Why stepping into the shoes of users is the only way to effect real change at Cookpad
From cooking users’ recipes, to visiting their homes, Dilla Anindita Purnawan, a Cookpad Product Manager, discusses the importance of empathy in identifying and solving the right problems for Cookpad’s global community of home cooks.
Dilla, what attracted you to Cookpad?
I was attracted by the mission — “make everyday cooking fun.” It’s a simple, yet important value that I believe can make a huge difference.
What did you do before joining Cookpad?
Before Cookpad I was a Product Manager at Grab, the Southeast Asian ride hailing service, and LINE, the messaging app. LINE is very popular in major Asian countries like Japan and Indonesia.
How did those experiences prepare you for Cookpad?
Working at both Grab and LINE opened my eyes to the differences in product behaviour across markets and cultures — people can interact with the same product in many different ways. This awareness has enabled me to develop real empathy towards users, which is a vital skill at Cookpad given the product is available in over 70 countries globally.
How do you handle the different needs of users at Cookpad?
We experience things for ourselves! We put ourselves in the shoes of our users and never rely solely on user research or market trends. As a PM, I find myself going to users’ houses or having video calls to see how they cook. I look at their recipes and recreate them myself to build an understanding of how they use Cookpad and the pain points they suffer.
What’s unique about being a PM at Cookpad versus anywhere else you’ve worked?
The first thing is that at Cookpad, making incremental changes is not enough. We’re trying to shift people’s attitudes and behaviours towards cooking which requires relentless focus on solving one complex problem at a time, rather than making small changes for the sake of moving metrics. That’s not to say that making incremental changes doesn’t work in other companies, but at Cookpad, it just isn’t enough.
The second thing, which I mentioned before, is the importance of empathy with our users. I used to think that joining a research session or using the product was enough to understand user needs, but at Cookpad you’ve got to be prepared to immerse yourself. We do everything we can to try and understand the role that cooking plays in our users’ everyday lives. Pre-covid, I took my team to my hometown of Jakarta to meet some Indonesian home cooks and experience first-hand the differences between their cooking experiences and those of home cooks in the UK. It’s experiences like these that give us the valuable insights we need to effect real change.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day at Cookpad is a lot more focused than previous roles I’ve had and I believe it’s because all of the Cookpad team are self-starters and take active ownership of what they do. This means I don’t have to micromanage my team. I can trust them to get on and do their jobs which enables me to spend more time identifying, prioritising and solving problems, engaging with users and participating in design activities.
What would you say are the most important traits / skills needed to be a successful PM at Cookpad?
Firstly, you’ve got to be a problem solver. But, it isn’t as simple as looking at a problem and finding a solution, it’s about taking ownership for identifying the right problem to solve, and solving it in a focused way.
You’ve got to be collaborative. I’m not kidding when I say collaboration is key because you’ll find yourself working with Engineers, Designers, Data Analysts, Community teams and users from more than 70 different countries and cultures, and 30+ languages, each with very different needs.
On top of that, you need to have relentless focus, fierce prioritisation and be able to have fun.
How would you describe ‘life’ at Cookpad?
Our mission is ‘make everyday cooking fun’ and we try to live this everyday, in the office and in our personal lives. We’re a truly global team and everyone brings their own cultural differences to work each day which makes our business and culture really diverse, exciting and unique. At lunchtimes you’ll find us in the office kitchen cooking together, sharing our creations and discoveries, and we regularly hang out together outside of the office too. We truly embrace the fun of everyday cooking at Cookpad.
Finally, you mentioned that you regularly cook together. What’s your signature dish?
It’s got to be Dendeng Balado, an Indonesian favourite. It’s basically thinly sliced crispy beef with tonnes of chilli! Check out the recipe here.