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Life at Canva

Jade lifts the lid on engineering and leadership at Canva - part 2

Written by Dani Brodie

As part of our Women in Leadership series, Dani Brodie sat down with Jade Loyzaga to chat all things engineering and leadership at Canva. This post picks up where the last conversation left off - you can find part one, here.


Dani: So Jade, from a UX perspective, when would someone using Canva interact with the tools or features your teams are building?

Jade: Any time a user designs in Canva, we’re responsible for the core part of that experience. So there are some simple things - elements like text, colours, shapes and formatting, as well as the canvas itself, plus a lot of great tools that help guide users from a blank page to a fully fledged design. But it’s also a lot of the platform that enables other teams to build things, like videos and presentations, or all the stuff we're doing for brand designers, teachers and students, built on top of a common editing experience. We also incubate a bunch of up-and-coming products which is exciting. A couple that launched recently were Docs, Websites and Whiteboards.

Jade: And then the third part of the group is all about integrating ML (machine learning) and AI into editing workflows. We know that not everyone who uses Canva has a design background, and we know that not everyone is going to come with a strong design intuition. So we ask ourselves, what one-click tools can we build to make it super easy for them to make beautiful designs?

Jade and beautiful new addition to the family, Ruby - congrats, Jade!

Dani: Do you have a feature that your team has helped build that’s your favourite, or that you’re most proud of?

Jade: I’ve definitely been using a lot of Magic Write, that’s been really helpful. We love to use Magic Media which is also part of our Magic Studio. My teams didn't build Magic Media, but we love it because it means all of our docs and all of our presentations can have custom design elements.

We know that not everyone who uses Canva has a design background. So we ask ourselves, what one-click tools can we build to make it super easy for them to make beautiful designs?

Dani: What were the biggest challenges with getting AI into the product?

Jade: We’ve been scaling our teams to all be thinking about machine learning and AI, and how to leverage that in our products. One way you could do that is by every team spinning up their own ML team, but we would very quickly run out of ML engineers trying to do that. And so instead, we're looking at ways to consolidate and share a lot of the lessons we’ve learnt using AI in other parts of our product, with every single team at Canva.

So part of it becomes a bit like a platform problem, which is, what can we reuse? What can we share? What can we create so that way you don't need to understand this system, but you can still leverage it through APIs or adapt it to your problem space? As you can imagine, there are some very similar challenges with Magic Design for example, which was derived from something originally focused around presentations, and then applying that same solution to Docs and that same solution to Websites and so many of these other products that we have.

We're looking at ways to consolidate and share a lot of the lessons we’ve learnt using AI in other parts of our product, with every single team at Canva.

Jade: A big focus for us is explaining and evangelising the user value. We’re such a user-focused company and no matter what people are working on, whether it’s platform or something else, there’s always value to the end user and that’s the best way to show impact.

Jade and teammates on the rooftop at Canva's Sydney campus

Dani: How does Canva foster innovation and encourage new ideas from our engineering teams?

Jade: We do that through collaboration, bringing in not just engineering experts in their domains, but product and design experts too. Often they have that longer-term vision of what the Canva product needs to be, where we're heading, and the challenges that are going to come up as we try to do that.

A big focus for us is explaining and evangelising the user value. We’re such a user-focused company and no matter what people are working on, whether it’s platform or something else, there’s always value to the end user and that’s the best way to show impact.

I don't think you innovate when everyone just agrees. You innovate as you brainstorm and solve problems together. Constraints can often lead to fantastic innovation and the freedom to develop really imaginative ways to overcome them. You need folks from those different experiences and those different expertise to come together and really hash out the problem space and then help each other overcome those challenges. I think those projects are the most exciting.

We also recognise the importance of having input from Product, Design and Engineering at all stages of the product development lifecycle. This is empowering because it means engineers have the opportunity to really help shape the product direction.

Constraints can often lead to fantastic innovation and the freedom to develop really imaginative ways to overcome them.

Dani: And from your perspective, what sets our engineering team apart from other companies?

Jade: That's a good question. There is this genuine desire to do fantastic work at the heart of it and our teams genuinely care about seeing Canva succeed. The folks I work with see that this is a space where they are solving some of those really tricky problems, and recognise that the opportunity to be a part of that is fantastic for their growth.

A portrait photo of Jade taken at our Canva Studio

There are other things I always look for too, like how genuinely people care about what they’re building. That desire to make it better is so important because otherwise, the product can stagnate. We’re very motivated by the feedback that we get from users. Knowing that things aren’t working as well as we want them to can be disheartening, and getting user feedback after we fix something or ship a new feature is a boost to our day. What you want to see in teams that are building good products is genuine care for the mission, the product itself, and its customers’ needs.

Our community will even tweet about us, they will go on LinkedIn, they will go on social media. And so it's instant, direct feedback. We get to bring to life something very special, that’s life-changing for some people.

Dani: That reminds me of a quote from Mel (CEO and Co-founder Melanie Perkins) where she talks about our team having a “fire in their belly” to do great work and drive impact. It's that unquantifiable thing that drives people to make the product better. I feel like it's that fire that pushes you to keep going even when it's challenging.

Jade: It’s a commonality we all share. And that’s something we look for in candidates. Everyone we hire has that genuine desire to see Canva succeed and deliver impact to our community of users. And our community will even tweet about us, they will go on LinkedIn, they will go on social media. And so it's instant, direct feedback. We get to bring to life something very special, that’s life-changing for some people.

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Employee portrait of Talent Brand Partner, Danielle Brodie

Dani Brodie

Biography

Dani Brodie makes talent brand magic at Canva. She lives and works on Wurundjeri land in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia.