Cogent Crew: Meet James D



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Welcome to the August 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 Jason spoke to James about what’s kept him at Cogent for so long and how his love of gardening turned into a side business.

Name: James Dowling
Job: Lead Developer
Time at Cogent: 6 years

So James, how long have you been at Cogent now?

It’s coming up to six years now, which is quite a long time. Even after that long though, I’m always working on new projects and ideas, and learning new things about different industries, so it keeps it interesting. Cogent is a place I know I’m going to continue to learn a lot from, so it’s really good still to be here after six years.

What does your day-to-day look like?

That’s difficult to define, but usually involves stand ups and the usual agile interactions with clients, blended with some internal strategy work here at Cogent. 

I also get to meet with some clients before they start working with us, so they can better understand what to expect. I have a personal interest in entrepreneurship and we work with a lot of startups, so I get to guide them and learn a lot about their journey, as well.

So in short, lots of talking to people and making good decisions for products, as well as programming and product delivery.

That’s really varied! What sort of projects are you working on now?

I often end up working on education products or finance projects, but it could be just about anything.  One I’m working on now is about helping people get ahead in their careers, which I think is a fascinating space to be in. To understand how people think about those things and how people think about their careers is really interesting. 

A past project that was really exciting to work on was Six Park, which Cogent Ventures also invested in. I led the development of software that trades EFTs on behalf of people according to their financial risk appetites. I learned a lot about personal finance and was really proud of the work I did there.

Is that sort of variety what’s kept you at Cogent for so long?

There are a bunch of reasons. I love the feedback culture here – people are happy to tell you if there’s something that you could be doing better, whereas at a lot of other companies they’ll just let you stew. 

At Cogent there’s also a lot of honesty and transparency. There’s also a lot of emotional safety in the sense that there’s the freedom to be yourself and to share parts of yourself that might be kind of personal. For example, we have channels on Slack for things like parenting and mental health, so there’s a forum to open up.

James, Dave and Kath enjoying Cogent Day

What about outside of work? What do you like to do?

I have a young family, and I love to spend as much time with them as possible. I’m also a gardener and have been obsessively gardening for the past eight years or so. I have a website called LocalFlourish, which gives you gardening advice based on your location. For example, if you’re in Victoria and want to grow tomatoes, it’s a bit different to someone in Queensland who get a lot of heat and sun. Go check it out!

James enjoying time in his garden 

Have you always had that entrepreneurial mindset?

Yeah, sort of. I think first tried to start a business when I was 13 making video games. Much later on I learned about the Lean startup mentality and other business methodologies. 

 I’ve definitely learnt that working on something that you love is important. I’ve often tried to focus on things where I said, “That could make a great business.” or “There’s a market out there for that.” But that’s not what gets you through a project. You might get halfway through, but you won’t finish. 

I tried chasing the money and I found that the money wasn’t enough motivation when times were tough. So it’s nice to be able to combine those two things in LocalFlourish – something I love and something I’m good at.

Would you ever do something different career-wise?

If I was going to pick something, I’d probably be a carpenter, working on building furniture and beautiful stuff like that. I’ve always found it really impressive, and the more I work with wood doing DIY and things, the more I like it, and I think it’d be a really nice thing to be doing. 

What about travel? What’s your favourite place that you’ve been to?

There are a few. A favourite was Luang Probang in Laos, which I’ve been to twice but it’s undergone a lot of development since I was last there, so I wonder if it’s different now. The people and laid back atmosphere were great, like the city equivalent of your favourite armchair, it’s a place you can just relax in. I also have a lot of very fond memories of Tuscany, and I love Florence. 

Luang Prabang, Laos. Photo credit Google.

Wow, that sounds great! I’ll need to at it to my list. Thanks for the chat, James!

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

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