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 Eadaoin spoke to Corrie about her return to Cogent in a new role, her winding road in the tech industry and yoga teacher training in Asia.
Name: Corrie Butcher
Job: People and Community
Time at Cogent: 5 months (+ 3 years)
Welcome, Corrie! How long have you been at Cogent?
Well, I joined Cogent five years ago, but in that time I’ve left and come back. So, about three and half years in total. I started in a fresh role this January.
Talk us through your different roles.
I’ve spent most of my time here in a product designer/researcher role. Which is to say, I clarify and visualise ideas, understand the people and context they’ll impact, and translate a vision into something tangible. Usually a product, service or part of a business.
In my most recent incarnation at Cogent, I’m on the People Team, working on internal recruitment and wellbeing projects.
How are you finding Cogent, this time round?
I’m stoked to be back! I thought about Cogent often while I was away. I’m a big believer in the values that underpin the organisation, especially transparency and wellbeing. It’s liberating to work alongside people who know who they are and celebrate it.
As for the role itself, community is something I spend a lot of my time exploring, so investing in the Cogent community is a purposeful step for me. I’m loving the opportunity to be a custodian of our values, and to dive deeply into how people connect with, and within Cogent.
And what about your new role, can you run me through what your typical day looks like?
A typical morning kicks off with our team stand-up, where Jimmy (the other half of the People team) and I talk through our priorities and plan our day. Then we head to a larger stand-up with the leadership team to take in the wider Cogent landscape.
One of the things I enjoy about those conversations is the opportunity to zoom out and consider the role Cogent plays in the wider ecosystem. Where do we sit in the tech landscape in Melbourne? What’s the interplay between the economy and our work? How is our work affecting the world we live in?
The rest of the day flows from there, with a mixture of hosting interviews, pairing Cogent team members with candidates based on their area of expertise, and refining the candidate experience so everyone feels supported along the way.
Corrie is a trained Yoga teacher and has been taking the team through some of her knowledge on Wellness Wednesdays
I’m interested to hear about your career trajectory and how you landed at Cogent.
My career is less ‘trajectory’ and more ‘winding road’! I’m pretty driven at this point, but early on I landed in tech and hoped for the best.
I was a special ed teacher in my early twenties, and assumed I’d work with kids forever. But a couple of years out of uni, I was offered an opportunity to help with a friend’s user experience consultancy, and it ended up taking me on a journey I could never have predicted. UX was still in its early days, and her work was kind of a mystery to me. I’d never worked in tech before, but I was up for an adventure, and to be honest was very taken with the idea of never writing a student report card again!
I took a role as their office manager, but quickly discovered a love of design thanks to our team brainstorm sessions. We’d get together and respond to design challenges – ideas were dreamt up, sketches flew around the room, entirely new concepts were created, right in front of my eyes. It was exciting! And it was without a doubt the best part of my week.
From there, I was lucky to be surrounded by supportive people who encouraged me to help out on design and research projects, and shared their wisdom with me. I learnt on the go for a few years, took a course or two, got a little more life experience. Then Matt Shanks (Cogent’s Design Principal, whom I’d worked with previously) told me about a wonderful company he worked for called Cogent, and things really took off from there!
That sounds like an interesting journey! And speaking of journeys, you mentioned earlier that you took some time off from Cogent. What did you get up to during that time?
Sure did! I took a year and a half out of tech, and moved overseas to travel and study.
Wow! Where did you go and what sorts of things did you study?
Well, the aim was to explore creative projects, totally offline. I moved to New York, and studied sketch comedy writing and improv, and I worked with kids again which was a lovely change of pace.
Before coming home to Melbourne, I travelled through Asia and Europe, and trained as a yoga teacher and studied permaculture design. It sounds so wonderful when I put it like that, but in many ways it was an intense and scary time.
Corrie enjoying the view in New York
Big moves can be scary for sure! What made it intense and scary for you?
I have a lot of love for New York, but the move was a massive fail on many levels! As soon as I arrived, everything fell through – work, my apartment, a love interest. My health and finances took a dive. Some super cool things came out of it eventually, but I bombed hard for a while there. I’ve never felt so alone. I mean, that’s kind of a cliche about New York, so I’m not the only one, but it was a struggle for sure.
