A behind-the-scenes look at the people who make us great.
Welcome to the December 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 Eadaoin spoke to Jen Smith about the spectrum of projects she’s worked on, her morning gardening sessions and why working at Cogent is so different from any of her previous roles.
Name: Jen Smith
Job: Senior Developer
Time at Cogent: 6 months
Hi Jen, you’re fairly fresh to Cogent, so tell us what a typical day at work looks like for you?
If I’m working on a delivery project, my day starts with the struggle to find lots of coffee before our morning stand up! I work with a team of about four or five people at the moment so there’s always somebody that wants to go and find coffee with me which is good because it’s a casual way to talk through the project over some lovely coffee. Once we’re back, and I’ve had my caffeine fix, I’m ready to crack on with the projects I have.
Do you have a lot of rituals with your team, your stand ups and planning?
We have a stand up each morning, retrospectives every few weeks and showcases where we present our work back to the internal product teams and client stakeholders.
So how did you get into what you do? Have you always wanted to be a developer?
It’s funny because I started out with a music technology degree, and we actually learnt programming as part of that. I realised I loved the programming side and wanted to learn more so I went straight into web development. This was back in 2000 and I was a bit naïve and a bit unrealistic. Honestly, I thought the .com thing was still happening, I thought I was going to earn lots of money, and of course I didn’t. But it turned out that I really enjoyed it and it made my dad happy because he does the same job as me. Funnily enough we never spoke about programming until I decided to do it, and then he was really excited about it.
Do you and your Dad talk about it a lot, now?
Well I talked to my dad last night, and the main focus was his veggie patch because he’s spending a bit of time on that, but yes we talked about programming a lot when I was younger.
So, if you could be one other thing professionally, what would it be? Do you think it would be something to do with the music side of your degree?
I think playing music is more of a hobby for me rather than something I could do professionally. I love making music but I wouldn’t say I have a natural born talent, or the staying power, to be anywhere near the music industry because it looks a bit terrifying doesn’t it? But I would want to do something practical. I think I’d like to go and do like a landscape gardening apprenticeship or something. I’d like to do something that’s kind of physical, not as in physical labour but where the output is physical, not like code or something intangible.
So what kind of projects are you working on at the moment?
So I’m working with a pretty big client, in the fintech space at the minute. I spent my first few months at Cogent working on a small startup, and now I’m in a big organisation with quite an old code-base that’s growing rapidly. It’s a big change from the first client, I couldn’t have chosen two more opposite styles of working!
Do you have a favourite between those two types of projects?
Well, I was working with you on one of them, so that one obviously! It’s actually really hard to say because I like the thing I’m not doing generally, which sounds a bit depressing, but I really like change. In the startup project there were only two developers, and if something went wrong it was because of one of us, so there was a lot of responsibility and decision making. Whereas now I’m in a place where lots of decisions have already been made and I question them constantly!
So you like to be part of the decision-making team?
I do. But then again, when you’re the one making the decisions, you have to suffer the consequences if you make the wrong call. It’s like going into a new garden and planting it all out from scratch versus going into a wilderness and trying to make sense of it.
What’s your favourite thing about working at Cogent?
Me in particular?
Yes, definitely. Our focus on personal wellbeing is just so different and it changes the relationship with your employer. They’re not just saying, “we care about your wellbeing.” It’s actually part of the system. It’s really authentic, from our open salaries to profit share. I don’t feel like I’m working for a big company, I feel like I’m working for a collection of people. I might not be making all the decisions, thank goodness, but I understand what’s happening and that’s cool. The openness and also the smallness as well. Coming from a large organisation, it’s nice to be in a small one, where we have a lot of transparency.
So, moving away from work. What is your favourite thing to do at the weekend?
Well, now it’s Spring, it’s getting very muddy trying to sort my garden out which is fun. I’ve actually started doing that in the mornings as well, before I come to work. I spend about an hour or so in the garden before I get out into the world.
What have you planted, so far?
Oh I haven’t planted anything! I have been hacking things to bits! I’ve repaired bits of my fence. I’ve got an electric drill and a hammer and some other tools, so I’ve been like little Miss Fix-it around the garden. It’s been cool. I got a veggie box from James (another Developer at Cogent) and I’m planning on planting tomatoes. I need to find more cat-friendly plants because the cats spend a lot of time in the garden eating anything they can.
Sounds very productive. Where is the best place you’ve ever been?
Oh that’s a hard one! My last holiday I was Ko Lanta in Thailand and that was pretty up there. Anywhere I can be on the beach and have access to a lovely, reasonably-priced massage, cocktails and a good Pad Thai.
Sounds wonderful. If you had a private chef for a night, what would you get them to make you?
Well I’d want something really complicated, something like one of those Victorian-era banquets when they’d have, not like the four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie, because that’s gross, but some really elaborate food. Otherwise a Beef Wellington because that’s really hard, right?
That’s very British! To finish off, what is the best advice anyone’s given you?
“Wisest is she, who knows she does not know.” The full quote is from Jostein Gaarder’s book Sophie’s World and attributed to Socrates.
Thank you very much Jen. It’s been a pleasure.
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