Chris Low

Sometimes chef, facilities manager and office visionary

Hear from Chris, Canva Vibe Team

Question 1 of 7
What attracted you to join Canva?
Question 1 of 7
What attracted you to join Canva?

I used to own a restaurant just around the corner from the Canva office in Surry Hills, the Orto Trading Co. Mel and Cliff, the Canva co-founders, would often drop in for lunch. When they heard I was selling the restaurant they pounced and started trying to recruit me!

I took a bit of convincing. I’d been a chef for 16 years, and I knew that if I opened a new restaurant it would be in the papers straight away. I wanted to try something different though, and I could see a real trend happening with exciting companies investing in high-calibre food—from Silicon Valley to London to Tel Aviv. The idea of being at the forefront of that in Australia was exciting to me, especially with the great food culture we have here.

The perception is that tech companies are being frivolous by cooking for their employees, but our employees are the core of our business. I’m always getting feedback that people really value our meals, and the chance to socialise across the whole company at mealtimes. 

The perception is that tech companies are being frivolous by cooking for their employees, but our employees are the core of our business.

Question 2 of 7
What kind of work do people in the Vibe team do?

Of course we cook breakfast and lunch for people every day, and make sure snacks, drinks, stationery, tech equipment and towels for the showers are always stocked. We also beautify the space with murals and indoor plants—it’s almost a jungle in some parts of the office these days! Then there’s the less sexy work of course, like building maintenance and waste management.

The other side of the Vibe team is planning, which looks after constructing our new buildings and future planning. We’re always expanding, and whether it’s new bike and shower facilities or whole new office floors, there’s always something massive and interesting to do. 

I don’t do as much cooking as people might think these days, I look after all the facilities for the company now, including fitting out new offices and kitchen space. I actually find all that coordination really interesting. It’s never just everyday work—I’m always challenged to come up with left-of-field ideas here, and often those ideas become reality. For example we’ve just started a Canva farm, which has recently produced its first harvest for our office lunch!

 I’m always challenged to come up with left-of-field ideas here, and often those ideas become reality

Question 3 of 7
What’s your philosophy of cooking?

It’s as much about the dining experience as the food. We want to create a family dining experience here at lunchtimes. The big shared serving plates make practical sense, but they also represent the way that a big family eats together. It’s quite a symbolic thing. When I grew up, my mum and dad always had centrally placed dishes that we would all serve ourselves from.

The shared dishes and shared mealtime here really open up dialogue, camaraderie and good vibes generally. The long tables here mean you’ll often find yourself next to someone new, which gives everyone an informal window into what is happening in the whole company.

The shared dishes and shared mealtime here really open up dialogue, camaraderie and good vibes generally.

We generally choose dishes that lend themselves to the sharing style, but other than that our menu is very open. A lot of our cooking is actually directed by birthday requests! People can choose the lunch dish on their birthdays, which can lead to some fun requests. There are people from all over the world working here, so I’ve cooked a few obscure national dishes.

Question 4 of 7
How would you describe the style of Canva’s offices?

The office style is quite industrial, which reflects the buildings we’re working with. The main Surry Hills office is an old sewing factory and we want to keep that sense of history. The offices upstairs are clean and simple, and we’ve added in quiet spaces and plants to make it a bit more Zen. Our ground floor is a dining hall, cafe and standup venue by day, and by night it’s a bar, event venue or even a dance floor. It’s very functional and multipurpose. 

Our ground floor is a dining hall, cafe and standup venue by day, and by night it’s a bar, event venue or even a dance floor.

I managed the installation of the kitchen myself. Probably the most exciting thing in there is the massive smoking room, you can fit a 50 shelf trolley inside and smoke a couple of hundred kilos of meat at a time. We’ve done short ribs of beef, ducks, chicken and lots of other things.

Question 5 of 7
How would you describe the culture of the Vibe team at Canva?

We have a really high level of camaraderie on the Vibe team. It’s all for one, one for all. There’s so many moving parts to our job, we all need to have each other’s backs every day. The company is growing so fast that the parameters of our jobs change every day, and even as the team lead I need to get my hands dirty every day.

People have a lot of different backgrounds on the team – we’ve got builders, carpenters, kitchen hands, chefs and an architect! Everyone brings their own personality and style to the job.

Question 6 of 7
What are some of the perks of working on Canva’s vibe team?

The big family vibe here is a massive perk. Apart from that, I always tell chefs and kitchen hands that they’ll never find working hours like this anywhere else – Monday to Friday, almost 9-5. Everyone’s opinions are taken very seriously on our team. Even if you’re a kitchen hand, you can make suggestions and change how we do things. Most kitchens are a lot more hierarchical than this one.

There’s also incredible scope to do all kinds of things here, people can really take their job and mould it into something that suits them and the company as well. When I think of all the different things I’ve done and learnt and become an expert in since I started here, it’s amazing. Designing offices for example! If you think we should have a certain thing at Canva, tell us and maybe it could happen. Rock climbing wall? Bike sheds? Massage chair? Those are all things we’ve added recently, and the scope is limitless.

People can really take their job and mould it into something that suits them and the company as well.

Question 7 of 7
What skills or experience are you looking for when hiring for the Vibe team at Canva?

We really need doers in our team, people who are happy to get their hands dirty and make things happen. If you have an idea, run tests on it and see if it’s can be done. What we’re doing isn’t that different to running a hotel, so anyone with that kind of experience is great. Apart from that, general hospitality experience or experience doing the role you’re applying for is great of course. We need positive, switched on people with a service mentality.

The interview process is super practical. We don’t even interview people really, we just trial people. I need to get people in the kitchen or doing whatever they’re going to be doing. You can’t tell by talking to someone if they’ve got that get-up-and-go.