A behind-the-scenes look at the people who make us great.
Welcome to the latest edition of the Cogent Crew series, where we invite you to get to know the people who make Cogent what it is.
This month Scott chats to Amelia one of Cogent’s General Managers. Amelia tells us what life as a GM is like, about some of her incredible experiences living in NYC on three different occassions and how she unwinds with Ottolenghi in her country home.
Name: Amelia Crook
Job: General Manager
Time at Cogent: 18 Months
Scott: Welcome to the Hamilton Room at Cogent
Amelia: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Scott: So tell us how long have you been at Cogent.
Amelia: I’ve been at Cogent about eighteen months, it’s flying. I’ve actually known Cogent for a long time as I worked with Cogent consultants at Sensis in 2006. Many of my friends have worked at Cogent and I consulted through Cogent in 2012 for a few months, so I’ve always been in Cogent’s orbit. It felt like coming home when I joined as a permanent member.
Scott: When you joined, I was very happy to know that you were coming on board. What does your day at Cogent look like? Run me through a typical day for you working at Cogent.
Amelia: No day is the same for me as a General Manager of Cogent, and I love that. My days are a mix of chats with potential clients, checking in on projects, some coaching and strategy work with clients, working on Cogent projects, catching up with team members and helping with planning and team development.
Scott: So how did you get into what you do? Have you always wanted to be doing this?
Amelia: I am a digital Product Manager, which is a job that didn’t exist when I was at uni. I studied Media Studies, majoring in Literature and Radio. So I popped out of university with some options: either go and get a graveyard shift at a community radio station for ten years…
Scott: Which would have been awesome.
Amelia: Which would have been awesome, but wouldn’t have paid very well! Or I could find a paying job. It was the dot com boom, and I got a job writing copy at an ecommerce startup that had ambitions of being the Amazon of Australia. I was writing product descriptions for everything from books to pet food to at-home colon-cleansing kits!
As I progressed in my career I continually found myself asking questions like “Why are we doing this?”, “Who’s this for?”, “How much is this going to cost to build?” And pulling teams together from different skillsets to get things moving. It turns out that role is a Product Manager so eventually I got that title.
Really it’s a mix of the things I love: it’s both creative and technical. At school I did 50% humanities and 50% science. I feel like that’s what I still do. It’s like the job found me.
Scott: Nice. If you could be doing one other thing professionally, what would you be?
Amelia: If I were to go back to study, I would love to learn more about urban planning. I’m really intrigued by community and what makes a place special. I live in a country town that is very close-knit. The forces that have made that happen intrigue me, is it by happenstance or design? I’ve lived in Melbourne, London, New York and Toronto, and I was influenced by each one differently. That’s fascinating. To become an urban planner and help create more connected communities that have a positive influence on people and the environment is super interesting to me.
Scott: What kind of projects are you working on at the moment?
Amelia: My big focus at Cogent at the moment is scaling our business. We have grown a lot in the last eighteen months. Our product and design team has grown in particular. We used to rely on a couple of people to lead our projects, so there was a lot of consistency. Now we’ve hired more great people, and we’re blending our skills to make sure that whoever leads your project at Cogent, you’ll get a team that is focused on the right things and delivering great stuff.
That’s my key area of focus, but I also do some product coaching and strategy work for our venture and long-term clients, which I really enjoy as it keeps my hands on the tools.
Scott: What’s been your favourite project so far?
Amelia: I think my favourite one so far is a really short project we did where Matt, our Lead Designer, and I were working with a founder who was looking to solve the problem of feedback in the corporate space. We went really deep into psychological theory around feedback and found that space really interesting, because my experience of feedback in corporations and big companies has always been bad. I think that’s a lot of people’s experiences. It was really an intriguing challenge to try and solve that problem and make it a good experience for people. It was a discovery project so we could go quite broad in our thinking and come up with a concept that we thought was really strong. I really enjoyed that.
Scott: That’s fairly common, isn’t it, going deep into new domains with projects at Cogent?
Amelia: I find that using my product management tool kit across the top of a new domain is a really interesting way to learn. You don’t have the deep subject matter expertise that you would have client side, but you get to apply your product management skills which are really quite sharp thanks to using different tools so much.
Scott: What’s your favourite thing about working at Cogent?
Amelia: I think it’s the same answer most people give: which is the people. I love coming to work every day and hanging out with this group of people who are so focused on delivering great work and working together to do that.
Also the flexibility Cogent provides. A lot of companies say they have flexible work arrangements, but the reality is very different. I work three days a week in the Treehouse and two half days from home. Because I live out of town in Kyneton, I can see my kids and do school drop off and pick ups and still be a general manager of the company, which is a real gift to my family and just means that I’m super engaged and happy to be working here at Cogent.
Scott: What’s your favourite thing to do on the weekend?
Amelia: I always have a creative project of some sort on the go. Over the years I’ve studied millinery and sold hats, I wrote and photographed a mildly successful food blog and spent a couple of years weaving wall hangings. I’m currently writing some fiction. Having studied literature at university, it’s nice to dust off that thinking, analyse what I’m reading and apply that in my own way. So that’s a fun project for now.
Scott: You set up a writer’s club?
Amelia: I did. I set up a Cogent Writer’s Club.
Scott: What do you do there?
Amelia: It’s just one hour a fortnight where anyone is invited to sit down and put their fingers on the keyboard and actually produce some writing. Doing that in a group provides some accountability.
Scott: Where’s the best place you’ve ever been?
Amelia: New York City. I’ve been there five times and lived there three times, so it’s a long-term love affair. New York makes me feel like I belong to something bigger than myself. E.B White says there are three types of New Yorkers: natives, commuters and settlers. He says the settlers give the city its passion, as it is their final destination, and that’s how I always felt, very passionate!
Scott: Sounds like an amazing experience.
Amelia: Yeah. It always is.
Scott: If you had a private chef for a night, what would you get him to make you?
Amelia: I actually recently had a milestone birthday where I hired a private chef for the night. I highly recommend that! But if I had my choice of any chef in the world, it would be Yotam Ottolenghi. He could cook me whatever he wanted and I would devour it all. I love his cooking. I’d love to visit his restaurant in London.
As a next-best-thing, a group of us in Kyneton got together and hired out a country hall for a massive potluck dinner where everybody cooked Ottolenghi food from his cookbooks. There were fifty adults and sixty children or something and we all just ate this feast of Ottolenghi food. That was pretty close to heaven.
Scott: Sounds amazing. Sounds like the best place I might have ever been too, with such great food. What’s the best advice anyone’s given you?
Amelia: Back yourself. I don’t always do that and I’m always pleased when I do.
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