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, Mario caught up with Liz to discuss her first months at Cogent, and dig into her passions for cooking, connecting with friends, and the epic feeling of drinking wine and eating cheese at the end of a long day of hiking.
Name: Liz Blink
Job: Lead Product Manager
Time at Cogent: Two months
Hi Liz! You’re a new face here at Cogent. How’s it been so far?
It’s been good! I started part-time, transitioned off some of my own consulting, and went full-time at the start of July, when I got to shadow Eadaoin, Craig & Tania on a project. It was kind of nice to be able to contribute, but not have to own or run something — to learn from the masters and watch folk do things really well. Everyone at Cogent has just been really, really welcoming as well, which has been very nice.
That’s great to hear. And what are you working on these days?
I’m working with a U.S. client undergoing a bit of a transformation. They’ve been around for a while and they’re facing some new competitors, so they’re trying to make sure that they stay relevant in their market and relevant to their customers.
They’re doing a bit of a transformation in terms of legacy technology, but also revamping the customer experience and thinking about it from a very different perspective. They’re trying to flip how they do things, and that’s interesting.
That’s been in motion for about five to six months, and I got to join just prior to launch. It’s always really fascinating because it feels like you’re the one who gets to run the last leg, where someone else has done the marathon beforehand. It can be good to kind of play the rallying role, just to help people remember they’ve still got to get across the finish line of a transformation.
Liz on a hike in Beechworth, VIC
Nice. You mentioned that this client is based in the U.S. Where are you based?
Good old Melbourne! That does mean nice early starts to overlap, because it’s our winter time and their summer time, so there’s like an 8:00 to 10:00 AM slice of time that we can reasonably overlap with each other. Sometimes someone sneaks a late day and sometimes you do a bit of an earlier start. But the magic of time travel will mean that when daylight savings kicks in, we’ll get a little bit more overlap there.
Right. And how are you finding it, the combination of working with people from overseas, and I guess, working from home as well?
One of my first gigs was based in Amsterdam and we worked with U.S. colleagues and Asia-Pacific so it feels a little bit familiar to have a spread of people across different places, and luckily it feels like I’m able to draw on some old habits and they’re still useful ten+ years on. You do your best to just try and get information and questions and thinking done at those alternate times, and in a way that lets people pick up the thread and get back to you when they’re on deck.
But I think, to be honest, it feels really natural to just drop into an online meeting with a bunch of people across continents. We’ve been doing it awhile now with lockdowns. I mean, you actually don’t know where anybody’s from, because they’re all using a Zoom background. And you’re definitely not fighting that moment, like in the old days, when it was a conference call and there’s a whole bunch of people talking in the same room and you’re the only one on the call, “What, who said that? What was that? Who said something?” because they’ve been able to have a conversation separately from you. So actually it’s quite nice.
Yeah. It’s interesting: to a certain extent having everyone working from home enables better inclusion, because everybody can be in there together and there’s probably a bit more shared documentation.
Yes, the second you realise someone hasn’t got the memo — you realise they needed to be in on a string of communication or a document that’s previously been circulated — you can just bring it up on the screen and immediately know everyone’s looking at the same thing. I find this very pleasant.
Of course, you’ve still got to do your homework. You’ve got to be like, “Okay, these are the new people on the invitation,” and make sure they get followup. But the kind of admin that used to go on behind all of those long-distance meetings is so much less now.
Absolutely. So what’s your role at Cogent and how did you get into it?
I’m a lead product manager — so a product management consultant. I’ve known Cogent for a while and I worked with Marty on my first product gig here in Australia. I don’t think I’ve had Cogent work with any organisation that I’ve been at, but I’ve definitely known a bunch of good folks that work here and chatted with them on various subjects. So when I finished up at Envato in February, I was trying to figure out what I would do next.
I’ve been on that journey of working for places that aren’t not-for-profit, but they still want to do meaningful work — they make money to do good things with it. There’s something around having commercial acumen and sensibility about what you’re doing that I think helps with purpose and focus. I think Cogent has a nice match for that, in that they like to work with people who want to have an impact – meaning is really important here.
