A behind-the-scenes look at the people who make us great.
Welcome to the latest edition of the Cogent Crew series, where every month we’re inviting you to get to know a little more about the people at Cogent.
This month Mary spoke to Anwesha about starting a new job during the pandemic, how her PhD research has helped cochlear implant patients to hear more clearly, and her new duties as a mum to fur baby Maddox.
Name: Anwesha Chatterjee
Time at Cogent: 6 months
Thank you for joining us today, Anwesha! How long have you been at Cogent?
How long have I been here? The concept of time has been a bit tricky lately… it’s been almost six months!
What’s it been like working at Cogent during these weird times?
I’ve never really started a job remotely before this, it’s been a bit of a strange experience going from my desk, where I was looking at a set of rectangular floating heads in one company to another set of rectangular floating heads in a new company. I feel like everything that Cogent has set up to deal with remote work (through various rituals and the way people work on different projects) have made things easier and these practices have started becoming part of everyday life for me. For me, remote work has been really well managed by Cogent, and that says something about the company culture of believing in flexible working arrangements.
I’m glad that’s how you’ve found it! Run us through a typical workday at Cogent.
It’s heavily dependent on the project that I’m working on, but for the last couple of months, I’ve been working with a company called Oculo. My day starts at about 9:00 am, I’ll get a coffee, find my bearings, have a check with my pairing partner (if there’s one) or I’ll do a little bit of admin or personal work in my Oculo stream. I’ve been pairing a lot lately because I’ve been working in a codebase that’s a language that’s very new to me. I’m very lucky to be mentored by a couple of really amazing people. Most of my days are filled with a lot of nice connections and communication with people from Cogent and Oculo. On some days we’ll have more meetings where we showcase features or have discussions. On other days, we don’t have any of that and it’s more autonomous. It’s all pretty fluid!
Sounds like a bit of variety, which is always good. So, have you always wanted to be in this field and be doing what you do?
Actually, no! When I finished university, I thought I was going to be in academia for a while, and I even started on a PhD. I worked on it for two years and finished about half of it. I attended conferences, wrote papers and did research work during that time but then I realised that there was no way that I was going to enjoy doing all that for another year or more! From then my time at the research lab was filled with me thinking really hard about what I enjoyed and what actually makes me happy, and one of those things was coding! I really enjoyed the fact that I could play around with data in different languages and that I could teach myself. I realized that I could apply for graduate programs in software and transition into that while showing them what I’d managed to learn through self-study. That paved the way for my career, and I made a few lateral moves here and there before becoming a front-end developer. I’m still in the process of getting to where I want to end up, and I’m not sure exactly where that is, but I know that this is a very good step in that journey.
That’s so impressive. What was your PhD about?
It was a digital signal processing lab, and my topic was speech processing in cochlear implants. Specifically, I was looking into using machine learning algorithms to help with the intelligibility of speech in the presence of noise for cochlear implants. It’s traditionally been really difficult for cochlear implant patients to hear intelligible speech in noisy conditions, more so than you and I would be affected by.
Wow, that’s very interesting. I’m taking a guess here, but were you drawn to work at Cogent because we have some customers who are in the health industry? Was that something that caught your eye?
I don’t think it was necessarily that direct. I think what caught my eye about Cogent is how much our ethical values are aligned. That’s Cogent caring about its customers as well as its employees. So I guess it just happens to be that because the ethics of Cogent is aligned with my ethics, it also happens to be aligned with finding customers that are very much helping society. Yeah, I think that’s just a very lovely chain of coincidence working together.
That makes a lot of sense. If you could do anything else besides being a developer now, what would you pick?
I would probably go back in time, and instead of doing my engineering degree, I would study to become a counsellor. That is my alternate path in an alternate universe where I make different decisions!
How many projects have you worked on at Cogent so far and what’s been your favourite?
I’m currently on my second project. Favourite project…I’d have to say City of Melbourne! I enjoyed that project because the result was such a palpable thing. We were working on a new “What’s On” page (yes, it was the “What’s on” page for a city in lockdown) and it was filled with interesting content. The crew I worked with was amazing, and even though the work itself was challenging it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed that project very much.
Sounds great! What’s your favourite thing about working at Cogent so far?
Hands down, the people! I’ve never met a bunch of people that’s made me just go “you are all amazing. Every one of you, I love you all”. So hands down, the people!
Are you looking forward to the day when we can work in the office again?
Yes, even though I have never actually gone in and worked in the Cogent office, I did do my interviews there though! I don’t necessarily think about working at the Treehouse all the time but it would be really nice to be able to get together and have some beers as a team! That’s the bit that I’m looking forward to.”
I can’t wait until we can all hang out in person again, I’ve really missed that! Have you picked up any new hobbies or worked on any projects since lockdown?
Yes! I feel like my life is full of hobbies now. I’ve been running a lot more. I also find myself getting into rabbit holes with philosophy lectures and stuff like that, which isn’t necessarily a hobby, but it’s something that I get lost in and I share this enthusiasm with a lot of people at Cogent. I’ve been sketching a fair bit, sometimes I’ll do a bit of hand lettering, trying out different fonts and styles.
Do you find that you’re leaning more towards tactile things now that it’s all remote?
Definitely! Listening to something while keeping my hands busy is amazing. Listening to a podcast while chopping vegetables. Listening to a lecture and sketching. Listening to something while gardening. I find myself craving non-screen time, so just getting out there and getting my hands dirty is just such a good feeling.
I’ve been the same! So, I know that you recently became a dog mum. Can you tell us a bit about the experience so far? How has that changed your life and how are you finding it?
Well, I’ve learned how to become a more patient human, although I’m sure if Maddox could talk, he’d tell you otherwise! I feel like the responsibility alone and the routine that comes with it has been a very positive experience. I find that having someone rely on me helps shift away from that very common, internal, ego-centric mindset that has been exacerbated by being in the midst of the pandemic. I can’t just sit and think about how depressing things are because Maddox needs to eat. I think it’s an amazing experience to take care of a being that isn’t you, as someone who’s never done it before. That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I thought about that.
Thinking about when we’re allowed to travel again, is there a place you’d like to visit that’s on the top of your list?
I was actually looking into Mongolia before all this happened because I just really wanted to experience a country rich in tribal history, explore it’s amazing nature and create an adventure of my own.
If you could have a chef for a night, what would you get them to cook for you?
Some really good Italian food. Tortellini with ricotta and spinach, fresh pasta and a good eggplant parmigiana. Yum!
What’s your favourite thing to cook at the moment?
Right now I’m really enjoying getting a box of vegetables from Ceres and just going through it. It’s not actually one particular thing, I’m just trying to bring some element of surprise into my life by just ordering a veggie box and not knowing exactly what I’ll be getting! I like looking up how to cook vegetables that I haven’t seen before. I also went through a phase of making a lot of risotto. Yum!
Last question for you: what is the best advice that anyone’s ever given you?
I think the best advice is from my psychologist. It was to just observe what I feel. Don’t do anything else. Just observe. I think that was such a simple thing that I was failing to do. I was jumping straight into the judgment of my feelings and emotions and the repercussions of that. I think a lot of that dissipates when all you do is just take a moment to sit and listen to what you have to say, and what your body has to say. There’s a related saying, “it’s the second arrow that kills you”. The first arrow is having a negative thought. The secondary was having a judgment about the negative thought, and that’s the one you want to avoid shooting. That’s a Buddhist saying that I read in one of my books, I’m definitely getting into the Eastern philosophies lately.
Like the idea of joining the Cogent team? Head over to the Cogent Careers page and say hello!