Configuration Manager/Sponsored Degree Programme Student at CGI

Start Date:
Reading/Leatherhead (Base Office)
Programme Type:
Sponsored Degree Programme
£18,500 annually
Review Date:
June 2016

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1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:


I am currently working as a Configuration Manager on a project for CGI. This involves working between development and management teams to maintain the integrity of the product. The majority of my time involves designing and scripting process improvements across the development process, but I am also responsible for product builds, configuration item tracking and release notes.

2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?


Since joining I've learnt almost everything I know about the IT industry. The degree programme provides an insight into management styles in the IT industry and some basic programming, software design and testing modules (on the technical stream) whilst work provide the rest of the training. Over the course of this scheme, I will have achieved an apprenticeship, a foundation degree, a full bachelors science degree, an Oracle Java certification (external training course) and am currently considered a project expert in Maven, SVN, Jenkins and all build/release related work on the project.

3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?


The work side of this course is phenomenal and more than I could have ever expected. CGI has a fantastic work ethic and company culture which I think you would struggle to find elsewhere in the industry. Team members and managers have all been friendly and professional, and the whole experience has been phenomenal. Additionally, gaining the qualifications on the course is incredibly rewarding.

However, working full time whilst balancing a degree, any external training and attempting to have some sort of work life balance is incredibly challenging and stressful. This was underplayed in all of the recruitment drives by the company and is by far the most unpleasant aspect of the programme. You cannot expect to have a normal student life on this course, and it isn't a case of leaving the work at work, university time encroaches on almost every evening and weekend day. Ultimately, the stress of this, and the 2:1 requirement to secure continued employment

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4. How valued do you feel by CGI?


Within 6 months of joining the company, it was clear that I was being treated as an equal by my team members and others in the company. The fact that this is possible as an undergraduate makes me feel incredibly valued by the company.

The only issues that we have regard the level of involvement and understanding that the company sometimes has regarding the university commitments. In the past, there has been little involvement by some of the contacts within the company in terms of balancing issues surrounding the balance of work to university and when issues (that out of our hands) have arisen on the course that have seemed to threaten our grades and therefore our employment. Whilst the stress of this has been significant and felt by most on the course, the school leavers scheme manager role has recently changed hands, so we may be seeing some positive change very soon.

5. How well organised/structured is your programme?


The initial intake and induction on the course is phenomenal and I actually chose this course over an apprenticeship with VISA because of this. However, for our year, the course had been refreshed and there were a significant number of issues to iron out. Throughout this process a number of modules were changed last minute and little support was available from either the university or the student programme teams in CGI. However, from the sounds of things, this has improved in subsequent years as the course has settled. Mentors for study have generally been an asset, although their contact only really assists with a single university module each term. Working within CGI however, is a great experience, as the calibre of team members and managers is incredibly high and the experience within the company of taking in new and inexperienced joiners and training them up is significant.

6a. How much support do you receive from your training provider?


The University of Winchester were a real struggle to work with in the first year, but have been incredibly helpful in the second. There are still a few issues to iron out, but generally speaking whilst dealing with an increased workload, the second year has been much more structured than the first.

QA however, have been abysmal. Whilst a lot of the contact involves mapping existing work to criteria, their ability to achieve this is nigh on non-existent. Since joining we have had to submit and resubmit our full workloads since joining three times, and in some cases our communications are just completely ignored. One of my peers was chased four times for a form that was submitted each time, in the end he provided an attachment of all of the emails sent with corresponding attached forms. Also, meeting appointments are incredibly last minute, in the most recent meeting I had 10 minutes from receiving an email with the review form to my actual meeting. Attempting to write and retrieve comments and have the form signed off by management in this time is simply impossible.

6b. How much support do you receive from your employer?


The support at work is fantastic, managers and team members are incredible to work with and always willing and available to help out. The mentor is very helpful and always willing to assist in pointing to the right location. For work, accessibility of support and general attitude to supporting us by most members and even directors is incredible.

The only issue with support in CGI comes from the HR team and student programme management (again, this has recently changed but the effect is yet to come). HR have performed poorly on a number of counts, particularly regarding affordability and support when pushed to work away from the base office. Generally speaking, it is not factored into account that apprentice level pay is not on par with that of a graduate or higher, and so decisions regarding being pushed to work away from home, particularly closer to London, can (at least appear) bureaucratic, unfair and absolutely devastating to our base salary.

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7. How well does your salary/package meet your costs?


Generally speaking the salary package is good. For those that still live at home this is a phenomenal deal, as salary, plus benefits and expenses cover basically everything that you could need and more, allowing for fairly luxurious holidays and some savings to be made.

For those living away from home and paying rent, the ability to enjoy this is at least halved. The majority of the issue here is cash flow, as for many, expenses are the only way to cover travel costs when working in client sites, and with rent payments, students have to be significantly more frugal. A number of students have relocated to pay rent, to then find they are working in another office, this is an issue for many.

8. Are there many opportunities outside of work?


There are a number of initiatives and opportunities outside of work. There are a minimum of two project and company events per year, as well as a number of hosted activites, whilst the sports and social club host a significant number more. Each year there are charity drives, and local community projects such as talks and events at secondary schools or community centres. There are also groups within the company who spend their lunch breaks at gyms or sporting.

The issue as an SDP student is simply having the time to experience a lot of this. As the work life balance or simply where you're located for a particular event's timing can block your ability to attend.

9a. Would you recommend CGI to a friend? *


9b. Why? *

Because the company culture is fantastic, the work you do is real and significant, and to be able to achieve a degree and other qualifications whilst gaining work experience and remaining debt free is just a no brainer.

10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to CGI? *

Be very, very prepared to spend three years almost only doing work. The spare you get is minimal.

Otherwise, for applying to the scheme, be yourself as the assessment days are just as much about how well the company will fit you as much as how well you will fit into the company.

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