Meet the Team

The core team is Gelena and Rob. With support from several friends who also specialize in ICT and Consultancy.

Robert Wilby BSc (Hons)

Technical Director of Cogitare.
Expert in Tableau, Power BI and QliK Sense technology, analysis programmes in the business, education and health sectors.
Has significant experience as an ICT expert within education.
In the past worked for ten years at Wessex Associates and Bench Marque Ltd. Those years were spent replacing paper based school inspection systems with offline and online databases that improved the speed and efficiency for inspectors and the teams that supported them. Much of the work for Wessex Associates involved assessing school systems directly, offering advice and technical support and in many cases replacing a schools network completely.

Gelena Wilby

Has a Master’s Degree in Science, graduated in chemical engineering.
Worked over 10 years in private education as a tutor in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry for secondary school students in the Republic of Panama.
Before moving to the United Kingdom in 2011, Gelena worked for 5 years as a Managing Director of a Real Estate Company.
She is proficient in Spanish, Russian and Ukrainian languages.
Since 2012, Gelena is part of the Cogitare team working in research, web development and social media management.

Consultants

Cogitare has over time, worked with many consultants, namely in Education and Finance on several big projects.
If we assess that any new work, will require a larger team or that the knowledge or time available within Cogitare isn't enough, we will discuss solutions (assuming a client gives their consent) with friends who may have better experience or the time to complete said work.
This gives us the capacity to manage some projects that otherwise we would need to consider outside of our scope.
If the work is considered by ourselves to be something we are unable to tackle, we still will give the best advise possible and assistance on making sure anyone who contacts us moves forward in the right direction.

Located in the West Country

We live on the southern edge of Dartmoor, midway between Exeter and Plymouth. Although we do nearly all our work over the internet, where possible an initial face to face meeting is something we like (a short walk on Dartmoor followed by lunch is ideal). That way you can assess better the likelyhood that you would like to do business with us.

In Person or Virtual Online; You Choose

Throughout the years we have travelled a long way to attend meetings. We have been invited to places like China, Dubai, Turkey, India and Hungary. We like to code and travelling takes time. Saving this time and the expense, we now try to do all our meetings/installations/fixes via webinar. Clients are also in agreement that this is a better way of working together.





In Person
Virtual

What we Specialize in

Once upon a time, we were known for working 80+ hours a week to deliver online solutions. Some projects would start quickly but require endless attention and maintenance to keep going. This had been the case with online data-analytics for schools. May 2018 GDPR was introduced. We switched our focus away from collecting and maintaining data online. Applying our attentions instead to creating Tableau Dashboards for our clients. Tableau requires little to no maintenance and source data can be from anywhere.

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Data Analytics

How we like best to work:
After a few emails and a phone call or two. We have an idea of requirements. We are then sent spreadsheets that the clients are already working with.
Often these can have hundreds of columns or even thousands (a client in India works best with thousands of columns and enters results 1 to 5 in each).
If possible, we don’t impose any changes to existing, gathering techniques. We link the source data into Tableau Prep, firstly to assess the accuracy of gathered data and report anomalies found.
When all is good, Tableau Prep is used to prepare the data for Tableau Desktop. Desktop is then used to generate the dynamic reports clients require. Outputs can be PDF, Excel and now PowerPoint.

If a client looks at data once a term (schools) or monthly, we are happy to manage the whole Tableau process for them and generate and share the dashboards with them.

Tableau Reader (free) is used to view, allowing the reports to be shared amongst unlimited users. OneDrive or Google-Drive works well for this.

At some point clients like to have complete control. We discuss obtaining a Tableau license. This license is free to students and Teachers. Or can be had with discount dependent upon the nature of your business. If the output is ok to be share with the public realm. Tableau allows the dashboards to be hosted online for free.

Once the process has been configured. The time taken for source data to be transformed into dynamic dashboards is only a minute or two, ready for viewing.

