Cogent Crew: Meet Jason O



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Welcome to the September 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 James D spoke to Jason about his family life and how Shakira got him into coding. 

Name: Jason Ona
Job:  Developer
Time at Cogent: 6 months

So, Jason, tell me, how long have you been at Cogent?

I’ve been here for six months. I actually applied two years ago, when I started coding. I was a bit too green, but just from the interview process I was treated so nicely that I could tell it was different. I felt like a human being, like I wasn’t being put through some machine, so I knew I wanted to work here in the future.

What does your day-to-day look like at Cogent?

I help out with family stuff in the morning, drop the kids off at daycare, and then roll in right about 9 or 10am. We have a project stand up, the usual kind of rituals where we talk about what we did the day before, and determine pairs for how we’re going to interact today. Pairing is an important part of the stand up.

What’s pairing?

It’s when two developers work on part of a website or application together. I personally like ping-pong pairing, where one person writes a test and the other person implements it. Sometimes we’ll do parallel pairing which is attacking a problem together. It’s good to be  working with somebody else and collaborating to implement a new piece of software.

Cool, thanks for explaining. How did you get into programming?

In 2013, I’d moved to Australia from America and didn’t have a way to work. I used to be a math teacher, and my qualification wasn’t valid here in Australia. Around that time there was a big marketing campaign to get people to learn to code. I remember Obama and Shakira were part of it, telling people to ‘learn to code.’ I especially liked Shakira telling me to code. Whatever she does, I do. So I’m here right now, coding because of her. It worked.

That’s great! So, you used to be a maths teacher?

Yeah, I studied math in college and ended up teaching it to high school students. It was really more about classroom management than it was the subject. I wanted to do something that I felt was meaningful, and I felt education ticked that box. Perhaps not so much today, because teaching is very test-driven, but there are aspects of education that I hope don’t go away, like interpersonal skills, mentoring, being a guardian to a bunch of kids.

Some fan art from Jason’s students

If you could be in one other thing professionally, what would you be?

Good question.  I think I’d go back to education, because it would be different to do it here in Australia. The school uniforms and more government support would make it interesting to try out. 

Jason during his days as a maths teacher

What kinds of projects are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working on a project for We just launched a new platform that gives real estate agents the chance to take control of their online marketing. 

And what’s your role in the project?

I am a developer, so I work on the implementation of aspects of the product. We use agile processes to map the product delivery, and from there I’ll take a feature or function and implement it.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Cogent?

I like how I get treated like a human being. If family stuff comes up, people understand that I might be late that day, or I might need to work from home.

It should be a bare minimum, right? Being treated as a human being.

Exactly. At Cogent, there’s no one making me feel guilty because my kids are sick and I need to be at home. It’s just nice to know that I can put my family first. There’s no judgement of my character if I stay home with my family when they need me to.

What’s your favourite thing to do on the weekend? Maybe you have hobbies or side businesses, or some crazy skills you’ve never told us about?

A good weekend would be just with my family, because I have a couple of kids, and maybe DOC Pizza. Some good food at a nice chill place and then hitting up the beach. 

Jason and his family enjoying the beach.

That sounds relaxing. What’s the best place you’ve ever been?

Mexico City, they have really great homemade tortillas. I don’t know how to describe them, except that nothing tastes like them anywhere else in the world. It’s kind of like a cross between cornbread and corn mush. It has a really good texture that you just can’t find anywhere else.I love Mexican food and I’m originally from California. I feel like I find myself dreaming about Mexican food sometimes.

Jason enjoying tortillas in Mexico City.

If you had a private chef for a night, what would you get them to make you?

I guess those homemade tortillas would be the easy answer, or a California burrito. If they can get the beef nice and soft, and find some great avocado guacamole, and smash it all in there with perfectly crispy, crunchy, salty fries. But if I did have a personal chef for a night, I’d include my family which means a nice big fat roast.

More tortillas in Mexico City

Okay, final question, what is the best advice anyone has ever given you?

I really got a lot out of the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It helped me make sense of how to see myself and interact with other people. One of the things he talks about is putting first things first, and asking yourself ‘what do you value?’ That’s not something I had ever thought about before.

So now I know that I value Shakira’s advice very much. Now I know that I love learning, and that’s not something I really asked myself before. Reading that book gave me a curiosity and awareness to know more about myself.

Thanks for the chat Jason!

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

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