Behind the screen with Cookpad’s design research lead

From user research, to kitchen fails, Sam Miller shares her experiences of Cookpad so far.

Cookpad Team
Nov 19, 2020 · 4 min read
Adapting to life in lockdown, Sam (top left) and design research team members Linda and Elise, conduct an online design research interview with Yara, a Persian culinary expert and cook.

Sam, tell us a bit about yourself and life before Cookpad.

I’ve lived in London for almost 7 years now, having originally moved to the UK from the USto study Interaction Design Research at Goldsmiths University. After doing an internship with STBY, a small London based design research agency, I joined IDEO, the global design firm as a design researcher. Now, I’m Cookpad’s research lead.

What does your role at Cookpad involve?

I lead design research — specifically working to better understand our users, to inform design decisions. I work across teams to guide and support them with qualitative research to help us learn from users; how and why they’re using the product or feature, what’s working and what’s not working. I’m also working to discover new design opportunities by trying to gather a more holistic understanding of our users; what their daily lives look like and how cooking and Cookpad fits into them.

How has your previous experience prepared you for Cookpad?

My past jobs have taken me to a lot of different places across the world which has been great, but also really challenging. I’ve learnt to adapt my research approach to different contexts and try to stay super aware and respectful of the fact that I don’t always know the cultural norms. With Cookpad being such a global product, this global research experience is definitely an advantage.

How did you discover Cookpad?

I first discovered Cookpad a few years ago, through some work they were doing with my previous company IDEO, on a project called Season Supply. While I didn’t work on the project myself, I thought it was a really great idea. It made so much sense to me to be able to easily get a bag of local, sustainable veggies, from nearby farms, for a reasonable cost and delivered to your office. Then, earlier this year, Cookpad came back into the picture with a new project which I worked on first-hand. Shortly after completing the project, I joined the team.

What made you want to join?

The main thing for me was the mission. I felt like it was something that I could 100% get behind which was important. As a consultant, you’re not always lucky enough to be 100% aligned with the client company that you’re consulting for. But, with Cookpad it was different and that felt really nice. I was also excited to join a company with a live product that was in the hands of millions of people.

Has Cookpad lived up to your expectations?

Well, I joined during Covid-19 which comes with its challenges but what has been really nice so far is that people are really natural and welcoming. Even though everything is happening on Zoom, I’ve had a really good onboarding experience and so far everything has been really positive.

And, how about the role?

In some ways it’s overwhelming because there’s so much to do, but equally, that’s a great problem to have as there’s endless opportunity. I didn’t expect the Product teams to already be doing so much research themselves which is amazing. Everyone understands the importance of speaking to users first-hand, whether to learn more about their motivations, or to get feedback on a product or feature, which makes my job a lot easier. One of the biggest challenges is trying to prioritise because there’s so much to learn about our users and we know more about certain countries and users than others, but that keeps things interesting.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about joining Cookpad?

I’d say prepare for the fact that even though Cookpad is a very established company used by millions of people around the world, it still has clear elements of a startup culture. You have lots of room to experiment and teams are given autonomy and space to try different things which is great, but maybe not for everyone.

One of Sam’s many attempts to master the art of ‘injera starter’

Finally, when you’re not researching, what do you do?

I cook! During lockdown I’ve got really into Ethiopian food which has proved to be very time consuming and included a few fails, like trying to make injera, which is like a fermented spongy bread. You have to leave the starter for 7 days (see photo) and each time I tried, it either wouldn’t ferment enough, or start to rot so it didn’t smell great! I still haven’t been able to get it right.

I’m also really into photography and going to exhibits.

And, what’s your signature dish? Clearly not Ethiopian bread.

Hmmm. A recent one, is a saffron and lemon yogurt chicken. It’s a Persian dish that’s relatively easy. You just mix everything together, marinate the chicken for a bit and put it in the oven. It’s delicious! I probably shouldn’t admit that I haven’t added the recipe to Cookpad but I will, I promise…!

From the Cookpad Team

Life at Cookpad by the team across the world @CookpadTeam.

From the Cookpad Team

Life at Cookpad by the team across the world @CookpadTeam. We like to talk about all things food, cooking, eating, tech, and company culture. More from our engineering team at https://sourcediving.com/

Cookpad Team

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We're a tech company, working to make everyday cooking fun. We believe that cooking is key to a happier & healthier life for people, communities & the planet.

From the Cookpad Team

Life at Cookpad by the team across the world @CookpadTeam. We like to talk about all things food, cooking, eating, tech, and company culture. More from our engineering team at https://sourcediving.com/