter our first virtual, all-employee, global Knit Con.

I’m Kacy Ashley, Senior Communications & Events Manager at Pinterest! From dance class teacher at our very first Knit Con in 2015, to spearheading the event across four global time zones…virtually, I’ve produced Knit Con from planning to execution and everything in between for the past 6 years. Much like our company,  every year the event grows, evolves and has new challenges to overcome. While there is never a dull moment throughout the planning process as a result, it honestly makes leading and being a part of this project exciting every year.

This year’s challenges? Enter multiple time zones, combatting Zoom fatigue, shipping supplies to 2700+ employees, and gathering speakers. All the work is worth it though when it all comes together it gives employees a chance to inspire and be inspired.

What is Knit Con anyways?

Well, what would an in-real-life version of Pinterest look like? It would be Knit Con, two full days of inspiration where Pinployees have the opportunity to learn, connect and teach. The spirit of Knit Con matches our mission — to bring everyone the inspiration to create a life they love — and our product, which inspires people to try new things.

To inspire others, we need to get inspired ourselves, and that’s the focus of Knit Con—to immerse ourselves in inspiration.

Today’s the start of our annual Knit Con and this year looks much different than every one before it, we’re virtual. But that hasn’t stopped us from creating a meaningful and memorable event. The schedule is packed with well-known inspirational speakers who’ll share their voices and experiences with us, as well as hands-on classes taught by Pinterest Creators and our very own Pinployees. This means no work for the next two days as employees really do turn on their ‘out of office’ messages to focus on and celebrate inspiration, creativity and learning from one another.

So what’s on the schedule for the two days?

  • This year, emotional well-being will be at the heart of many of the speakers and sessions featured at Knit Con. We’ll hear from speakers who are experts in topics and conversations that represent 2020 and what’s to come in 2021.
    • Inspirational guest speakers include POSE actress Dominique Jackson, CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada Janaya Khan and Founder of Humans of NY Brandon Stanton.
  • Pinployees will have the opportunity to learn from Pinners and Creators about what inspires their creativity, such as how to make natural landscape tiles with Pinterest Creator Chieko Shimizu Fujoka, how to clear mind clutter and boost brain power with Creator Andi Eaton, how to make a fruit crisp with Creator Grossy Pelosi. There’s even a class for the ‘fanchovies’ with Creator Alejandra Ramos.
  • Teams will have the chance  to share their passions outside of work with their co-workers, too. Everything from how to create your own herb garden to building your own drone— from philanthropy 101 to acrylic paint pouring, as well as a crash course in how to master baking the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

No matter how employees design their Knit Con schedule, they’ll be left feeling inspired and more connected to our company culture.

Going virtual

This year we had to pivot from hosting three real-life Knit Cons across the globe for our 2700+ employees to attend, accept the fate of the pandemic and go virtual. In making this change we had to not only think about how to bring this event to life in everyone’s homes, but how to make everyone feel connected as a team when they haven’t been together in real life for 14 months. This was no small feat but here are a few of the tactics we used to create our 2021 Knit Con magic:

Being time conscious: In a world full of Zoom fatigue, we needed to be extra mindful of the way programming was structured. First, we wanted to make sure that no matter where in the world someone is based (we have 19 offices across the world spanning multiple time zones) they’re able to participate in Knit Con at a time that works for their day and avoid asking them to participate outside of work hours. So, we decided to host four virtual Knit Cons spanning four different time zones: APAC, EMEA, US East Coast and US West Coast.

Creative programming: We realized that hosting four different Knit Cons could create FOMO, and with the flexibility of it all taking place online, we wanted  to encourage employees to attend the Knit Con in their timezone.

  • So, we pre-recorded 54 sessions so that no matter which Knit Con someone attended, they would have access to the same inspirational sessions. That’s right, whether it’s 9am in Singapore or 9am in San Francisco on May 6—the same content would be available.
  • Then, we needed to make sure that each Knit Con felt as unique as the Pinployees attending it, so we asked Pinployees to teach their sessions in their own time zones. This helped us not only ensure each Knit Con was a ‘can’t miss affair’ but opened up the opportunity for event attendees to be in the same classes as people that they could run into in the office when we reopen, and create community amongst regional teams.

Trying something new: At Pinterest, we’re all about trying new things—you never know what might surprise you. So, this year we added three new elements to the Knit Con program to meet the unique needs employees might have in this remote world.

  • DJ stage: Video conference fatigue is real, and that isn’t going to change in this virtual event setting. So if at any point over the course of the two days Pinployees need a screen break, they can jump over to our all-day DJ stage that is curated with music from our own Pinployee music enthusiasts.
  • Volunteering: People find inspiration in many different ways and for some it comes through giving back. At Pinterest, employees have five volunteer days off a year and we’re encouraging Pinployees to spend some of their Knit Con time over the next two days giving back to their local communities, either virtually or in person.
  • Donating: We created a Knit Con fund that will benefit nonprofits selected by our external speakers, related to the topics they are covering. If employees decide to donate to any of these funds, Pinterest will match their donation two to one.

Knit Con delivered to your front door

One of the hardest but most rewarding parts of this year’s planning was figuring out how to create hype ahead of Knit Con in a remote world. So we decided to deliver Knit Con right to everyone’s front door, with two curated attendee boxes full of the goodies Pinployees would normally get in person.

The first was an event swag box, full of items people could use throughout the two-day conference, such as a branded apron, cutting board and hat, as well as a pen and notebook to jot down all of the things they learn. Rather than just sending out Pinterest swag, our goal was to make each item meaningful and useful to help employees celebrate and participate at home.

Then, the week of the event, employees received one more box, but this one was full of snacks. The Knit Con team partnered with our amazing culinary team, PinCuisine, to create a box that would give everyone another sense of togetherness, as well as something to munch on as they enjoyed their Knit Con sessions.

It’s hard to believe this year’s event is already here! I can’t wait to hear about all the things Pinployees connect with and feel inspired by this year. There really is a wide range of diverse topics being covered and talents shared that present the opportunity for employees to be surprised by the things they can learn and where they can find inspiration.  For a behind the scenes look at this year’s event, follow along with @lifeatpinterest on Instagram, where Pinployees around the globe will be taking over our stories and sharing their experiences.

Will you be at Knit Con 2022?

We’ve got a good feeling that we’ll be back together in-person for Knit Con 2022, but will you

be there, too? Interested in joining the team at Pinterest? Be sure to check out our careers page.

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