October 18, 2021

Canva: Transforming a company, people and the world

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Ainhoa Emaldi Azcue began her journey with Canva as one of its first employees. Having been part of the company’s growth and success for more than ten years, she’s launched multiple new projects across a range of divisions. But for her, it’s more than just a job.

Canva has been more of an adventure than a job. Building Canva meant solving the problems I experienced as a designer. It has also meant a lot of learning, growing, bringing my family along for the adventure, making great friends and trying to do the most good we can. In my current role kicking off new initiatives, I plant the seeds (short-term actions) for long-term strategies. I create shared understanding and alignment of new initiatives across different groups, define strategies and plans for delivery. I also coach people if needed to kick off projects.” 

The evolution of Canva

But Canva didn’t become one of the world’s leading online design and publishing tools overnight. 14 years ago, founders Melanie (Mel) and Cliff launched Fusion Books, a service making yearbook creation easy, accessible and fun. 

“I was impressed by their hard work and crazy goals,” said Ainhoa, “But also just how fun and human they made work. When I helped Mel create their initial pitch deck to raise funding, every person they met helped us refine and clarify the vision. I felt I was a part of something exciting.”

With her experience in the company’s dynamic, fast-growing environment, coupled with her expertise across product, design, customer service and operations, Ainhoa has seen Canva transform, as she has too alongside it – with two parental leave breaks in between. 

Early in her career journey with the company, she and her husband (who was also in the first round of new hires!) returned home to France, launching a Fusion Books branch. At this time, Mel and Cliff were developing Canva in Sydney, pitching to investors and expanding. Eventually Fusion Books integrated with, then merged with Canva.

“I launched our very own ‘Culture Book’, codifying Canva’s culture and ways of working. Last year I started Canva Studio, an in-house creative service, dedicated to helping brands, agencies and partners create the most impactful designs on Canva.”

Ainhoa enjoys reflecting and seeing how far the business has come. It’s naturally come with some growing pains (as the company has expanded from two people to 2000!). But she has enjoyed adapting and finding her place.  

Canva is a company where, even though we have crazy big goals and can make anything happen, the human element always comes first. We’re privileged to be in a position of massive growth as a company. We rely on and take care of each other. All you can do is be there for the adventure and continue to evolve.” 

Celebrations, perks and parental support


Sharing meals, inclusive celebrations, support and flexibility are all important ways for Canva to reward and recognize its team members. 

In particular, Ainhoa enjoys the company’s tradition of coming together for meals.

“A couple of years ago, my husband and I loved having breakfast at Canva with our son before taking him to day-care around the corner. It made our family morning routine easy and enjoyable. Canva also organizes Vacation care, which was a great way for our son to connect with other Canva kids.” 

Built on a foundation of respect, trust and flexibility, she finds the company to be a supportive place to balance work and family. There is incredible parental support and many other parents at Canva, which may contradict some people’s vision of a bustling, start-up company culture.

“If my son has a school event or requires homeschooling during lockdown, I know I can be there for him and work at my own pace.” 

In addition to parental support, all team members receive an “Epic Recharge” – a month of paid leave and funds to spend after working in the business for five years. Ainhoa and her husband recently took the opportunity to disconnect and recharge, and settle into a new home. After working for Fusion Books & Canva in France, WA, Sydney, she now works fully remotely from Queensland. 

And there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate too. From cupcakes to caricatures, the company creates special moments to celebrate ‘Canvaversaries’, employees’ yearly work anniversaries, as well as birthdays and seasons. 

“We celebrate every season with a Season Opener, recognizing achievements and sharing our vision for the future. We’ve had all sorts of celebrations, from Holi, the color festival, and releasing doves, to drum circles and painting murals.” 

For one of Ainhoa’s birthdays, she enjoyed a delicious pintxos lunch and Boeuf Bourguignon for her husband. Now, employees receive a card from the team and a spin of the “birthday wheel”, which has a variety of gifts and vouchers. 

Overall, Ainhoa describes life at Canva as a rollercoaster: active, fun and always moving forward. 

“I’d be lying if I said it was always easy. But I feel total ownership and responsibility for my time and work. We’re growing rapidly and there are always new challenges. You have to lean on your community, think about things differently, and continuously grow. But it’s so rewarding and fun! I feel so humbled and lucky to have met and worked with such incredible people. Most of all, I love meeting Canva users all around the world and seeing the incredible impact it has for them.”  

Transforming people 

Having seen and done a lot of different things at Canva, Ainhoa’s experience and coaching has been invaluable in helping team members grow and thrive. And the feedback speaks for itself: 

“Ainhoa has been a gift. She lives Canva’s values and inspires me to do the same. Her strategic thinking has helped my initiatives be successful. I’m forever grateful to have had her as my coach.” 

“Ainhoa’s unique perspective on projects always helps me gain clarity. She’s a great source of support and comfort. Her depth of experience Canva has been invaluable. She has a way of putting me at ease to achieve the best project outcomes.” 

Changing the world 

Visual media is one of the most impactful ways to communicate. As a product, Canva is changing the face of design by giving people accessible tools to communicate visually. 

“As a company, we truly believe that good for humanity is good for business.  Canva keeps me challenged and excited. For me, this has meant experiencing different roles in the business. I started as a Designer, General Manager, Product, Learning & Development, Culture, and now I’m using all this experience to tackle new projects. So use what you know, learn more, keep an open mind, and have fun!” 

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About the Author
Samantha Sutherland is the Chief Storyteller at WORK180. She is a Diversity and Inclusion specialist with an analytical background, making her work evidence-based and data driven. Host of WORK180’s Equality Talks podcast and her own Women at Work, Samantha divides her time between interviewing amazing women for WORK180, mentoring and coaching women in, or aspiring to, leadership roles, and providing high-level advice on diversity practices to Australian corporations. You can learn more about the Samantha Sutherland consultancy at samanthasutherland.com.au.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job. Check out the latest job vacancies with Canva