Say Hello to Jonie Martens, User Researcher

The Instacart Design Team
5 min readJan 17, 2020

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What do you do?

I’m a user researcher at Instacart and I work on the shopper and customer experience for Pickup. I love talking to our users on both sides because it gives me the opportunity to get a better understanding of the full Instacart experience. That includes highlights like field work, where I recently met shoppers in Miami to learn about their shopping experiences. It was amazing to meet them and we got great insights on where we can improve.

How did you get into research?

As a kid I’ve always been curious about nature, biology, and behavior. I grew up in the Netherlands and due to a lack of wildlife, I started observing birds, bees, and ladybugs, which meant chasing birds and counting different species of insects in our garden. Later, I realized my interest in observing behavior and nature could be combined, and I started a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology. After finishing a Research Master’s in Applied Neuroscience, I mostly worked in academic research settings.

When I moved to the US I got super excited about UX research, and started talking to UX researchers and managers who have been great inspirations and mentors for me. Soon after that I started my first UX research position at Google.

What makes everything worth it?

I love making life simple and easy for everyone. Life can be hectic and chaotic, so being able to simplify life with Instacart gives me a lot of joy. It’s amazing to hear stories about how Instacart changed both customers’ and shoppers’ lives. As a young woman, I’m so happy to hear we help working moms balance their life better, so hearing these stories and making user feedback actionable for the team is why I look forward to coming to work every day!

What’s the greatest piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

A teacher once told me that being yourself will take you anywhere. This is also one of the reasons why I love Instacart because it’s a big part of our company culture.

What advice would you give to a researcher just starting out?

Don’t make any assumptions. It doesn’t matter who you’re talking with, or what their (or your) background is — if you ask the right questions you’ll grow together, as a researcher, a person, and as a company.

Where do you find inspiration?

In meeting new people. As a user researcher I talk with many users on a weekly basis. Talking to strangers professionally is so worth it. Now and then I also try to meet new people in my personal life. I just love hearing new stories, especially stories that are different from mine and help me grow.

Working on various projects at Instacart, which one was the most challenging and exciting for you?

So far I’m intrigued by how complex Instacart is as a whole. It’s a multi-sided market with many different perspectives from shoppers, customers, and retailers. As a researcher, it’s a great challenge to advocate for all of them with a holistic point of view.

Where did you grow up and what made it special?
I grew up in Helmond, a city in the Netherlands. For me it never seemed like an exciting place (sorry, Mum and Dad). But now looking back, it was a really calm and nice place to grow up. I biked everywhere, played with my friends outside, went to the theater, visited concerts in front of a castle and ate a lot of ‘worstenbroodjes’ (basically, a mixed meat roll wrapped in dough) and fries with mayonnaise.

The thing that made it special was realizing how down to earth, calm and relaxed people are in that area. I met a lot of amazing people there who are still good friends of mine.

What was the first thing you ever researched?

Mice! I will never forget my first (and weirdest) research project. This internship was at the Humboldt University in Berlin. I was researching animal behavior, which meant I had to observe and ‘train’ mice. To test their cognitive skills, I used a touchscreen where they could poke specific areas with their little noses and retrieve a treat. I implemented a fully automated system, which meant they could use the touchscreen anytime they liked. We had one problem, some of them were buddying up, which meant one was doing all the work and the other one (perhaps the smarter one — and eventually the heavier one) was eating all the treats.

What is something you’re most proud of in your life/career?

I’m proud that I was able to take a step back in life and career. Going to the US was a big step for me. I had no job, didn’t know what I wanted, and felt unfamiliar. I used this time to take a step back and listen to my passion and interests. I met a lot of amazing people who were willing to help and mentor me. Without taking this time I wouldn’t be a UX researcher and maybe never would have ended up where I am today.

What favorite SF secret spot can you reveal?

I’m a big coffee lover (and former barista) and my favorite coffee bar is Sextant Coffee Roasters. If you like lighter roasted, honey-tasting beans check out their Ethiopian or Yirgacheffe coffee!

Come build with Jonie.

If you’re excited about defining the future of a one trillion dollar industry, building an ad-serving network for groceries, scaling the world’s most extensive grocery catalog, perfecting a real-time on-demand logistics chain, all while simultaneously designing the future of food for millions of people, you should take a look at the available opportunities or reach out to someone from the team.

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