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Website Development

I was first introduced to website hosting and design when a company called “Pulse8” who where based at the Riverside, Totnes asked my advise in respect to their top linux programmer, who was being tempted to leave and take his skills to London where wages were a lot better.
Long story short, I advised pay the programmer more and I build them a backup server as they were lacking one at the time.

It followed on that whilst working with the “Devon Guild of Craftsmen” I was asked to build them a website.
I passed the work directly on to “Pulse8”. All my work before this was network and database related and I was shy of the Internet market, fearing the worst if things were to go wrong.

Working for “Wessex Associates”, I built their website. Peter Davis was concerned that we weren’t showing on the first page when searched for online and offered £600 if it were achieved, after studying SEO I applied it to the website, and it worked (I shared the £600 with all staff).

Things got more interesting whilst working at “Bench Marque” an idea was introduced that a pupil assessments database could be sent to schools and installed from a CD.
I attended the meeting and idea switched to an online solution where any updates would apply to all schools at same time. I was offered a partnership and “BMassessments” was born. Wasn’t an easy start, especially not being paid for 2 years whilst I managed all the technical stuff. I learned all that was needed to build, host and maintain dedicated servers in the uk over the subsequent 13 years.

It followed on that the business should move away from PHP and MySQL and work with Qlik, which needed its own online Windows server. Working with “SchoolsIntelligence” and James Sharp deals were made with Qlik and we built the server together. Moving on, my partners from “BMAssessments” introduced me to “Jeff Howson” and my employment was switched from “MGA Education” to “Expand-IT” and yet another partnership was offered. I shut down the dedicated servers and moved all the “MGA Education” websites to the host company “Siteground”, learning a lot about site migration whilst doing so.

Everything has been working very well for several years now and our hosting has expanded a little to include the NHS, Local Businesses and some Club websites.

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Setting up a UK Company

When I worked for “Dartington Pottery” in their Office many years ago now. Although my tasks were focused on ensuring the pots being made matched the orders. I was keen to learn how the business was run. Learning all I could about SAGE in the process. It followed on that I became a business consultant to the “Cider Press”, “Dartington Hall”, “Devon Guild of Craftsmen” and many other small businesses. All the time spent learning how their offices functioned.

I learned how to switch over the old accounts system used by Nicholas Mosse, in Kilkenny Ireland to the PEGASUS accounts program whilst I was there installing their network. This is a big pottery with many departments to understand (supply, production, packing and delivery) and it turned out to be a big job.

I did have a mentor all this time, Pat Freeman who had once worked for “Price Waterhouse”. He was a master of setting up Companies both in the UK and America. In return I assisted with his ventures into looking after his stocks and shares online.

Eventually I was asked for advice by Peter and Goody about setting up “Wessex Associates” which grew very rapidly into a company turning over more than £1M each year, and a staff count of nearly 30 employees. Again, my attentions weren’t fully on the activities of the accountant, but I did spend a lot of time in accounts discussing cash flow and payroll over those years.

My partnership with Malcolm and Caroline setting up “BMAssessments” gained me more experience with the workings of small businesses. Rather than use SAGE, I wrote an online accounts system bespoke to our own needs using PHP & MySQL.

Presently, I manage all the book-keeping, banking and matters relating to HMRC for Expand-IT.

It is important to understand, that things don’t always go well financially for some individuals in business. It is only in the last two partnership deals I have been involved with; was I wise enough to get the deals written down. Previously all had been done verbally and with a handshake. If you have skills that others need to create a business and they discuss a partnership with you, the time to get an agreement written down is at the very beginning.

So, to now. We can give advice in respect to Companies House. Needing to be VAT Registered or not. Good reasons to register as a Limited Company. Business Banking and getting yourself an Accountant (sometimes a good booking-keeping firm is enough, letting them arrange the accountant for the end of year submission to HMRC). Also, not to forget having liability insurance should also be a must have.

