Instacart Spotlight: iOS Engineering

Many people may not know but Instacart started as an iOS app. Our founder, Apoorva Mehta, created the first version of our customer app in the Spring of 2012. Min Kim, our first full-time iOS engineer joined in Fall 2013. From there the team has grown to 4, which includes Michael Sanders, Joshua Schroeder and Jason Kozemczak.

But the customer facing app is not the only thing that’s written in Objective C at Instacart. We have another product in the company that Instacart heavily relies on, our Shopper App.

Josh, Jason, Michael & Min
Josh, Jason, Michael & Min

This is the team behind our iPhone magic and here’s some insight into how they operate:

What attracted you to being an iOS engineer in the first place?

Michael: It’s a lot easier to be a product person, it seems like design matters a lot more and is taken more seriously… it’s nice to have that perspective and landscape.

Jason: The bar is very high.

Josh: It’s so much better because of the polish.

Min: I gravitated towards the platform that had the level of standards that I strive for. It’s about the entire experience with the devices not just the app itself.

What’s the most challenging thing about being on the iOS team?

Min: I think on the consumer side it’s the release cycles we go through. You have to submit the app for approval and it has to go through a review process after you’ve been working on it for x amount of time, it’s a struggle but you get used to it.

Josh: The shopper app specifically has it’s own unique challenges. There’s different flows in the app and different states the app can be in, so when you build a new feature you have to test in all of those scenarios and that’s a huge challenge for us — we’re still figuring out how to do it best.

Min: And the other constraints are not only screen real estate, but there’s network connectivity and memory concerns, especially with different devices.

Josh: We have users with older devices or they haven’t updated iOS or the app in a long time.

Jason: PERFORMANCE. We have to build an app that can work an entire shift without a charge… not all of our shoppers have access to a charger in store or in their car. Making those network requests or giving their location to the customer, they’re utilizing battery and data all day which is a huge challenge for us.

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Currently Josh and Jason are experimenting switching teams from the Shopper side to Consumer side. What’s your favorite thing about switching teams thus far?

Josh: I’m excited to learn another side of the business and work on an app that is a little more consumer facing. We’re also part of a bigger team which is Consumer Products so we’re building features simultaneously across all platforms.

Jason: I think there’s a whole lot of opportunities — the thing that is interesting about the shopper team is that it’s app only and it has different problems than the rest of the engineering team has. Everything needs to be much more coordinated in the sense of the interactions between.

What’s it like working on one of the smaller teams that has a huge impact?

Min: It’s nice to work on a smaller team because you have more input across the features that get implemented. We can introduce features that are unique to iOS and make the experience much more personable.

Jason: We get a lot of input on design as well! Working with the designers like Kim, Himani & Francisco is super easy. They are really good at giving feedback on what we do. We get a lot of good latitude and communicate really well at the same time.

So I’m not just working on my own little tiny piece, there’s actually a bigger picture that we are all accountable for.

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What do you like most about Instacart?

Michael: The leadership. I really like that people take the “ownership” value very seriously. Everyone here is very smart and talented.

Min: The people really make this place what it is. Everyone is really driven, when you see other people shipping amazing stuff it makes you want to keep at whatever it is you’re working on and make it even better.

What are some projects you’re working on currently?

Josh: The shopper app has a style guide that Francisco has made so we’re just making all of the styles in the app like buttons, messages and icons all have a cohesive style.

Jason: On both sides, the shopper and consumer side we’re allowing shoppers and our customer to communicate more when there are changes in the order. We think it’s going to have a big effect on both sides of the experience.

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If you haven’t used our iPhone or iPad app, download it here! And if you ever find yourself in your local Apple store, be sure to try out the Instacart app on the in-store demo devices for iPad and iPhone!!

If you’re a hungry iOS engineer looking for a new gig, check out our openings here!