A behind-the-scenes look at the people who make us great.
Welcome to 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, Navin caught up with Kath to find out where her sense of adventure has led her so far, both within her career, and beyond it.
Name: Kath Cashion
Job: Lead Product Manager
Time at Cogent: Eight months
Thanks for chatting with me, Kath. First up, where are you based?
I’m based in Northcote, Melbourne, so it’s a nice half-hour bike ride to the office. That is, when we can go to the office…
Kath cycling in the Dolomites
So, good segue to the next question, which is: do you mostly work remotely?
Yeah, I do. And I’m in what we call Harry Potter’s Cupboard Under the Stairs. It was a box room prior to lockdown! I didn’t ever work from home previously. I used to work four days a week, so my team used to work from home on the one day a week that I didn’t work, and the rest of the time we spent in the office together.
We’re looking to renovate this space to create a better study, with windows and things, but for the moment, I’m making do with plants to brighten the place up.
That’s cool. So how do you find remote working?
Well, it’s a big change as I hardly ever worked from home previously. But it’s great for flexibility. I’ve got two kids, who are seven and nine, so being able to do more drop-offs and pickups is great. I also really like light-touch conversations, since I’m not particularly extroverted. I really like for conversations to be easy, like when you just run into people all the time and you don’t have to make an effort to instigate conversation.
It becomes far more formal when you’re remote, and you have to arrange to talk to somebody, or you’re feeling like you’re interrupting them and have no idea what space they’re in since they’re not right in front of you. So I prefer working from the office when it’s allowed in Melbourne. I go into the office one or two days a week just to get that social interaction.
Kath in a workshop at the Cogent Office in Melbourne
Yeah, that makes sense. So how did you get into what you do? Have you always wanted to be doing this?
I’m in product management. I didn’t know such a thing existed — I’m not even sure it did exist from when I started working! I started out life as a software engineer and worked in that for about eight or nine years. I think I got sick of the technology treadmill, and feeling like everything I learnt had a half-life of about 18 months. I originally got into it because I liked problem solving and software was a clean way to solve problems, but I felt that I was spending a lot of my time learning technologies, which wasn’t actually what I got into it for.
So I went and did an MBA, and since then I’ve worked on the non-tech side of tech companies, increasingly in product as product became a thing. I’ve always had a more technical background, so I’ve moved towards more analytical and data-oriented projects in product. But I didn’t know that product management existed many years ago, and I think it’s nice that I chose a career which could just deviate as opportunities came up.
So you started out as a programmer and an engineer and now you solve product problems that are to do with building digital products?
Yes, it’s a space I like. I like working with engineers, and I like seeing the bigger picture, too. I do wonder sometimes if I would have given up software engineering if I’d worked for the kinds of companies that I work for now. Part of the problem was feeling like I was being told what to do.
Yeah, I understand. So run me through a typical day for you working at Cogent.
A typical day isn’t your typical day. I’ve worked on really short-term projects since I’ve been at Cogent: it’s been eight months and I’ve probably worked on five different projects. So everything is different, but I guess a typical day has me in this room. If I’m not commuting into the office, I have a series of meetings with whoever’s working on whatever I’m involved in. Often we’ll have a catch up at some point during the day. A typical day might involve setting up some workshops to talk to stakeholders. My job is a lot about understanding the problem and how to help them understand what a solution might look like.
If you could be one other thing professionally, what would you be?
I don’t know the answer to that at the moment. I like the idea that my career will continue to evolve with opportunities. I don’t feel this is necessarily what I will do forever, but it’s pretty good right now. And I feel well situated to flex with opportunities. We’re in a versatile industry which is continually evolving.
Okay, so what kind of projects are you working on at the moment? And do you have a favourite?
My favourite project is probably working for the Amy Gillett Foundation, helping them to work out if they could build a mapping application to help councils understand how safe their roads are for cyclists. We’re putting the safety of roads and the factors that influence the safety of roads and cyclists into a map, and then creating a stress rating from that. As a passionate cyclist, that’s a problem that’s very dear to my heart, and it’s a pretty interesting space to be working in.
What a great opportunity to bring what you’re interested in and your skills together. It brings me to the next question: what’s your favourite thing about working at Cogent?
What’s my favourite thing? The people and the style of work. I think people at Cogent are, universally, both really good at what they do and really interesting people. They have a wide range of interests outside work, they’re all super smart, and they’re also really ego-less. I have worked with some of the Cogent team over the last five years in my previous job, so I knew that I liked Cogent people, and that was part of my reason for coming. I also like the diversity of work and the type of work. I’ve worked on a number of not-for-profit or social benefit projects since I’ve been here, and I think that’s pretty interesting.
Cool. So what do you like to do on the weekend or in your time off?
I like to ride bikes! I’ve got two young kids and we all like to ride bikes: mountain biking as a family, or road riding with friends. I also like hanging out with friends. What else? I’m a mad skier. So, on a day like today, when it’s hailing, I’m looking forward to the amount of snow that’s currently falling on the mountains, and hoping we’ll be allowed out of Melbourne in time to get up there.
Kath hiking in the Andes
Nice! Where’s the best place you’ve ever been?
I spent nine months in South America travelling around a little while ago, so I think I’d say the mountains of the Andes. Also, walking around the glaciers and Machu Picchu … I guess any number of walks along the Andes there. It’s just a spectacular location.
Cool. What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
I had kids! That’s the most committing move I have ever made. It’s wonderful; it’s the best!
If you had a private chef for a night, what would you get them to make you?
I’m a vegetarian, and I really like Japanese food, so I think some diverse range of Japanese vegetarian food would be what I’d go for.
And last one, what’s the best advice anyone’s given you?
Seize the day! I guess something like that, although I don’t have a more specific piece of advice.
No, that’s great! Thanks so much for your time today, Kath. Great to talk with you.
Like the idea of joining the Cogent team? Head over to the Cogent Careers page and say hello!