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Coffee catch-up with UK-based software engineer Joe Turner

We caught up with one of Canva’s London-based software engineers, Joe Turner.


Welcome back to our Coffee Catch-Up series where we sit down with different members of our Canva team from around the globe, to find out more about what makes them tick, both at and outside of work.

This time, we’re chatting to UK-based software engineer Joe Turner.

Hi, Joe! Tell us about what you get to work on at Canva.

JOE: I'm a frontend engineer on the Charts team – we're responsible for building the tools which allow you to tell engaging, interactive stories with your data inside Canva. We want Canva users to be able to take any source of data and help them understand it, visualise it, and share their insight through presentations, videos, docs, posters – even t-shirts!

We're a team of about ten based in Canva's new London office(opens in a new tab or window); a mix of engineers, product managers, designers, and data visualisation experts. It's a lovely talented group of people, who I'm lucky enough to be learning new things from every day.

How would you explain to your grandma what you do?

JOE: In 2020, the outbreak of Covid meant that suddenly data visualisation was everywhere. You would turn on the news and there would be a whole range of sophisticated visualisations helping everyone to understand what the risks were and how the efforts to tackle the pandemic were faring. My job is to make it so that anyone could make similar charts, without needing to be an expert in design or data visualisation.

So, why Canva?

JOE: My journey to Canva started at Flourish, who became part of the Canva family(opens in a new tab or window) a couple of months after I joined.

Joe Turner Canva software engineer UK-based

And, it's pretty cool knowing that every feature that you work on is being released to millions of people around the world, helping empower them to design anything they can imagine.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

JOE: Being able to spot the missing brackets in my code straight away would be pretty handy.

What's been your proudest moment at Canva so far?

JOE: Launching Canva Docs(opens in a new tab or window) has been a big milestone and I'm really proud of how our whole team has pulled together to get charts in Docs shipped. Behind the scenes we've been making some big changes in how we render charts, so whilst on the surface it seems very similar to charts in the regular Canva editor, it represents a big step towards lots of exciting features and improvements we have planned for the next 12 months.

What has surprised you most about working for an Australian company from the UK?

JOE: How fresh and cheerful everyone in Australia is at the end of a work day! Being on opposite sides of the globe, we have quite a small window where our working hours overlap, so when we need to collaborate with engineers in Sydney we typically start at 8 AM London time, which is 5 PM Sydney time. The team in Australia always looks bright and energetic, and the UK team all look like we've just rolled out of bed and haven't had enough coffee yet.

Tell us about your favourite Canva club.

JOE: Crossword club! A few of us from the London office have a weekly get-together where we work together to try to solve a cryptic crossword. I've gone from being able to get one or two clues to being able to finish them fairly regularly.

London Canvanauts solving cryptic crosswords.

London Canvanauts solving cryptic crosswords.

How are you planning to use your Vibe and Thrive allowance?

JOE: In my spare time I'm working on designing and building a pen plotter (basically a robot designed for drawing things). So I'm planning on using my Vibe and Thrive allowance on some nice heavyweight paper and a bunch of different pens so I can make some artwork to spruce up my home office.

What are you reading or watching at the moment?

JOE: My three-year-old nephew introduced me to Kiri and Lou(opens in a new tab or window) recently, and it's amazing. It's a stop-motion animation from New Zealand, and the stories are very sweet and funny – it’s easily good enough to enjoy as an adult.

What's the best advice you've ever heard?

JOE: There's a Dave Eggers short story(opens in a new tab or window) which I read when I was a teenager and has stayed with me. It's about a man who starts to say "I appreciate it" each time he thanks someone, and he comes to realise that he really does appreciate all of the tiny, friendly interactions that he has with people. So I think that might be some of the best advice I've heard - "appreciate it".

What’s your favourite place you’ve ever travelled to? And where would you dream of heading to next?

JOE: I've spent quite a bit of time in southern Sweden, and I love it – it's full of big open landscapes, and has a beautiful coastline. As for next trips, some friends of mine have just moved to the very north of Scotland, so I'm hoping to get up there to visit soon, and then maybe head over to Orkney for a few days.

Joe Turner Canva software engineer

One of Joe’s photographs of southern Sweden at Christmas time.

What's your favourite Canva tool or feature?

JOE: I think I’m duty-bound to say charts here! But outside of what I work on directly, the background remover(opens in a new tab or window) is truly magical and saves so much time. I'm also a big fan of slash magic(opens in a new tab or window): if you type a forward-slash in a Canva design it gives you a quick way to add elements to your design without needing to use the mouse.

What’s an off-work topic you’ve been chatting with your team about recently?

JOE: Our Fantasy Great British Bake Off league is just kicking off for the year, so our conversations are starting to be filled with technicals, showstoppers, and star bakers again.

Interested in becoming part of what we’re building at Canva? You can check out all the open positions we have here(opens in a new tab or window).