I’m a part time dad who chooses to work 3 days a week so I can spend time with my kids. Last year I spent many months off work having chemotherapy and radiation for rectal cancer. I’m still recovering from surgery and until recently, I just couldn’t leave the house. None of this has effected my circumstances at work.

That’s one of the great things about working at Cogent. We’re a values ­driven organisation, and consider the evolution of how we live them a critical element to building a sustainable Cogent.

Our values create a healthy working environment, and for many of us they also have significant meaning away from the workplace. We think that’s a good sign. If our workplace values are aligned with everyday life, then we’re not faking the importance of them while we’re at work. Sadly, that’s not the situation at many organisations.

Cogent’s values go beyond the standard corporate set that most of us have seen in annual reports and on office walls. At Cogent they are real, tangible and truly reflect our culture. I am proud to say that Cogent does a solid job of creating a welcoming and enabling space for all walks of life. It’s important to us that everyone can thrive and feel included and valued for who they are.

The way we live our values has come a long way in the eight years since the company was founded. While the core values have always existed within the organisation, the way we think about them, interpret them and apply them has evolved over time.

The current way we ‘live’ Diversity is quite different to the Cogent I joined 3 years ago. We’ve evolved with the team, and we’ve been able to adapt as we grow and welcome new people into our community. In fact, we’re now considering how ‘Inclusion’ might better reflect the intent behind our Diversity value. Thought-provoking discussions are commonplace here at Cogent, where we often assess why we do the things we do.

Respecting individual lifestyles, constraints and beliefs is core to how we approach Inclusion at Cogent. A simple yet powerful example of this is how we cater for a plethora of dietary requirements at any Cogent function. At last check, almost half of our people have special dietary requirements. These are accommodated for proactively and without question. My own family caters for 3 special diets ­at every meal, so I can sympathise with our Office Manager and Chief Organiser Anthony, not to mention the chefs who cater our events!! I know how much this acceptance and flexibility helps people feel welcomed and included.

Our hiring policy at Cogent has a focus on cultural fit. We like to work with people who share our values, attitudes and work ethic. We are young at heart, have passions outside work, care about our health, our quality of life and our families. We value positive attitudes, kindness and generosity of spirit. Inclusion at Cogent means you’re welcome to share and express your gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, ethnicity and any life choices that matter to you. Whether you’re an introvert, a social butterfly, a working mother, a part time dad, a small business operator, an opera aficionado or a gluten free, low fructose, vegan… we want you to be you when you arrive in the Cogent office.

In recent years, we’ve explored ways in which our hiring process might be leading to a gender imbalance at Cogent. The language that we used, the way we sourced candidates and how we presented Cogent as a workplace was inadvertently discouraging women to apply. We wanted more women to consider Cogent as a potential employer, so we’ve worked hard to address this. The results are encouraging.

We’re seeing more and more female applications across the board. And we’re hiring women in roles previously only filled by men. Half of our board members are female, as is one third of the senior management team, 3 of 4 designers and one of two product managers.

Like many in our industry, we’re unhappy with the representation of women in our team of developers. Only 1 of a team of 25 developers is female. We know this problem is not exclusive to Cogent, but something that challenges employers industry-wide. It’s something we continue to work on and I’m comforted to know that even if our current strategy of inclusion turns out to be imperfect, what really matters is that Cogent is open to evolution.

Cogent’s response to my own treatment and recovery from cancer over the last 12 months has shown just how caring, flexible and accommodating Cogent can be. When I have been able to work, people have come to my home for important meetings, I’ve had brief stints in the office, worked remotely with teams at times and worked on solo projects too. I’ve felt valued and my contributions respected, which has helped my own personal rehabilitation. Never have I felt under pressure to come back to work sooner than I was able. Remaining part of the team even while sick created a seamless transition back to work.

Complex health issues can be isolating and stressful. Whether life throws up big hurdles like cancer or smaller ones like your kids starting school, our goal is to work with them so that everyone can relax and concentrate on getting the most out of their time with Cogent.

At Cogent, there is a real willingness to change, grow and evolve. Diversity is a core value that is truly lived here, not just given lip service to.

Thanks to Emily Rogers and Dan Tropp.