Shopify has had an unbelievable year, and they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Inside of 12 months Shopify has opened two new offices, acquired key companies and market-leading partnerships—all while watching their stock price soar 300% since May 2016.
This growth also means that Shopify has added hundreds of people to their team, nearly 2,000 now . This rapid expansion creates a unique-but-welcome challenge: where do you put all of these people?
For Shopify Montreal this meant moving to a new space altogether. The downtown office, hidden behind a turn-of-the century printing press façade, sits on the border of Old Montreal and the modern downtown core. The office entrance looks North to the historic 170-year-old Saint Patrick’s Basilica.
Beyond the façade the building is new, and though it houses many tenants, Shopify’s own street-level entrance welcomes guests with a staircase stretching up to their first-floor office. Designed by Linebox Studios, the office has its own unique feel, while remaining similar in spirit to its sister offices in Toronto, Waterloo, and Ottawa. The 30,000-square-foot space hosts Shopify’s research and development efforts, where teams work exclusively on the Shopify product itself.
The growing Montreal team is 90 people strong, made up of engineers, designers, data scientists, and operations people. They work primarily on customer-facing products like the retailer’s storefront and the checkout process.
The teams work in project-specific pods which border the office, taking advantage of natural light in the primary working spaces. A desk is yours for the duration of a project; it will flip when the project changes, keeping the teams changing and the scenery new.
A combination of standard meeting rooms, two-person pairing rooms, and individual call rooms line the hallways to accommodate the various meeting styles. Bookable through an integrated system, each rooms is uniquely designed, drawing inspiration from the local culture, former spaces, and other internal cultural touch-points.
Looking at the impressively complex coffee bar, there is a device for every coffee drinker’s discerning preference. Teams are welcomed in the morning with a breakfast bar that includes cold-pressed juices, fresh fruit, and pastries.
Lunch is also served daily for the entire staff, bringing everyone out of their office into an energetic, bustling lunch area.
The main area adapts for many uses, including weekly company-wide town hall meetings, community meet-ups—and of course parties, where draft beer is always within arms’ reach.
Shopify always approaches its spaces with the same goal: optimize the employee experience to ensure they are bringing their best every single day.
I think one of the most important things we are doing is creating environments to work in which are simply surprising. This is the most important thing—they shouldn’t look like where you expect to work. I think what that does makes you want to do your environment justice.
— Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke
With that in mind, this office offers some unique features to encourage that little extra.
The company encourages staff to own their own professional development while still providing resources. This is what inspired the Book Bar; a library curated by Shopify’s executive team. Staff can take these books home to keep, or access funds to purchase their own books in the pursuit of professional development.
Though the Book Bar is offered in each of the Shopify office, only this one offers an adjacent reading nook, covered in pillows and surrounded by dry-erase walls for quiet time, ad hoc meetings, or doodling.
The Lightroom, a clear staff favorite, is an open space overlooking Victoria Square and down to Old Montreal’s iconic grain silos on the St. Lawrence River. The light-filled space accommodates break-out meetings, fitness classes, or plain old quiet work. It was from this window that a viral video was shot, detailing just how much fun a Montreal winter can be.
The Shopify employee experience wouldn’t be complete without the table stakes table games: ping pong, foosball, and a video gaming station. But it doesn’t stop there.
During our visit we stumbled upon a lunch-hour calligraphy class, where staffers could share their unique skills with one-another.
Add to that the Dark Room; the antithesis of the Light Room, this space is a nod to Shopify’s first Montreal speakeasy-inspired office. This room also accommodated meetings, but it best used as a chill space for jamming on the instruments and even a DJ station.
This space routinely hosts after hours open mic shows and is arguably the best spot to grab a pint and wind down. Maybe the 8th floor terrace is better—just not in January.
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