Joining Shopify

I’m thrilled to announce that today is my first day working at Shopify! After taking some time off, I’m really excited to join as a Senior Staff Engineer, working in React Native.

Shopify first came to my attention all the way back in 2011, when I was immersing myself in the Toronto/Canadian startup scene. But after leaving Canada in 2014, I admit that I stopped paying close attention to the company. I did, however, notice a growing number of online merchants using their product. It made me happy to see the company succeed. What really grabbed my attention again was a blog post titled React Native is the Future of Mobile at Shopify, published last January.

The blog post describes a nuanced approach to adopting React Native, using React Native where it made sense, and moving platform-native code where needed, too. It outlines Shopify’s rationale for migrating, how they evaluated React Native, and their migration strategy. Finally, the post discusses Shopify’s contributions to the open source community and its heavy investment in developer tooling.

Like I said, the post really caught my attention. Later in 2020, when I was looking at options for my next employer, Shopify stood out as the obvious best choice. The technologies that Shopify uses align well with my experience and interests: React Native, TypeScript, GraphQL. And around this same time, an old friend of mine started at the company. He spoke very highly of it, and ultimately he referred me.

The more I learned about Shopify, its culture, and (more specifically) its engineering culture, the more it seemed like a perfect fit. Engineers work in a high-trust environment. The company contributes back to the open source community. They have apparently resisted much of the ossification that naturally comes with growth. And importantly, Shopify’s mission is intrinsically motivating to me.

When I joined Artsy, its vision was “a world where art was as popular as music”, which it worked towards by expanding the art market. Not by disrupting it, but by expanding it. Providing tools so more art galleries to succeed, and then more artists can succeed, so there can be more art. This model – not one of disruption but one of cooperation – still resonates with me today. And I get similar vibes from Shopify. They succeed when their merchants succeed. Everyone’s incentives are aligned.

So. Shopify is a cool team doing cool things achieving a cool mission. And they were looking for someone to help them continue scaling their use of React Native. Given my experience helping Artsy scale its own investment in React Native, the role felt like a perfect match!

I’ve written before about my initial resistance to Artsy’s React Native migration, when it started in 2015. For me, the transition worked out for the best in the end, but it was harder on me than it had to be. I didn’t always feel very supported. It felt at times like the change was happening to me, and for a while I didn’t really understand why. I walled myself off and stuck to the Swift and Objective-C parts of the codebase. I eventually came to appreciate React Native by learning React for the web. Suddenly everything made sense. I embraced React Native because I understood its main appeal: React is a better way of building user interfaces.

I want to use my difficult experience to help other engineers avoid some of my pitfalls and find the joy in React Native. My new job won’t just be helping Shopify make the most out of a technology; I will be helping to create an environment where engineers feel supported and empowered to do their best work.

Like I said, it felt like a perfect match.

On top of all this, there are incidental reasons that I am excited for Shopify. For example, I’m pumped to be working for a Canadian company again! There’s something else, too: I already know quite a few of my new coworkers. As I was interviewing at Shopify, a former colleague from Artsy joined. And I know several colleagues from 500px working there, including the person who referred me. In fact, I struggle to find an old job where I don’t have a former coworker currently working at Shopify. Even my first ever job (working part time at my town’s RadioShack) had another high school student working part time with me, who is also now working at Shopify. It’s a small world, true, but it says something.

My professional career now spans a decade and, consequently, I’ve had to say goodbye to a fair number of coworkers. It happens – everyone’s time at every company is temporary. And over this decade, during these goodbyes, sometimes one of us says something to the effect of “I hope we get the chance to work together again someday.” I’ve meant it – every time I’ve said it I have meant it, sincerely. But that hope very has very infrequently been realized. Joining Shopify is exciting to me, in part, because the people I know who are already working there are good people and good colleagues. And even if we might not be working directly together (since Shopify is a large company), I trust their collective judgement enough to be very excited to join.

My first day. I am so excited! And a little nervous, honestly. But I’ve spent my time off building up healthy habits to help me succeed. And I’m ready to bring my best self to Shopify, where I aim to do nothing less than the very best work of my career.

Stay tuned.

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