Nick Whyte

Frontend Engineer on the Growth team

Growth engineering

Question 1 of 6
What does a Growth Engineer do at Canva?
Question 1 of 6
What does a Growth Engineer do at Canva?

Canva works on a cycle of four seasons, which we start and end with a big showcase of our work. Every season people in the growth team work on a particular “theme”, usually in pairs. This season for example I’ve been working on improving Canva as a team collaboration tool – making it more friendly for people who want to use it within their business, school, nonprofit or anywhere else they have to work together with others. Other groups are working on improving onboarding and activation, mobile growth, and so on. The Growth team also does product analytics work, and the Marketplace/SEO team sits within Growth as well – they work on things like our templates and icons pages, and other pages that drive people to the core product.

We’re all encouraged to contribute ideas for growth experiments, though I usually prefer to channel my creativity into the engineering side of things. I’ll build out the experiment, which is usually an interesting new feature, then validate whether the underlying hypothesis is correct or not and how much difference it makes to our users.

Question 2 of 6
What technologies do you use as a Growth Engineer?

We mostly use the same technology as every other frontend engineer at Canva, with typesafe JavaScript at the core of our work. As an engineer on the growth team, there’s also a strong focus on building analytics into everything you build, so we can determine the success of our experiments. In addition to that, we have to know how to run our experiments in a way that minimises cross-contamination with other experiments.

As an engineer on the growth team, there’s a strong focus on building analytics into everything you build

We have a really strong code review culture at Canva, which encourages high quality code. Even if a feature is only experimental, it’s usually worth spending a little extra time to review it well, because if it’s eventually successful other things will be built on top of it. When I write something, I try to make sure it’s something that can stay in the codebase as long as possible once the experiment has been validated.

Question 3 of 6
What is a project you’re currently working on and what problem is this solving?

Everything I’ve worked on recently has been about helping people realise that Canva is a product for teams, and helping them to use it for that purpose. One of our largest experiments has been adding team member invites to the onboarding process. Other team products like Slack push this very heavily, because apart from improving people’s experience of the product, it can also have a viral property. Our experiment increased team invites significantly, which validated the idea that people definitely want to use Canva in teams.

Question 4 of 6
What do you find most interesting about your job? What do you find most challenging?

I find it really interesting to see how different experiments impact our users. To give you an idea, I was so determined to finish a particular experiment before my holidays last year that I actually did the final touches in the airport lounge before my flight to the UK. I was just so invested in the idea.  By the time I touched down, it was deployed!

An experiment doesn’t have to be successful to be interesting. One of the most fascinating things is when you have a feature that you’re convinced will be brilliant, and it actually falls flat with users – that just shows the value of running tests and experiments before you put too many resources behind an idea based on intuition.

I believe in building things properly, looking at a problem in depth and working out a solid solution, but I do like a fast software development lifecycle as well. I like to see the impact that I’m having really quickly, and working on the Growth team I get to build something and see the effect it has on our users immediately.

I like to see the impact that I’m having really quickly, and working on the Growth team I get to build something and see the effect it has on our users immediately.

The most challenging part of the work is definitely the technical aspect. On the Growth team we touch a lot of different parts of the codebase as we run our experiments, so there’s a lot to get a handle on. That also means that I’m broadening my knowledge of different design patterns and learning about the whole development history of Canva though, so it’s an interesting challenge.

Question 5 of 6
What skills or experience are you looking for when hiring Growth Engineers at Canva?

We’re looking for people with a strong drive to build things, run experiments and come up with ideas. A real affinity with the product is also important when you’re deciding which experiments are worth running.

From an engineering perspective we’re looking for fast learners – we deal with code from all over the Canva codebase, so you should be able to work with different design patterns and get a basic understanding of different systems fairly quickly. Even though we’re running experiments we believe in writing good quality code, so we’re also looking for people who value that. There’s no specific growth engineering interview process, so you’ll need to pass either the frontend or backend engineering interview process.  

Even though we’re running experiments, we believe in writing good quality code

Question 6 of 6
Why is Canva a good place to be a Growth Engineer? Why is now a good time to join?

We’re growing very fast, so your experiments will have a big impact and have a good chance of becoming awesome features of the product as it develops. We still have a very small team relative to the size of our user base, so you’ll have a big individual impact.

On the Canva Growth team we build important features with a specific utility – we’re not just making optimisations to existing features. Changing the copy here, adding a link there or just targeting a small segment of our users isn’t worth our time –  we generally carry out large experiments that affect our whole user base.