A behind-the-scenes look at the people who make us great.
Welcome to the January 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 Jen Smith spoke to Eadaoin about her whirlwind first few months at Cogent, her samba filled weekends and how continuous learning keeps her motivated.
Name: Eadaoin Doherty
Job: Senior Product Manager
Time at Cogent: 6 months
So how long have you been at Cogent?
I have been at Cogent for just over six months, as you will remember because we started on the same day!
That is true! Alright, run me through a typical day for you working at Cogent.
I don’t really have a typical day! As a product manager, I’m usually working on two projects at the same time, so my day will depend on what’s happening with those projects and what stage they’re at.
I usually have a stand up in the morning where I catch up with my team about what they were working on yesterday and what they’re doing today, and if they need any help from me. From there, I usually work on a range of things from creating user stories to testing stories that the devs have finished.
Or, I might be doing more strategic work with a founder who is looking at the viability of the product idea that they have. I might work through financial or business models with them, or I might be working in a Clarify process where I’m working really closely with the design team to figure out what a new product might look like, and what users need from that product. So it’s really varied, which is one of the reasons I love it. It’s brilliant!
Eadaoin and Mario during a Clarify workshop
Wow. Yeah, that’s quite a wide-ranging amount of stuff. How did you get into product management? Have you always wanted to do this job?
I studied electronics at uni and then I went into chip design. So I was a chip designer for about five years. I was writing code all day, every day, and I didn’t really enjoy it because I was being told what I had to design, and not understanding why I was doing it. I never got to see the customers or talk to them. I was just told to “design a thing that does X”, which I found really frustrating. There were some product managers in the company and I decided I wanted to do what they were doing. So, I worked my way across from being chip designer, to a product architect and then to a product manager. That was all in the ‘Land of Hardware’.
Is that different from software?
It’s quite different in that hardware follows a more Waterfall processes than Agile because you have to do most of the work before you actually, physically make the product which changes how you think about things. About seven years ago I moved into software as a product manager and I’ve done that ever since. I’m much more suited to doing this than writing code all day.
If you could be one other thing professionally, what would you be?
Something to do with sport and health. I really love Pilates and yoga, and a holistic approach to being healthy. If I was going to do something completely different, I’d probably go down that route and maybe become a Pilates instructor or something like that.
Oh wow. Let me know when you start and I’ll sign up! We’ve covered this a little, but what kinds of projects are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished a project, which was a Create where we worked with co-founders for six months to build their product from scratch. They had created a prototype, and proven there was a market for the product and then they came to us to build a scalable robust product. I found it really interesting as it was related to career coaching. I’ve also been working on a Verify project with an eye surgeon who had a product idea and needed to figure out if there was a market for the product. That project involved lots of financial and business modelling. Right now I’m working with a human-rights lawyer who has an idea for a product that she thinks would be valuable in the space of detention centres. This is an area in which I have no previous experience which makes it fascinating.
In my 6 months here I’ve worked on a really wide range of projects. I’m learning so much about loads of different markets.
It seems to be sort of small, startups and founders that you’re working with?
That’s what I’ve worked on so far. We do have clients that are bigger than that, but I’ve worked with the founders and the small startups to date because that’s actually my preference, so I’m really happy about that.
Eadaoin with her Samba band and dancers, ready to perform
What’s been your favourite project so far?
I think my favourite project was probably working with the eye surgeon. The idea was very early in its life cycle so I did a lot of market research, looked at business models and calculated what the financials would look like for the business to be successful.
It was really interesting to go through that process and learn how to build those models, but also get an understanding of eye surgery and learn about the medical world.
What’s your favourite thing about working at Cogent? Apart from working with me?
Other than working with you, I think it’s the range of projects. In six months I’ve worked on five different projects. It’s been such an interesting range and it’s very hard to get bored when you are working across so many different topics in so many different projects. That’s good because I really don’t like getting bored, and I don’t like feeling that I’ve stopped learning. I don’t think there’s a danger of that here, which is really important to me.
Also, I think at Cogent they genuinely care about your wellbeing. They give lots of freedom to everyone. I love the #WheresWally slack channel. Everyone just says in the morning, “This is where I’m going to be today” and that’s it. Everyone is completely trusted to do their work and to do their job. You don’t have to justify or explain why or how, you just have to get it done in your own way.
So, when you’re not working on five different projects and not getting bored, and it’s the weekend, what’s your favourite thing to do?
My favourite thing to do at the weekend is to hang out with my samba band and play samba music. I’m in a Melbourne-based samba band called Bloco 3K and there’s about 15 of us. It’s a drum group and we play the rhythms from Rio. So, if you think about the Rio Carnival and the massive parties they have with huge groups of drummers, that’s what we play.
It’s a lot of fun. We play festivals during the summer and various gigs, and it’s a really nice group of people. It’s just really fun! We practise once a week, but in summer we can get really busy with gigs and outside events – we’re loud and bring a lot of atmosphere.
Eadaoin hanging backstage with the band before a gig
That’s another thing about working at Cogent. Everyone’s got a side hustle or a side thing. So, anything else you do when you’re not doing that or Pilates?
I’m trying to become a better gardener. I’m very good at growing silverbeet, and so far that seems to be all I’ve achieved. I’ve completely failed with cabbage. My broccoli and my kale are completely aphid riddled so I haven’t done very well with those. So I’m going to grow tomatoes next.
Where’s the best place you’ve ever been?
This is a hard one. I think the place that I found most magical was Angkor Wat in Cambodia, where those incredible ancient temples are. Their construction is incredible considering how old they are, but nowadays nature has taken over and trees are growing out of buildings. It’s very magical and other-worldly. So that’s the most magical place I’ve been, but the place I think I love the most is Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. It’s really peaceful and the walks are stunning; there’s nobody there.
Taking in the view at Cradle Mountain
If you had a private chef for the night, what would you get them to make you?
It would have to be French cuisine. I love French food and there’s no way I could make it at home. So, it would be a big three-course meal with some really nice French wine.
Would there be cheese?
There’d be cheese, dessert, starters and mains, the lot! Probably more of a four-course meal!
Add a cheese course in, come on! What’s the best advice anyone’s given you?
I was told an old proverb, and I can’t remember it exactly, but it’s about shooting a bow and arrow. If you’re shooting to win the prize that’s associated with hitting the target, it means that you’re not actually concentrating on hitting the target. You’re concentrating on the glory and the prize of hitting the target.
By concentrating on the wrong thing, you’re taking your focus away from what’s actually important. So, the best thing you can do is purely focus on hitting that target and then all the other stuff will come. So, I think that’s really nice. I was told it when I was doing my high school exams “don’t worry about the results. Just read each question and answer each question and just concentrate on the task in front of you. The rest will come.”
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