David Guan

My First Month at Canva


It’s been one month since I left China for the first time in my life. Back in Shanghai, I had been a long-time follower of former Apple Chief Evangelist Guy Kawasaki’s talks online. One day I heard he had joined a new startup called Canva, and not long after that I came across a job advert online. I decided to apply, and before I knew it I was boarding a plane for Sydney.

I thought now would be a good time for me to write honestly about some things that surprised me during this month and how things are going now.

Things that surprised me

There are lots of things that didn’t surprise me at all. There’s a real startup environment and a great engineering culture here (I sensed that from the blog articles my current colleagues have published, and the tech talks they’ve given) and the product is one that I am personally interested in. There were also some nice surprises though!

Mentor system

My mentor Tristan helped me a lot in my first month. In fact, it was the best mentoring I’ve ever experienced in my career. Tristan provided me with some guidelines which weren’t covered by the training sessions, assigned me some newbie-friendly tasks and introduced me to other teams. Most importantly, he reviewed every PR I made since day one and provided lots of valuable feedback (thanks also to my teammates Albert and Patrick for this).

Great build pipelines

This was a nice surprise as well. Our engineering team provides lots of predefined build pipelines we can use to apply to the branches in our code repository. Not only can they be used for the mission critical branches’ CI, they can also be used to speed up code reviews and team interaction. For example in one of the build pipelines there is a “Deploy storybook” step, which will generate a React-storybook site link.


Canva build pipelines

Build pipeline


For developers who need designers to check the UX or just make their work pixel-perfect, they can send the deployed storybook link, saving time on both sides.

Coffee walks

I was actually really surprised by how quickly I was able to fit in and adjust. During my first two days, I had several “coffee walks” with the Canva founders and my teammates. We had casual talks during these walks and had coffee together, which reduced my nervousness a lot. There are other experiences designed to help people get to know each other better, like Friday newbie introductions and having lunch together in Canva’s big canteen every day. Whether it’s by design or just because of all my friendly colleagues, Canva is really good at making new people feel part of the team.

Fun and food

People here not only work hard, they also have a lot of fun:

Slack poll to name new release

Deciding our release names on Slack


Funny document left on printer


And the food here is above and beyond my expectations…

Grilled mixed seafood with feta black olives and spicy watermelon salad #prawns #octopus #salmon #watermelon #foodforlove #spicy #fresh #summer #valentines #canvavibe @canva

A post shared by Vibe at Canva (@canvavibe) on


How things are going now

When I started a month ago, I was questioning myself a lot. I was quite nervous about whether I could get the required work done. Fortunately overall, things are going really well.

Daily work

I finished some early tasks smoothly (80% of the tasks my mentor assigned to me were newbie-friendly), which gave me the confidence to take on harder tasks and dive into the codebase (although I still made some silly mistakes in my daily delivery).


Slack poll to name new release


Engineers at Canva are very reasonable in code reviews, quick to respond to review requests and treat every line of the code very seriously. It would be tough to find a better place to develop your craft. In short, I’ve learned a lot in the first month and am very excited to deliver more with my team members.

Getting used to work and life in a new country

Haruki Murakami says in his book ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’:

To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow.

Every day after I finish my work around 6pm (I’ve only worked overtime a few times because of mistakes I made during the day!) I go to the gym for half an hour or to my yoga studio for a class. That’s my daily rhythm and it helps me pace myself between hours at the computer. Both gym and yoga are kindly paid for by Canva! Monday is my only exercise free day, because that’s when Canva’s movie club meets. Later I set aside some time to practice things like JavaScript and 3D application development. It’s a busy schedule, but I hope I can keep up the pace. About two months ago I started getting very interested in WebGL and even made a website, webgl-workshop.com. Thanks to that, my team assigned me some work related to WebGL filters which will start shortly.😛

So that’s it for now, it’s been a big change to get used to but it’s all gone surprisingly well so far. Thank you very much for reading:)