What’s it like to work at Cogent?

Mark Wells

Mark Wells

The hardest working man in show business.

It’s AMAZING! But as the CEO, I might be biased and it’s pretty much the same answer you’d get from any CEO. 

It’s the most obvious question for anyone to ask who’s considering working at a company, but finding objective data is generally not possible. Even if you have a few friends at a company, their experience is subjective and might be constrained to the team they’re working in, or just the product of a great (or not so great) manager. It’s also true that 50% of companies are better than the median and that 50% are worse than the median, and a 100% of CEO’s think their company is in the first group!

Mark during a monthly Cogent company meeting

You could take a look over at Glassdoor where feedback is left on companies and their CEO’s which results in a star rating. Cogent gets 4.9 stars and most people approve of the CEO! This makes me feel pretty good, but Glassdoor’s ratings are anonymous and thus not verified as people working for the company.  Maybe my mum wrote half of the reviews, and maybe I wrote the other half, who knows? 

So as good as Cogent’s Glassdoor rating is, I wouldn’t consider it a reliable source of information.  Similarly, you could take a look at Great Places to Work where they have a table of Great Places to Work (™), but their methodology isn’t transparent and my understanding is you have to pay to be on the list, so I also don’t consider this to be a reliable source of information either.

Finally, you could take a look at any company’s website to get some sense of what they say their culture is like. Our own website attempts to be evenhanded but even we don’t overtly promote the stuff that we’re not so good at. I think it’s fair to say that the majority of companies aren’t 100% balanced when it comes to telling potential candidates what is and isn’t great about working for them.

For over 5 years now, Cogent has been using Culture Amp’s Engagement Survey tool. For the tech industry, this has largely become part of the standard SaaS toolset along with Slack, Gmail, Notion, Jira, Mural etc. If you work in a start-up or scale-up in Australia, you’ll be familiar with the periodic staff surveys. I’m a huge fan of Culture Amp (for full disclosure, Culture Amp was once a customer of Cogent’s), it’s provided deep insights into Cogent’s culture and has provided us with clear direction on how to incrementally improve it.

Cogent has a bottom line that isn’t just about dollars, using Culture Amp we measure our progress against both “people engagement”,  our values and a range of other factors. Cogent’s board holds me to account on both engagement and values, often ahead of our financial performance. Culture Amp also provides lots of benchmarks, both within Australia and globally (they are pretty big now). These are incredibly helpful in interpreting results and seeing how we measure up against our peers, both locally and internationally. We typically aim to be in the top 10% globally for companies with similar cultures and we’ve largely been able to achieve that over the last 4 years. This didn’t just happen, we had to work hard on it, largely using what we learned from Culture Amp.

Cogent is well known for its value of transparency and our commitment to financial and salary transparency. It even got me on TV! Everyone at Cogent has full access to the results of our 6 monthly Culture Amp surveys. At Cogent, we generally always default to transparency and have to find reasons to not be transparent, rather than the other way around. 

If I was applying for a job tomorrow I’d simply ask the company to show me their Culture Amp survey results, that would tell me pretty much everything I needed to know about their culture and how it is changing over time. It would enable me to make an informed, objective, data-driven decision on whether or not they are a good fit for me based on unfiltered, benchmarked data from people who actually work there.

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure right now most companies wouldn’t share them with me, but I’m hoping to change that.

So ongoing, good or bad, Cogent is going to publish it’s most recent and historical Culture Amp Engagement survey results right here so any potential employee can deep dive themselves and figure out what’s it like to work at Cogent? 

The best developer/designer/product manager on the planet can have a really bad experience if they end up working in a culture that isn’t right for them, so this isn’t about telling the world that we’re the best place to work, because that couldn’t be true for everyone.  It’s about a fit between your values, goals and development ambitions and a company’s values, culture and ability to provide opportunities for you to grow and develop.

Understanding and interpreting Culture Amp results can be tricky, some of the category names might not be intuitive for non-psychologists ( “social connection” is one that I find ambiguous) so I’d recommend diving into the Culture Amp question set and their own explanation of what “engagement” means here (I think of it as a company net promoter score). We’ve also included the median score and top 10% score for the benchmark we hold ourselves to, this makes it much easier to contextualise how good or bad a score is for all questions and factors.

I’m hoping that over time, other companies will follow suit as I genuinely believe that we’ll all have happier, more engaged and committed employees that stay for longer if we are honest and transparent about What’s it like to work at Cogent?

Finally, a big thanks to Culture Amp for building a great product and for also being supportive of us taking this step. Thank you

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