So as I was kind of scanning around, the opportunity came up here, and I had a really great conversation with Scott and Jimmy and the team and I thought, “Oh, this might actually be the right fit, and a chance to do that meaningful work.”
Liz cooking up a storm on a camping trip in the King Valley, Victoria.
That’s great to hear. In the short time you’ve been with Cogent, is there anything that has stood out for you that you like about the company?
I think what’s probably most impressive is that the working experience matches the interview process. With Cogent, the interview was an opportunity to meet people, and as part of that process, we might agree on something that’s about joining the organisation, or working together in some way in the future. It’s just a completely different approach and energy to other companies, where you feel like you’re being grilled. I presume there’s not too many places that do what Cogent does.
So I haven’t had any of those cold-water moments where I’ve thought, “What the hell?” and that’s kudos and credit to the team. I’ve got great experiences and good friends from each of the places I’ve worked, but it’s really noticeable when you first join an organisation, and there’s usually some schism and people do their best to overcome it. I absolutely commend Cogent for that really not being the case.
It’s been really lovely that people have been curious about me and what I can bring to the organisation, and there’s an openness to talk about that, which I think is also really special.
Then the work — being able to just jump in and get going has been great. It’s nice to feel like I’m not still trying to find a fit. I feel like I belong here really quickly — I’m already part of the furniture.
That’s good! Well, enough about work, let’s talk about other things. What do you like to do on the weekend?
Well, it would be remiss of me to not mention my other job, where I organise the community around a product (take a look at Product Anonymous for more info). Strictly speaking, I might be a workaholic!
But as a balance to that, I like the things that are a bit hedonistic. I like to get together with friends — when not in lockdown — to take care of each other and indulge each other around food: to cook for each other or picnic together or walk. I like to go hiking. That’s a nice way to do things, because you can talk and be active at the same time and see beautiful things. And I do like to lose myself in a book sometimes, too.
Enjoying her time out in nature – rain, hail or shine!
Okay, so let me ask you a question which is a combination of all of this. If you were to pick a hike, a book, and a food to bring on a trip, what would that be?
At the moment, my ambition is to get up to the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory. The dream is to do bigger things, but at the moment I’m at day-hike distance rather than overnight and repeated days. So it feels like I can just start a list, and it means I can combine that with my desire to get to many countries in the world.
So the ideal thing in the backpack? You know it’s funny, it depends on whether it’s a warm day or not, but I love the joy of that moment when you’re done, and you can sit down and crack a beer, or a nice wine, with some cheese and biscuits. And you look out on the view from wherever you’ve got to and just think, “this is it, the serenity!”
For the book, I hope there’s many more books for me to read, but the one I’d recommend, which I read when I finished my PhD, is the Alexandria Quartet. It’s basically four stories — four books. As you read, you keep getting bits of the story from different people’s points of view. It’s beautiful, it’s tragic, and it’s long — which is great.
Great. So I asked that for the future, but from the past: where is the best place you’ve ever been?
I’m going to nominate King Valley, because we make the effort to go back every year, which probably is a sign that it’s that good.
The King Valley is up in Northeast Victoria, and we stay at Gentle Annie’s Caravan Park and go for the wine festival. That area used to be tobacco land, and then they changed it all and planted vineyards. As you sit there at Gentle Annie’s, you’re just in the foothills, the sun’s going down, and the cockatoos go screeching through the park. You’ve just got the barbecue set up, the cheese board’s out, wine’s cracked, you’re busy setting up the tent. And if it’s too hot, you just walk down to the river and stick your feet in.
But you sort of swear a little bit in the morning, because the cows go through for their milk run and make an absolute racket, and then the galahs or something wake you up with their screeching as well. So there’s a bit of a moment when nature is sort of like: “Yeah, we want you to take that photo, but your head’s throbbing a little bit, right?”
Haha, yes! So what if you could invite anyone from any place and time to the King Valley who would that be, and what would you talk about?
Well, I’d like to get a couple of the great philosophers along, get them all together in the one place to sit around the campfire together and share stories. I wonder what that would look like. How sublime would it be to sit with the masters and listen to them figure out the answers to life around the campfire?
Well, I want an invite too, in that case! Thanks, Liz. It’s been awesome.
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