A behind-the-scenes look at the people who make us great.
Welcome to the September 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 Jimmy interviewed Dave, one of our Software Developers. Read more about how bombing out of Year 12 led him to fall in love with programming, his casual 30km weekend runs and the best piece of advice he’s ever been given.
Name: Dave McDonald
Job: Software Developer
Time at Cogent: 3 months
Jimmy: Dave, you’re fresh to Cogent, what does a typical day look like?
Dave: It’s been a bit of whirlwind start full of interesting projects and lots of learning, which I love. I’ve been on two of the Cogent Ventures projects, one of them is our clean tech project Chargefox and the other is Taggd which is an exciting project leveraging the Instagram API.
When you said learning, your eyes lit up – why was that?
Yeah, learning is really important to me and one of the reasons I love programming – you’re constantly discovering new approaches and technologies that can have a big impact on your daily activities. It’s been awesome to see how important learning is at Cogent, its one of the values and was a big part of why I decided to work here. It’s hard to say exactly what makes it different from my previous roles but I think it just comes down to a strong culture where learning and knowledge sharing is highly valued by everyone.
How did you get into computer programming?
It’s kind of a funny story, I actually bombed out of Year 12 because I didn’t really learn to study until Year 11 and, despite this, decided to totally overextend myself and take on all the hardest subjects. Almost failing Year 12 meant that Uni was off the table so my Mum actually ended up getting involved and talked me into a Computer Programming course at a local Poly Tech. I enrolled in the course and never looked back. In hindsight, failing Year 12 was one of the best things that happened because I found programming and fell in love with it.
If you could be one other thing professionally, what would you be?
A professional soccer player for sure. I played a lot of soccer when I was growing up in New Zealand, I was pretty good too. But when I was 10 years old my soccer team was getting ready to play Australia and my family suddenly had to move to Christchurch, this meant the soccer dream was over and instead I pursued skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding.
What kind of projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m actually about to join the team working at Fresho which i’m looking forward to – they’ve got a strong focus on pair coding and knowledge sharing so I’m hoping to learn a lot during the project. It will be great to get to know some more Cogent people too.
Which of those projects has been your favourite?
I think Taggd, it was good because it was really a solid challenge for me as a first task with Cogent. I was kind of thrown in the deep end a bit but it was great because I had to figure things out for myself and now I’ve got knowledge that no one else has for this client.
What’s your favourite thing about working at Cogent?
There’s so much I like about Cogent and I’ve only been here three months. I think the way that Cogent lives up to its values is something that stands out. You can spot this straight away during the interview process. Small things like always having two people attending interviews and involving new members of staff with the process showed that transparency is a core value. The salary chat was also a great way to showcase the effort put into learning and career progression. The level of detail that has been put into the salary table is amazing, it’s something I’ve never come across in my previous roles.
What’s your favourite thing to do on the weekend?
Running – I like getting up early on Sundays and going for a long run with some mates from my athletics club. In the past we’ve trained for marathons together and would catch up every weekend to run. For me running is just a great way to switch off and clear your head, especially on a nice sunny day.
Thats awesome, how far do you run?
We get up to about 30kms when we’re training for a marathon. It’s a bit of a push but getting out makes me really appreciate the crisp, clear days, and the post-run coffee makes it worthwhile.
Where’s the best place you’ve ever been? Other than right here being interviewed by me? lol
Hiking in New Zealand is probably one of my favourite things to do, especially when you go off the beaten track. I’ve been on a couple of solo hikes where I’ve basically not seen anyone for three days. When I was younger I went on a very challenging hike, completely off trail – just following a compass and map across valleys and mountains. One of the guys in our group nearly drowned during a river crossing on our final day, the cars were literally parked on the other side of the river but he was swept about a kilometer down stream. He was fine, but it really made me appreciate nature and the challenge. I’d love to attempt that hike again.
Sounds epic! If you had a private chef for the night, what would you get them to make you?
I’d have to get them to recreate some of my mum’s cooking, especially her lasagna. I’m also a big fan of Malaysian food, so something fresh and spicy like a mee goreng would be on the menu.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
To take a break when you’re stuck on something. Its sounds simple but it’s amazing how difficult it can be to step away from a problem. It’s really easy to get frustrated as a programmer because a big part of the job is problem solving. I find that the best way to approach a challenging problem, or one that I can’t seem to solve, is to stop thinking about it. I literally get up, move away from the computer, do something else for a while to change the environment and clear my mind. This might be for an hour or so or even overnight – I often find that solutions pop into my head when I’m just about to fall asleep, which isn’t ideal because then you don’t sleep, but a clear mind can see a lot more than a frustrated one.
Like the idea of joining the Cogent team? Head over to the Cogent Careers page and say hello!