TeaTalk with: Dean Shepherd, Head of Operations.


We sit down with Dean Shepherd, our Head of Operations here at Cogent, for a virtual cuppa and a chat. We explore his everyday inspirations, what makes Cogent different and some of his biggest achievements yet. 

What inspired you to get involved in the creative industry in particular? Was this something you always wanted to do?

It was by chance; I was 16 and at college doing Electronics & Communications, but I wasn’t enjoying the course and wanted to leave. While randomly at a job centre, my sister saw a job on the board for a 4-year reprographics apprenticeship at Wace Corporate Imaging in Manchester, she applied on my behalf (without telling me) and set me up with an interview (that’s how we used to do it before LinkedIn and recruitment agencies). It was my first ever interview, I wore my old school trousers and an oversized shirt with my Granddad’s tie, I looked like a right plonker! I didn’t think the interview was going well, in fact, it was a disaster, I struggled to get my words out and my answers were quite frankly, shite. To my amazement, I actually got the job and after a week or so my new boss and interviewer told me that I only got the job because I seemed like a nice lad and I made him laugh. He was particularly impressed with my answer when he asked, “Can you list the primary colours please?” I had no idea, so I mumbled out “Tartan?”. I don’t know why, but he obviously liked it enough to take a chance on me. I learnt early in my career that being yourself and being honest is always the best policy, not just at work, but in life generally.

What is it that makes Cogent different to other places you have worked at?

Cogent is the first ‘proper’ agency that I have worked at and we really do produce some amazing work. I love how the agency buzzes as the projects go from strategic thinking, right the way through to the final creative output. After over 20 years of working in the industry, I have finally found a company where the ethos and my personality match perfectly. I really love working at Cogent and I think it’s a great place to work.

What’s your career highlight to date, something you’re proud of?

About 7 years ago, while working at SP Group, I was asked to help build an internal creative studio alongside a senior designer and the creative director. While we were recruiting, we used a lot of freelancers which can be difficult to manage especially from a team morale point of view. The dynamic of the team and the atmosphere we created between freelance and the permanent staff was truly amazing and something that I am really proud to have been involved in creating. We all still chat via a WhatsApp group to this day.

Do you have a motto or ethos that helps you in your everyday work in the Creative Hive? What keeps you going and ensures the work you do is effective?

Stay calm and be kind. In my role, I have to liaise with lots of teams that all need their client work completed urgently. I’ve always tried not to let frustration affect relationships with my colleagues. It’s important to remember that we all work for the same team and we all have the same goals, which is to deliver great work, for all of our clients, all of the time.

This year’s been a bit of a crazy one and lockdown has left us with a lot of spare time on our hands. What’s the biggest thing you achieved after months of ‘staying home’?

When lockdown 1.0 started in March last year, life was turned upside down. In the beginning, it was great, who wouldn’t want an opportunity to spend some quality time with their two young boys and fiancée. But after a few weeks, the novelty wore off and it all became a little painful and very stressful (I’m looking at you, homeschooling). We were doing our best to convince a 5 and a 2-year-old to spend time on reading, writing, phonics, digraphs, trigraphs etc, but without success. If I had hair, I would have ripped it out. My partner and I needed a way to escape and find some me-time. My escape came at the beginning of May when my partner’s sister tagged me on social media to do ‘5k for the NHS’. I had to run 5k, donate £5 and tag 5 friends. I took up the challenge on a warm, wet evening and ran 5k. It felt great, like I was alive again. It wasn’t long before the trainers were back on and I was off on another run. Once a week turned into twice a week, 5k turned into 10k and before I knew it, I’d run a solo half marathon. It’s now become an obsession. I’m running every 2 days and cover around 30k per week. In total, I have now run 835km since May, which is the same distance as running from Bromsgrove to Lands End, AND BACK!!! I’ve lost over 2 stone and I’m fitter than I’ve been in years. Next up, I think I’ll have a go at the marathon. Wish me luck!