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 Dom about what a typical day looks like, the influences of his French heritage on the food he cooks, and the silver linings of Victoria’s lockdown.
Name: Dominic Garibaldi
Job: Lead Developer
Time at Cogent: 11 months
Hi, Dom. How long have you been at Cogent?
I’ve been with Cogent for just under a year, I started in January.
Less than a year? In my mind, you’ve been with us forever!
It feels like the time has flown for me this year. It’s been such a bizarre series of events since January. I’d just started a new job, was just starting to meet people, and then suddenly, we’re fully remote! Meeting new members of the team whilst remote and working on fast-paced projects took up a lot of my bandwidth so, yeah, I feel like the last 10 or so months has just flown by!
That makes sense. So, tell us about your role at Cogent.
I’m one of the lead engineers. I originally came on as a contractor for six months and then I liked what I was seeing, doing, and the people I was working with so I joined as a permanent lead this financial year. Since joining Cogent I’ve been primarily working on one project, or really two phases of the same project for the City of Melbourne, to rebuild their What’s On website and all of the supporting systems around that.
Have enjoyed working with one client?
I have! It doesn’t really feel like one project because it’s been quite a varied body of work, with each phase really quite distinct from the last. The first one was a re-development of some legacy systems. There was a lot of rigidity in what we needed to deliver and how we needed to deliver it, and there was a desire from our point of view to de-risk and show that it was achievable with the right process. Once that was delivered, it changed the game and we were trusted to take a leaner and more product-focused approach to things. We’re also working with businesses and event organisers as Melbourne opens up again, which is exciting! We can experiment with the platform we’ve built to try and promote Melbourne business in new ways.
Dom enjoying the beach at Fraser Island
That sounds great. So, tell us what a typical workday looks like for you.
On a typical day, I’ll start with some deep work, for maybe an hour or so in the morning as the various team members roll-in. We’ll then have our usual agile rituals, like stand-ups and story kick-offs. We’ve recently been running a spin-off project for the City of Melbourne, with a different team building a different product, which I’ve also been involved in. So during that time I’ve spent my mornings coordinating the work across both streams. After that, typically some pairing with another developer, then I like to block out a couple of hours just to get into some deep work, whether that’s thinking about our roadmap and planning upcoming work or whether it’s actually architecting or building out some new feature in the product. Then alongside that, there’s always a whole other stream of work outside of client projects – Cogent-related stuff – like developing people internally, strategic initiatives, business development, onboarding new people etc. There’s always a lot going on!
It’s easy to think of the pandemic and lockdowns in purely negative terms but have you found any silver linings?
I have. Cogent has been really good about setting up a lot of ways for people to connect with each other because everyone’s so isolated and feeling the pinch of being so confined. There are a lot of good little initiatives going on within Cogent to help people do that. The one-on-one interactions, connecting as a group and little novel interactions like that, I think actually would have happened a lot less in a real office environment. As consultants, we’re often out on client sites as well, so it’s easier to feel disengaged from everyone unless you’re really intentional about it. Now that we’re remote, you can connect with people by just making a call. On a personal side, there are more hours in the day to be able to see family, which personally has been a really positive experience for me. I have an 18-month-old running around, so I get a few more hours with him each day, which is pretty cool. I also have a bit more time to do things like reading and things that otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do. So there’s been some positives for me!
Dom and his son enjoying a spectacular view over the Painted Desert on their tour around Oz
That’s so good to hear! Speaking of reading, are there any books you’d like to recommend?
I usually have a few – too many – books on the go, but within Cogent we have a couple of book clubs. I’ve recently joined one that focuses on books related to leadership, which I get a lot out of already. It’s interesting reading about new ways to help people grow, personally and within an organization, which is a strong focus area for us as a company.
That’s great! Have you always wanted to be a developer, or did you actually have another path planned for yourself?
Unlike many, I don’t think I was really sure for quite a long time. My brother got into computers before I did and he’s four years older than I am, so I think I inevitably was thrust into that world because of him. Then it played out like the usual developer story: I got my hands on this old, monochrome computer, 20 or 30 years ago, started tinkering, then started building some kind of game! Next thing I found myself doing a degree and so on. That is sort of what happened for me, but I was only half into it. I think I was more into art, to begin with but then once you approach the end of school you start thinking about what you’d do career-wise, and personally it never really seemed like I was going to have an actual career pursuing art. I ended up just falling into engineering because I was good at it and generally enjoyed learning about how the world worked. It took me a couple of years to really find my groove with software engineering, but that was probably a result of the types of workplaces that I was in at the very beginning. I did internships and worked in really large multinational corporate environments, building small pieces of a large software machine. After doing that for a few years I started to broaden my horizons and began learning more about different types of software, businesses, design, and that ultimately led me into more product-led software development. I mostly worked in things like e-commerce and martech and eventually, I really started to love the profession.
You’re from Brisbane originally, was your move to Melbourne work-related?