Would you say that’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
One of the biggest, absolutely. I left a happy life in Melbourne, to take a chance on a new city that’s notoriously hard to exist in. I’d spent a few summers working in New York before I moved there, and I thought I was set up for success but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way!
Dare I ask, was it worth it?
If you’d asked me a few months ago, I would’ve said no. It tore me down. But with a little more distance, I can see I also learned how to rebuild, and how to survive on my own. After all that, I’m better at embracing uncertainty, because I realise on a fundamental level that nothing in life is a guarantee.
It sounds like one of those experiences where, while you’re going through it, you tell yourself “This is character building. I’ll have great stories to tell when this is all over. Grin and bear it.”
Haha. Totally. Also, living in Melbourne has never felt sweeter!
Well, we’re glad you made it back! Now, tell me how you ended up back here at Cogent?
I’d basically just walked off a plane and sat down to a Friendsgiving dinner with a few Cogent friends who casually mentioned Cogent was hiring. My ears pricked up. I’ve always been interested in actively supporting Cogent’s values and culture, and was excited at the prospect of working in the People Team and being based at Cogent HQ. The following week, I met with Amelia (General Manager) and Jimmy to talk through the specifics of the role, and it felt like a good match for all of us. I came on board not long after.
It was meant to be! And you’ve really come full circle. How are you finding the transition into your new People role?
Full circle, but with fresh eyes! It’s been a pretty smooth transition – recruitment is new to me so I’m learning a bunch and navigating the mechanics of the hiring process. But there are aspects of the role that feel quite natural to me, like discovering what matters to people and finding them meaningful work. So it’s a nice balance of familiarity and challenge.
I can tell that you have a lot of interests and hobbies, what do you like to get up to on the weekend to relax and unwind?
I’m usually outside – growing veggies in the garden, hiking, spending time at the beach. Also, anything chocolate-related is pretty good in my book; I’m a frequenter of Mork Chocolate in North Melbourne.
And I love to cook. I went to Italy last year with my sister and we’ve spent most weekends since then trying to perfect Pasta alla Norma, a Sicilian pasta dish we discovered during our time in Siracusa.
Pasta alla norma con vino, courtesy of Corrie
Ooo! What’s the secret to a good Pasta alla Norma?
Sharp Italian ricotta and fresh basil. It’s delicious – one bite and I’m transported. My housemates tease me that I eat it for every meal.
Sounds like you’ve done loads of traveling. What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?
Oh, tough call! Travel’s been a big part of my life since my family moved from the US to Australia when I was four years old. I don’t think I could pick a single favourite, but here goes for a top three: Italy. California, broadly speaking, because it’s my home state. And thirdly, the Gili islands (Indonesia, off the coast of Lombok); the simplicity of white sand islands, fresh food, yoga and no cars does it for me!
You’ve explored a lot in your time! If you could do something else professionally, what would it be?
I’d do something that’s already in the works – I’d be a permaculture designer.
Corrie helping out on a friend’s permaculture farm
Interesting! What’s permaculture? And what would your life as a permaculture designer look like?
Permaculture is notoriously hard to explain, so here goes! Practically speaking, it’s regenerative landscape design. I hesitate to reduce it though – landscaping is just one part of the whole.
Philosophically, permaculture is a systems-thinking approach to life underpinned by ethical principles. Permaculturists see themselves as participants within living systems, and work with nature to co-create harmony and abundance.
As for how I see my life as a permie going forward – half of my week is spent working at Cogent, and the other half is ripe for the picking. I’d love to spend that time transforming underutilised urban spaces into food-producing jungles.
Sounds awesome! On another topic, what’s the best advice anyone’s given you?
That there are no right or wrong decisions, just choices you make along the way. As long as your choices are reflective of your values, you can stand by them.
Great advice. Meaning is one of the core values at Cogent. What do you consider to be meaningful work, for you?
I find meaning in helping people gain clarity on what matters to them, nurturing their wellbeing, and building community. I know I keep banging on about community – but that’s because there’s only so much impact we can have as individuals. But together, we can affect the broader structures in our society. That’s why I’m grateful to be part of Cogent – because we’re a group of people connected by clear and purposeful values. This gives us a certain momentum to bring about our version of a more just world.
Like the idea of joining the Cogent team? Head over to the Cogent Careers page and say hello!