How product management at Cogent differs from other places.

While Product Management roles vary across organisations, my role at Cogent is the broadest and most varied I’ve had in nearly 20 years. So I think it appropriate to give a snapshot of what the term ‘product’ means at Cogent through the lens of what my average week looks like.

At Cogent the product team do not actually manage their own products. Given I’ve spent most of my career being directly accountable for the success or failure of my products, this is an important distinction.

In my role, I don’t manage products or people in the way I used to when I worked for the business that created the product. Instead, my role at Cogent is to work with these businesses to help them make sound product decisions, ensure they’re investing in the right product solution, and support them in creating a product experience that their customers will love.

At Cogent I get to work with businesses of many shapes and sizes. I enjoy the variety of problem spaces that I work on in any given week. At any one time I might be leading multiple teams for different customers with a diverse range of products. Customer involvement varies from project to project, but we always make sure the customer has a nominated Product Owner who has the capacity to get involved in the day-to-day detail, plus make the big calls when required.

Some of the Cogent team testing a new idea.

Some of the Cogent team testing a new idea.

Most of my teams include developers, a designer and one or more client representatives, all working together towards a common goal. Each of them work quite differently however, because we understand that each individual brings something unique to the team. Nurturing that diversity yields better outcomes for the product and the happiness of the team.

Depending on project scale, I might traverse energy-tech, healthcare, and education verticals all in the same week. A typical customer might be an emerging tech company in a growth phase, deep in product build requiring me to manage the product development pipeline. That type of team requires a fair bit of iteration management, project management and product planning. It’s where my sleeves are rolled up. I’m in the thick of creating a product by bringing together commercial, end-user and delivery team needs. I’m keeping the vision front and centre and keeping everyone on track to create an awesome product.

Matt, our Design Principal, hard at work.

Matt, our Design Principal, hard at work.

Another customer might be just starting out with an idea and requires clarity with the problem space. This involves plenty of conversations with the customer to gain context. I work closely with designers, figuring out the best facilitation technique to get to the desired outcome in workshops. Eliciting goals, understanding the problem space and target audience needs are common aims. Its my role to bring together the inputs required to be clear on the problem so that the team is ready to explore possible solutions. I especially enjoy this type of work.

On the Business Development side, Cogent is very collaborative so I’m often involved in conversations with prospective customers, figuring out if and how we can help them. I’m also regularly reviewing our sales pipeline and team allocation with other members of the Cogent leadership team.

Compared to a typical Product Management role, working in Product at Cogent keeps me interested because of the variety in clients, products, industries and contexts. I’m constantly learning and there are always fresh, new ways to work and people to work with. Never a dull moment!