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Translation Services

Whilst working with “Snapdragon” who had set up several potteries in China and required systems being developed to help buyers pick the pots to go into their shipping containers. I met Ling Li who was learning English. She started doing agency work translating technical manuals for Chinese products into English. I offered to do the proof reading. Her English improved greatly and now she works as a lawyer. She returned briefly to China and set up an office that helped Chinese students get visas to study in the UK, which involved a lot of translation work. We keep in touch and she still offers to help me with any Chinese translations that come along.

Following this, when setting up “Incyte International” we had an office in Budapest and needed to firstly offer our website in Hungarian and following this make sure several of my online pupil assessment programs were available also in Hungarian. It was interesting and challenging work. Our Budapest office has now closed, and I haven’t been in contact with our Hungarian staff for a few years. But there is still the possibility of renewing these contacts and managing translation from and to Hungarian.

Gelena is fluent in Russian, Spanish and English. She has spent a long time working in Real Estate in Panama assisting buyers to convert all their legal paperwork into Spanish. Gelena has a daughter who remains in Panama specializing in copyright law amongst other things and needs our help from time-to-time creating copies of legal documents existing both in English and Spanish. Also, we have plans afoot to help anyone from England buy property in Spain via our friend Tanya who is a partner in an Estate Agency located in Granada.

Between Gelena and myself, we are very happy to look at any work that might involve communicating with Russia, Spain, Panama and England.

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Tableau

When I started in IT, I was a huge fan of Borland products such as “Quattro Pro” and “dBase”, then experienced the battle between “Paradox” and Microsofts “Access”.
All along there has been the need to store large data sets and create reports that use this data.
I had a need to create systems that worked efficiently.
Between Paradox, Delphi and C++ I had the dream tools for transforming ideas into reality for many businesses.

I also worked with “Oracle” but must confess my skills were falling short of mastering this fully.

The reason I avoided “Access” was that it fell over with many of the datasets and network configurations I worked with. Also, the licensing of “Paradox” was very clear and affordable.
Unhappily for me, “Paradox” became a product of “Corel” then “WordPerfect” and I needed to move on. I took up working online using MySQL and PHP. Schools can generate a vast amount of data and the analysis takes up a lot of resources to work effectively.
All was solved by running our own dedicated servers with a lot of processor power and RAM.

The types of reports, schools were needing became more visual and complex to put together as time went on. Still with some clever SQL coding all was possible. The downside though was each new report could take days to develop and time was being taken up supporting each school with their internal data issues.

I needed to consider new ways of developing reports more quickly. still online “Qlik” seemed the best option and very robust, but wasn’t a system built around SQL and the licensing deal isn’t one that we could manage well for Schools with a low budget. Following this and well within budget Microsofts “PowerBI” appeared to be the answer. After a time though and integrating data systems such as “R”, I found it hard to continue with its use.
Without going in detail, so much of it depends upon 3rd party modules and passing it on to clients after developing a Dashboard resulted in a lot of support issues.

Now decades later I work with Tableau. It does all I need and more. At first glance it looks like the costliest. But then it has Tableau Reader which is free. So, I can produce an interactive dashboard for a school and a copy can be shared with as many Teachers as you like. April 2018 Tableau Prep appeared, and I found that there was no limit to data manipulations possible.
If contacted I can go into great detail why it is the best tool I have worked with.

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Excel

Whilst working at Dartington Pottery and needing to create sheets for the decorators that matched up with orders with “Sage”. I began using Excel as the step between “Sage” and “Paradox”.
It was a quick visual checker tool for checking entries were correctly formatted and made sense before generating the reports in “Paradox”.

Soon to follow was work with the “Cider Press Centre” next door, who needed to export their order data from an old system that I forget the name of, only fact that worrying them was it was on its way out and the support contract was very costly (also their backup system with removable drives wasn't working any more, I was able to fix that problem quite easily). It was unable to generate output in a format that the accounts department required. Unfortunately for me they wanted everything done in “Excel”. This required several automation scripts to be run once a spreadsheet was loaded drawing data from their legacy system.

