A behind-the-scenes look at the people who make us great.

Ever wondered what it’s like to live in urban eco co-housing? Our new Lead Developer, Craig, shared that and much more in this month’s Cogent Crew series.

Get to know Craig and his diverse set of skills (as well as being a great developer), and why he decided to join Cogent.


Name: Craig Ambrose
Job: Lead Developer
Time at Cogent: 4 weeks

Welcome to Cogent, Craig! Tell me a bit about your new role…

I’m one of the JavaScript community leads, so part of my role is to grow the work that Cogent does in the JavaScript space, and better connect Cogent with the Melbourne JavaScript community. Our goal is to build more of a skills and learning flow both ways between Cogent developers and other Melbourne developers.

Cogent has a lot of senior programmers compared to many companies, which is an advantage, as there’s a lot of experience that we can share with people. But also we’re trying to bring the latest ideas back into Cogent. JavaScript is an industry that moves really fast, so trying to get to all the meetups, to talks, stay up to date on everything that’s going on, and then share that knowledge internally will be my challenge.

That’s great. What were you doing before you joined Cogent?

I’ve been freelancing for about the last decade. Over the last two years, I did so while travelling around the world, and then before that I worked from a farm in the middle of the countryside in New Zealand.

After circling the globe twice, my wife and I decided that we wanted to settle down a in a city and put our eight year old son in a school in Melbourne. I’d worked with Cogent ten years ago when the company first formed, but left to move to New Zealand. My memories of that time were of working with some of the smartest people I’d programed with, including one of the founders who first trained me in agile development fifteen years ago. When I thought about returning to Melbourne, I immediately decided to look up Cogent and see if it’d still be a place to work that would stretch and challenge me.

Craig and his family in Bali.

Craig and his family in Bali.

So what sort of freelance projects did you work on?

For the last five years I’ve been working almost exclusively in the social enterprise sector, which is exciting to me. I’m a member of Enspiral, which is a global collective of people interested in working on “stuff that matters”, and together we’ve built a number of great products to support democracy, community and transparency. I helped out with the software platform for the Embassy Network, which is a bunch of houses around the world for co-living with purpose. Activists, thinkers and makers working on building embassies from the future. It looks at how we can have housing that’s owned in the commons, so people can move fluidly around the world and live in different houses and work on different projects.

I also worked on some regenerative trade with Yellow Seed, doing shipping of cacao from producers in South America to North America and Europe in a way that takes a look at the stories of the growers and passes those stories along to the consumers.

Did that become a specialisation then?

Sort of. The main thing for me is that I like to be involved in the full business of the clients that I work with, not just the software. I don’t want to build software that’s never going to get used.

I like working with social enterprises rather than, say, working for a charity NGO, because I want to talk about the business model and how it’s going to be self-sufficient in terms of funding. Ideally, something mission driven or purpose driven, but with a financial engine behind it.

Cogent works with quite a few mission driven companies, which really appealed to me. I’m excited about the green tech companies we’re working with, like Chargefox and Greensync.

What’s your experience at Cogent been so far?

It’s only been a month and I’ve already got my teeth stuck into two different projects, which has been good. I’ve been able to leverage my knowledge, work on lots of mobile stuff, and see an app go from user requirements through to client brief and initial concept, so it’s been cool.

I’m now working on a nice blend of client work, software development, and also on the tech diversification strategy for JavaScript.

The weekly leadership meeting at Cogent, which is also optionally open to anyone at Cogent to attend.

The weekly leadership meeting at Cogent, which is also optionally open to anyone at Cogent to attend.

Has anything surprised you?

I think the fact that Cogent is so values focused has surprised me quite a lot. I reached out to Cogent again because I wanted to work with very experienced software developers, but thought I’d have to sacrifice a lot of the values stuff that I’ve been doing over the last few years.

Cogent doesn’t really advertise itself as being all about values driven work or working with purpose driven businesses, but all the work I’ve done so far has been what I’d consider highly value driven work with clear positive social outcomes.

Also a lot of the internal processes at Cogent mirror my experience of how a values driven company should work. For example, the transparency, open salaries model, lack of too much hierarchy and the internal work being done on the diversity policy are all really great.

What do you do outside of Cogent?

I love spending time with family, and my wife and I are both pretty keen foodies, so Melbourne’s a good place for that, obviously. It’s a cliche, but Melbourne coffee really is the best in the world.

I’ve also been an amateur furniture maker for about 15 years, mainly making period furniture with hand tools. I haven’t been able to do that while I was travelling for the last two years. My tools are on a ship right now between New Zealand and Australia, so I’ve been getting ready to dive back into that.

Wow, you’ll need to teach us the basics at one of the team breakfasts!

Yeah sure! I’ve also got a lot of random skills from living in an intentional community for the last 10 years. I lived in urban eco co-housing in Auckland for three years, which was 32 households on four acres with commons and paths in between, and no cars. Then rural eco village living for about seven years before that, with shared orchard, cows and farm.

So I can make cheese, sew, grow plants, lay bricks, make bread. All those things you need to be semi self-sufficient. They’re not terribly applicable in my Melbourne urban lifestyle at the moment, but you never know.

Craig and his family lived the life of digital nomads before moving to Melbourne.

Craig and his family lived the life of digital nomads before moving to Melbourne.

Finally, is there any advice you’d give your younger self or a junior developer?

One thing I noticed in the first few years of working as a developer is that I went through a couple of periods of extreme arrogance. I was terrified for about the first three months of being on the job, but then once I realised I could do it, I thought I could do anything. I thought I was the bee’s knees. Of course, I wasn’t the bee’s knees because I’d been working for only three months. After a while, I realised that I don’t know everything, but those waves of realisation come and go.

I think I have a lot more respect for experience now because there’s been a continued process of learning in each one of those years that somebody’s been through in their career. So my advice would be to smooth out those peaks of arrogance, and just enjoy the learning process, because it doesn’t really ever end, and that’s a good thing.

Like the idea of joining the Cogent team? Head over to the Cogent Careers page and say hello