A behind-the-scenes look at the people who make us great.
Welcome to the August edition of the Cogent Crew series, where we’re inviting you to get to know the people who make Cogent what it is.
This month we spoke to Adam, one of our Product Managers, to hear about how he got into product management, what that even means at Cogent and the very interesting conversations he has with Subtle Disruptors outside Cogent.
Name: Adam Murray
Job: Product Manager
Time at Cogent: 8 months
So Adam, tell us a bit about you…
I’ve been at Cogent since the start of this year, and work three days a week as a Product Manager across a number of different clients. I help them on the project side of their business, on the tech side and also helping keep the commercial aspects in mind. In a nutshell, I help them work out how to turn a business or technical idea into a sustainable business venture.
How did you get into this type of work?
I’ve been working in the field across different types of products for a number of years, but I think I sort of fell into it accidentally.
My first project management type of job was running a co-working space in Sydney, which was before co-working spaces really took off. That was more of a service-oriented management role, and since then I’ve also managed more physical product based businesses, like an importing business and a bike shop.
Then I moved into project management within a more traditional role with a software startup that was part of a consulting company. I was a full on corporate consultant in the traditional sense for a while, but I didn’t find it to be the best fit or the most satisfying work for me.
I actually did a post graduate degree in social science and have travelled a lot in Africa and India. Because of those experiences, I had a strong interest in social impact bubbling away, but didn’t know how to integrate that into my work.
Eventually, I started looking to work somewhere more aligned to my values and found Cogent. So it’s been a gradual shift from really corporate consulting to doing work that’s more aligned to my interests.
I also manage a couple of my own projects — a podcast and also a breath mint business that I’ve started.
Wow, sounds like you like a lot of variety!
Yeah I do. I like working across different businesses and industries, but also across different product types; physical products, service products and digital products. I like thinking about the sales, marketing, management and technical aspects that bring it all together. The most important thing to me though, is that I have some kind of connection to what a business is trying to achieve and that I think the product’s meaningful, worthwhile and purposeful.
Your own products — the podcast and the breath mints — obviously fall into this category for you then?
For sure. I started the Subtle Distruptors podcast about a year and a half ago. I was walking through Brooklyn one day and just thought, “Why is Brooklyn so cool? It’s automatically cool. Why aren’t things that come out of Melbourne automatically cool like they are in Brooklyn?” I was thinking there isn’t anything in Brooklyn that’s any better than what’s in Melbourne, but maybe there just aren’t many ways for those stories to be told.
At the same time, I was meeting some really interesting people that were doing great stuff that was having a positive impact, but they were doing it in an under the radar way. It wasn’t anything that would get big news headlines and I think as Australians, we can be a bit self-deprecating about the good things we’re doing.
I liked it because it wasn’t mass tech disruption, which I think isn’t always positive, and is often an unattainable fantasy based on a buzzword. So I wanted to tell stories that matter, about people that were making small steps. The kind of steps that anyone could make and having a positive impact as well.
I’ve done about 60 or 70 interviews now and have met a bunch of interesting people across Australia. I guess it’s a passion project, and it brings me a lot of personal value even though it doesn’t bring in monetary value.
And you grow the podcast around working at Cogent?
Yeah that’s right. I work three days a week equivalent at Cogent, then do interviews and editing for the podcast on the other days.
I’ve also started a breath mint company called Roy Mint Co, which is all about creating a cool breath mint that’s stocked in cafes and also supports local emerging artists. That came about from always wishing the cafes where I’d buy my coffee also sold mints. Going to a 7 Eleven wasn’t convenient, but the cafes didn’t want to stock the mainstream brands with their bright packaging.
I realised I’d have to create something that was well designed and very different to the standard breath mint, so tested the idea with a little prototype. Cafes were interested, so I crunched the numbers and it seemed like I could make it for a reasonable amount and that the cafes could make a good margin. A few other people got involved and we’re going to be ramping things up at the end of this year, so watch this space!
Is it that flexibility and variety what attracted you to working for Cogent?
Yes, but for me there were three main things that attracted me to Cogent. One was definitely the ability to work part-time to fit in growing the side projects I mentioned, which is simply not commonly offered. I also have two young sons, so it allows me to spend more time with them. The second is that I can use my skills in a way that I find fulfilling, which is really important to me.
The third and main attraction though were Cogent’s values. They were very different to the traditional consulting environment I’d come from, and were a breath of fresh air. The commitment to transparency and making sure that we’re creating good things through the work that we do really resonated with me.
There’s also a real focus on the individual and enabling people to be their best and work on really interesting, impactful things. Because of the rigorous recruiting process at Cogent, there’s also a lot of alignment between my values and the people who I work with, which makes it a great bunch of people who I get to work with every day.
What’s something that most people might not know about you?
I find that there’s so much going on in my life that I have to be really strict about some things, and one of those is my morning routine. I wake up pretty early, meditate, work out, make the same smoothie for breakfast and have a cold shower. I go to bed quite early as well.
I look after myself so that I can still work on the podcast and breath mints around Cogent time, as well as spend time with my two sons.
There’s something inside me would love to go and be more contemplative and think more about philosophy, but we’ll see what happens.
As a product manager, what’s the one product you can’t live without?
That’s tricky! I actually try and minimise digital products because I don’t think I actually need most of them. I went on a ten day silent meditation retreat a while ago without any interaction from the outside world and felt much happier and more alive at the end, but find that hard to maintain in my everyday life. So I keep my apps to a minimum.
Probably my most used digital product would be the Podcast app, because for me that’s a window to so much learning. I also have a long commute at the moment, so I spend a lot of time listening to and thinking about podcasts.
The other one would be AI Writer for a really clear way of writing on my laptop. For me good design and good product is about stripping away everything that is unnecessary and focusing on the essential things that give the most benefit.
At the end of the day, there’s no beating a good notebook and a beautiful pen, or butcher’s paper and a Sharpie. They’re my go-to items.
Are there any words of wisdom you’d give your younger self?
I think it would be to speak up more, back myself and to go with my gut. My younger self was definitely less inclined to speak up or I’d overthink things. Sometimes I think fear got in the way of making a decision, so I’d tell myself, “Despite being afraid, you know what the right thing to do is, so speak up or act or change something.”
Like the idea of joining the Cogent team? Head over to the Cogent Careers page and say hello