It was interesting work, but it did feel less than robust, with a lot of care needed to ensure the integrity of the data was good. In the years that followed, I mainly used Excel as a template system for exporting from or to off-line and on-line databases, choosing to do the important number crunching outside of excel.
All this changed when I started developing school systems using “PowerBI” and I was able to study the data handling tools within Excel itself which already existed before “PowerBI” came along. What I particularly liked was the step approach to manipulating data from several source (merging, joining, pivoting, search replace and so on).

It seemed quite a revelation that Excel which I had dismissed as being only worth using for data storage, had within it the power to work through so much source data and generate output in a format that could easily be presented graphically or however you wished. Gaining new respect from myself, I now use “Excel” in ways that save a huge amount of system resources. Running scripts that troll through all “Excel” files in a folder, removing empty data columns (2000 columns becoming 100 or so) is easy once setup. Files are then gathered up by "Tableau Prep" and merged and pivoted (pivoting 2000 columns isn’t something you want to do if 1900 are empty).

Sometimes I can run non-Excel scripts stepping through an “Excel” file and copying cell content to other Windows programs. By preparing a macro carefully you can sit and watch a process running rather than carrying out all the keystrokes yourself. Working with clients, mainly schools we have a system where they gather data and save to template files which they share with us via “OneDrive”, we then clean up their data and return reports they need via the same “OneDrive”. This saves a massive amount of work for them and alleviates the need for someone to learn skills that are only applied 6 weekly or so.

All in all, Excel is the best media around which to discuss the quality of source data and if clients need to add additional info to a generated report. As long as the report is in Excel format they can do ("Tableau" does a good job of exporting to Excel). Or if the source is a PDF file, “Adobe Acrobat” is very good at outputting to Excel (not the reader version of course).

The History of Cogitare

1990 <
Mechanical Engineering – Heating Engineer (Southwark Council, London),
Vending Machine Assembly (Westomatic, Newton Abbot, Devon).

1990 =>
Credit Card Fraud Analyst, Oracle database, SQL, C++ (Cogitare, Lustleigh, Devon).
Order Processing Developer, Sage, Excel, Paradox (Dartington Pottery and Ciderpress, Devon).
Student Accommodation System developer, Excel, Paradox (Dartington Hall, Devon).
Container Packing Systems developer, Delphi, Visual Basic, Paradox (Snapdragon, Lewisham, London and China).
Time Management Consultancy and Network installation (Rushbrookes, Sussex).
IT Consultancy, Pegasus, Network installation (Nicholas Mosse, Ireland).
Till Installation Network, with help of ex-BT Engineers (Ciderpress, Devon).
IT Support Engineer, Networking, hardware and software (Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Bovey Tracy).
IT Director, Data Analyst, Networking, hardware and software (Wessex Associates, Ashburton).
IT Support Engineer, Networking, hardware and software (Bench Marque Ltd, Burnham-on-Sea).
IT Director/Partner, Online Pupil Assessment development and support (BMassessments, Burnham-on-Sea).
IT Director, Online Pupil Assessment development and support (MGA, Incyte International, Burnham-on-Sea).
Web Hosting/Development and support, Joomla (Incyte International, Burnham-on-Sea).
IT Director/Partner, Online Pupil Assessment development using Qlik (Schools' Intelligence, Winchester).
IT Director/Partner, Pupil Assessment development using PowerBI and Tableau (Expand-IT, Burnham-on-Sea).
Web Hosting/Development, WordPress (Frost Racing Club and several other local businesses).
NHS Web Hosting/Development/Analytics, Adobe, WordPress, Tableau (NHS Hospital, Plymouth).
Legal & Technical document translation, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, English (China, Panama, Spain, England various clients).
Plus supporting anyone who has ever asked for help, via desktop sharing.

Ask Something or Leave a Message

If you would like to ask us a question about any of our interests. Or how you think we maybe able to help you in any way. Do call or email us using the links below. We may not be able to offer the solutions you need directly ourselves but we can try and move you forward in the right direction.

Main Branch:

The Old Laundry Cottage, Hawson Court, Buckfastleigh, Devon TQ11 0HP

+44-1364-643068      +44-800-3689046

mail@cogitare.uk