My wife is Victorian, so that was a major factor. We were both fairly nomadic prior to that. We met overseas in Spain and lived in London for years, and then moved back to Australia with the intent to stay in Brisbane for a few years because my family lives there. I managed to get good work while I was there and we bought a house, and the idea of moving back to Victoria didn’t seem likely. But then, when my wife was 35 weeks pregnant we made a very rash decision to move to Victoria! We very quickly sold our house and moved to inner-Melbourne. I worked remotely for 6 months before we uprooted again and drove around Australia for a few months, with a 4-month-old in the back. We’re barely back in Melbourne before the pandemic hits and here we are!
Another epic view for the Garibaldi family, this time at their farm
Wow! That’s some timing! Now that you’ve been with us for almost a year, what’s been your favourite thing about working at Cogent?
This might sound like a cliche but it is definitely the people, but more than that for me is the strong emphasis Cogent places on its values. Our values underpin everything we do: how we pick customers, our hiring practices and our day-to-day interactions with each other. Values are definitely not an afterthought! I’ve been through the interview process on both sides now, and I was exposed to that same messaging from the get-go. There are definitely other organizations out there that claim they care about their values, but once you get on the inside you very quickly realise that they don’t actually care about those values as much as they’d have you believe. In those cases, the emphasis on company values is more like a PR stunt. I’ve realised that’s not the case at Cogent, and because values underpin everything, it creates opportunities for everyone to really enjoy work and find meaning.
We work very hard to uphold our values, that’s for sure!
Absolutely! I’ve also come to realize that it takes a lot of work. That’s probably why most organizations don’t follow through because it’s hard.
Ok, so we’ve only been talking about work stuff, tell us about your hobbies, what you’re passionate about and what you do on the weekends.
I feel like a lot of my hobbies sort of fell by the wayside when I had a son because now I’m entirely focused on him. Which is great, it gives me a very distinct sense of purpose and I find it really fun and exciting to explore the world through his eyes. I’m really interested in neuroscience, understanding developmental behaviour and things like that. Watching a human grow from scratch is fascinating to me, I like to read about that and help him through the world. I find myself enjoying the simplest things since the pandemic hit we’ve been living out in the country and we can just get stuck throwing rocks in a puddle for hours on end, which is really meditative.
That sounds wonderful!
Outside of that, I’ve come back to basics, to be honest. I love the outdoors, camping, hiking and 4WDing. I do a bit of cooking and I do a bit of gardening – I’m very rapidly turning into an old person. The other passion I have is photography, but that seems to come in waves. I either do tons of it or none of it, between those two extremes!
Some of Dom’s Sunday Night Pizza
From what I’ve seen of your cooking I think you’re being modest when you say you do a bit of cooking. I think you’re really good at it! What’s your favourite thing to cook at the moment?
Well, I’m essentially share-housing out in the country with my in-laws, and we’ve developed a lockdown tradition of cooking pizzas every Sunday. There’s a very old wood-fired oven in the Shearers’ Quarters building on the property so we’ve baked in there a bit. I guess that’s always been a goto thing for me. It’s not particularly complicated, but it’s delicious, sharable and you can take it whichever way you want. You can keep it very simple and just focus on basics, like perfecting the base or sauce and get very particular about that facet. Or you can just load it up with all of your favourite ingredients and have some kind of very decadent version of the same thing. Baking bread has been a big lockdown thing too. I’m half French, with an Italian name, but my dad is French. He was once a barman, then one day just randomly decided to be a baker, or more correctly a pâtissière. Maybe because he’s French he felt he had an inherent gift for baking and opened a bakery in Queensland. It was a reasonably successful bakery, actually! It was quite funny because he didn’t know how to bake. He just got his friend in and learned to bake on the job. But anyway I think my love of food is underpinned by that Frenchness – my dad’s influence is definitely there.
Wow, that’s super cool. Do you have a strong connection to France, or do you have any plans to ever move there or anything like that?
I have had plans along those lines at various forks in my life, but they didn’t unfold as planned and none at the moment. I don’t think I’m getting there anytime soon. I certainly identify as “part-French”, but language-wise I’m pretty poor at the moment! My dad is very French, he’s almost a French caricature. I feel like I’ve always been sort of split down the middle between my mum’s standard English-Irish background (stoic farming types from regional Queensland) and then this loud, boisterous Frenchman thrown in the mix. It’s quite an odd combo but it feels normal to me.
If you could have a chef for an evening, what would you get them to make for you?
Well, it would have to be many courses so maybe a degustation, with, let’s say 13 courses. I love Japanese food and I would be remiss not to mention French food of course. So maybe a Japanese-French fusion of some sort would be good!
Dom also spent some of his lockdown making the perfect Marmalade
That sounds delicious! Ok, final question for you, what’s been the best life advice that you’ve ever received?
There’s one that I use a lot, I don’t know if it’s the best, but it’s one that I certainly think about a lot and it works on two levels: both my personal and working life. In a work context, I was once told that the best leaders aim never to be the smartest person in the room. I think that speaks to leadership as more than just being an individual contributor, about being open and confident enough to admit your limits, and then to build and rely on others on your team. Good leaders master that and know when to lean on people and get the best out of that group. That applies to my personal life as well in that you should always try and surround yourself with people that you respect and you admire, and find people that inspire you to lift and grow. I get plenty of that at Cogent, which is a nice turn of events for me.
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