Hello, I’m Kath – the latest member of Cogent’s product team. Starting a new job in the middle of Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown was a fairly weird experience, it was certainly the first time I’ve turned up for my first day of work on a video call! I’m lucky to have a long working relationship with Cogent as a client and my existing connections with some of the team had already given me a glimpse into the culture at Cogent. Before I even started I knew the company values and they really resonated with me.
Even though I knew that ‘wellbeing’ was more than just a buzzword at Cogent (it’s one of our values), my expectations of how much support I’d receive to settle in were surpassed. Before my first day, I received a Cogent indoor plant as a welcome gift to help decorate my home office and on Day 1 Mark (Our CEO who happens to live within my 5km lockdown zone) dropped off a chair and monitor for me. We also went for a socially-distanced walk where he talked to me about life at Cogent. I really appreciated having some face-to-face time with another member of the Cogent team.
Cogent has found lots of ways to maintain (and create for us newcomers) human connection despite the team being fully remote. Each morning there’s a ‘water cooler’ check-in that’s open to everyone – giving us the chance to grab 15 minutes catching up with the team before we start our days. On Mondays there’s even a special meeting time for #coffeewithpets. By lunchtime on my first day I think I’d met as many Cogent chickens as humans!
A screenshot from one of our weekly #coffeewithpets catch ups
I launched quickly into client projects, joining Cogent long termers Matt and Scott on separate engagements, and getting an immersive experience of the Cogent way. I have a varied background, having started life as a developer and transitioning into non-tech roles about 15 years ago. I’ve worked across product, data and strategy in a range of software businesses. For me, one of the big attractions of joining Cogent was being able to work across a variety of different projects, using a range of different skill sets that would give me more exposure to early stage product development. Early stage ventures are particularly interesting to me because business and product strategy are evolving and work is often holistic. It’s also exciting and satisfying to have an impact in the creation of something new.
My first project was a Clarify – A Cogent service which helps founders with early stage product ideas to explore the concept and context and clarify whether there’s a sustainable digital business model. We spent a few weeks uncovering and prioritising the needs of the stakeholders (both internal and external), and ultimately discovered that building the bespoke product would be too costly and risky for our client. Whilst it was a disappointing end, it was nice to hear the client thanking us for our transparency throughout the process, and hearing them say that they had experienced the Cogent values in practice during the engagement. Cogent is all about transparent, honest conversations – not just telling clients what we think they want to hear.
My other project this month has been a ‘ways of working’ engagement, where we review a business’ product development practices against benchmarks and develop recommendations for improvements to help them achieve their vision. We’re working with a client who is quite similar to my last employer, Qantas Hotels, where smaller business units exist within a larger corporate structure. It’s great to be pairing with another Cogent person, we can compare and contrast our experiences of what good product teams look like and how they operate. I’m learning that even though Cogent has a defined set of services, they can look different each time we do them as we adapt to each client’s circumstances and we introduce new methodologies to add value.
There’s also plenty to do outside of client projects. As an avid cyclist myself, Cogent’s collection of riders of all types has made for some easy connections. Sometimes it seems like everyone I meet has some type of bike as their Zoom background!
Some of the Cogent team at our annual Cogent Classic fundraising event in support of the Amy Gillett Foundation
I’ve also joined the Cogent Leadership Book Club, where we’re currently reading “An Everyone Culture – How to Become a Deliberately Developmental Organisation” by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. It’s producing interesting discussions about ways we can actively and openly help every person in the team with their own development. We’re having some meaty conversations around transparency, and pondering ‘for a company that prides itself on transparency, how transparent is too transparent?’
It’s been an amazing learning experience so far and I’m looking forward to a real life catch up with some of the Cogent team next week.