A behind-the-scenes look at the people who make us great.

In this month’s edition of the Cogent Crew series, Courtney sat down with Nicholas, one of Cogent’s super talented developers.

Read on to discover how Nicholas is contributing to the local developer community, and what’s involved in building your own keyboard.


Name: Nicholas Bruning
Job: Developer
Time at Cogent: Just over 2 years

So Nicholas, how long have you been writing software?

Just over 10 years. I studied computer science at university and have always loved computers, so I knew from a very early age that I would be doing something with technology. I got a job as a Flash developer after I graduated and worked for a small company in Melbourne doing restaurant websites. There was a period of time where just about every annoying auto-music-playing restaurant website in Melbourne was probably developed by me, so I apologise to everyone.

Then from there, I kind of transitioned to various software things, until I eventually found Ruby (the programming language) and really fell in love with what that enabled me to do.

Do you find website development really different to software?

I guess I don’t really see them as distinct things. I guess some people do, but I very much consider websites to be software. I’ve always tried to take a software development approach to building websites of any complexity, whether it’s something really simple and trivial or a big application.

Have the projects you’ve worked on at Cogent fallen into that ‘bigger application’ category?

Yeah, they’ve definitely been large ones. Most of my time at Cogent has been spent at Hooroo, which is part of the Qantas Group, and I’ve just recently moved across to REA Group to help over there.

Say cheese, Nicholas!

Say cheese, Nicholas!

What’s been the highlight of your time at Cogent so far?

I think towards the end of my time at Hooroo, we had really created an amazing little team. It was about four or five of us, and we just worked incredibly well together, both in terms of getting along really well, but also very high output. There were no egos and people just got work done. It’s the benchmark to which I now hold every team I work with!

So are the people more important to you than the project itself then?

To a certain extent. I think it’s rare to find a place with so many people who I would happily spend time with like I do with the people at Cogent. The projects are great too of course, but it seems like everyone’s very like-minded at Cogent and that helps a lot when you go into a new client team.

I also don’t think I could work anymore at a company that didn’t practise transparency to the level that Cogent does. Not just things like open salaries, but even just what the company’s doing or thinking or how it’s performing financially. I like knowing all of that stuff.

What do you do outside of Cogent?

I do a lot of programming and just generally like making things. I’ve normally got so many things that I’m working on simultaneously at any one time. My poor wife just has to listen to me talk for hours on end about each new project.

For eight years before I joined Cogent, I was working for a design agency and learned a real appreciation for design. I’ve injected that a little bit into now building my own keyboard from scratch, which has involved a lot of fun stuff like getting components laser cut in various countries and hoping they all fit when they arrive. It’s layers of bamboo, plastic, and a steel top plate.

Building a keyboard from scratch.

Building a keyboard from scratch.

That’s amazing. Any other hidden talents?

I had a brief moment as a child actor, a result of both parents being in the film industry. Although I’m not the only one at Cogent with an IMDB profile…

Wow, I’ll need to dig into that. You’re also pretty active in the Melbourne Ruby community, aren’t you?

Yeah, I’m currently organising RubyConf AU 2018. I organised 2017 as well, but next year’s conference in Sydney is shaping up to be even bigger and better.

Setting up for RubyConf 2017

Setting up for RubyConf 2017

I’m also involved in organising Rails Girls Melbourne, which is something I’m really passionate about. It’s a programme that I’ve seen work first hand through mentoring someone who we then hired at Cogent. Women are underrepresented in technology at the moment, and Rails Girls has been really successful in introducing females to something they may not have considered before.

I enjoy teaching people new things and truly believe that anyone can learn anything they want if they just put their mind to it.

Any advice for developers at that entry stage in their career?

Everyone thinks they’re terrible at programming. It doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been doing it for 10 or 20 years, it’s impossible to know everything. You have to just enjoy learning and leverage other people’s knowledge rather than trying to know everything yourself.

Serious chats in the Pool Room

Serious chats in the Pool Room

And you’re now also getting more involved in the JavaScript community, is that right?

Yes, I am. I always thought that Cogent was missing a bit of a technical voice, so I’m hoping I can provide some of that between Cogent and the JavaScript community.

Cogent’s culture is very much one where if you see something that needs doing, you just do it, rather than asking permission or waiting to be asked. That has taken some getting used to, but I’ve been looking forward to writing some more technical blog posts, doing more workshops and talks, and getting us more known in the JavaScript space. I think we may even experiment with doing some live coding, which should be interesting.

Oh, watch this space!

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