My first month as a Senior Designer at Cogent

Mario Carabotta | Cogent

Mario Carabotta | Cogent

Senior Designer at Cogent. Paper and sharpie will do the trick.

The first day of a new job is generally pretty stressful; sure there’s excitement as you kick off a new chapter in your life, but I’ve always felt awkward and uncomfortable during those first few days, mostly because of my complete inability to retain people’s names. Luckily for me, when I arrived at Cogent for my first day I knew things would be different. From my first informal interview with Jimmy and Matt, the office space felt relaxed and comfortable and I couldn’t wait to get started. 

A few months ago I was ready for a change. I’d been working as a consultant for product companies for most of my career, and was looking for an opportunity to use my design and research expertise to influence an organisation at a deeper level.

I got in touch with Cogent’s People Guy, Jimmy and we met a few times to evaluate if Cogent and I were meant to be. It never felt like interviewing, more like coffee dates. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to focus on design or product work, so with the Design Principal, Matt and the General Manager, Amelia we ran a quick workshop to clarify that. We were working together even before formally being colleagues, and it felt awesome.

I accepted the role of Senior Designer and decided to postpone my start date by three months so that I could head overseas on a backpacking adventure. Cogent was happy to wait for me to return, which just shows how flexible they are.

Mario’s desk on day one.

I’m not going to describe everything I’ve done in my first month, instead I’ll call out some of the things that put a smile on my face.

People first…for real

Most companies can reel off a list of benefits; flexible hours, learning budget, inclusive culture, etc, etc. What they don’t mention is that there’s another list of things that come before the benefits – the client needs, the project deadline, the shareholders.

What I’ve seen at Cogent from day one is that if you have a personal need, there are no questions asked. Full stop. For example, I’m writing this blog post at home today. I just posted WFH today in the #whereswally Slack channel, and that’s it, no further explanation needed. People trust you to get your work done, without having anyone checking up on you. 

Strategy in the kitchen

I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for strategy. Talk to me about OKRs and I’ll get butterflies in my stomach. At Cogent our Purpose, Vision, Mission and Strategy take up an entire wall in our communal kitchen. Everything is up there for everyone to read, understand and get involved with.

Measurable outcomes are listed, champions are assigned for each objective and real initiative are in progress to achieve those goals. There’s also a weekly standup to discuss progress, open for anyone in the company to join.

Mario and Eadaoin kick off a meeting at their strategy wall

I’m part of one of the strategic research initiatives, and have been interviewing startup founders to better understand them. In a similar way to our approach to increase gender diversity, we are taking a design-led approach to our strategy and process improvement. Being part of this project so early on made me feel like a valued Cogent team member.


All the strategic initiatives happening at Cogent are driven by our values. It’s been eye-opening to see how these values impact all decisions that the company makes, both large and small. I joined at a time in which our values are being iterated on, by gathering feedback from employees and refining them accordingly. To me, that process is testament that Cogent really embraces a bottom-up, people first approach. 

Transparency is one of our core values, have you heard about our open salary model? When I started I was given access to all company documentation, including the finances and budgets. That transparency gave me an opportunity to understand the business much faster than at any other place I’ve worked before.

People at Cogent aren’t shy. They ask questions, and everyone is proud to answer, even if the question is challenging, because transparency brings a shared understanding and ultimately leads to better team outcomes. 

The work I’ve been involved in so far has been really great. I’m currently participating in a project that I’ve found extremely refreshing and inspiring. It taps into some of the topics that I’ve been eager to learn more about for ages, including business design, business model validation and facilitation.

In a nutshell, my first month at Cogent showed me the unexpected. It made me realise that not all businesses are the same, and that the model Cogent uses really works – both for the people we partner with and our employees.

It definitely suits me and it’s helping me to iterate on my career and personal goals. I optimistically see a great learning path and a more balanced lifestyle, which is really hard to achieve in our industry.

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

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