C-suite career advice: Cameron Adams, Canva

What tips would the c-suite give to the next generation?


Cameron Adams

Company: Canva

Job Title: Chief Product Officer

Location: Sydney, Australia



What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?

It’s probably the antithesis of advice, but when I was running my own web design agency, a client was asking for a design change I disagreed with and plainly said [to me] “We’re paying you. Do it.” I think that has shaped my approach to building my career since then. Finding ways to do things that I believe in - and can contribute my best to - has been the most important thing to me. It’s helped me find people that I enjoy working with and maintain a high level of happiness no matter the ups and downs that you go through while creating a business.


What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?

Anyone that tells you to do exactly what they did is someone to avoid. Everyone has their own path to where they’ve gotten to, and it is shaped by who they are, where they’ve come from, and opportunities and chances they’ve been given along the way. Trying to repeat their steps is an exercise in futility.

Other people’s experiences should be an inspiration, not a template.


What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?

That’s a hard one because there’s so many different parts of “tech” that require different things. But I think some generally applicable advice is to do something that you’re passionate about. Don’t do something just because it’s hot right now (*cough*blockchain*cough*), or seems like it’ll make you the most money. Find a problem that you’re passionate about solving; that passion will help keep you motivated when you’re struggling on dark days, and keep you focused in the right direction on the bright ones.


What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?

You can only achieve great things by embracing the people around you. I very much believe in servant-leadership: any position at the top is one you should feel privileged to be in and you should constantly be working hard to justify that privilege with the people around you. As a leader you are creating an environment in which people can perform their best, so helping them to do that in whatever way you can is paramount.


Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?

A growing startup is such a dynamically changing place. Helping people move from stage to stage, radically change their focus, and multiply their impact has been one of my most rewarding tasks. It’s a constant process of encouragement, constructive feedback, and also knowing when to step back and let them do their thing. It’s been particularly heartwarming to see people evolve and move into areas that they never thought they’d be able to tackle. Graphic designers changing into product designers, team leads turning into product managers; their growth enables the growth of the company.