1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
I am still currently working on my first role at CGI as a Configuration Manager on one of their Space sector projects. My normal responsibilities lie mostly around configuration of the development environment such as changes to the build utility .xml files, system admin changes to the bug tracking tools, version control management, configuration of the continuous integration platform and managing the weekly release. Since joining I have independently developed a set of scripts designed to deploy the project's software to an application server and that are used by developers, the test teams, will be rolled out on site and may be ported into other areas of the project.
Day to day I interact with a wide range of people on the project, from developers, to project management office, to the IT support and test teams. I work most closely with the Software Technical Manager who is responsible for my daily tasks and acts as my line manager.
I work away from my base office, which involves a fair amount of travel, but I receive expenses for this and the travel has provided a fantastic opportunity to expand my work network.
This role has not involved much client interaction but I am responsible for the release that they receive each week.
I found out at my first performance review that this role is usually handled by members in the promotion tier above me and that I am now considered a project expert in the build utility that we use (Maven). Further to this, I have been successful enough to warrant extra responsibilities and have been identified as a candidate to take over responsibilities from a subject matter expert who is currently the single point of contact in their field of expertise on the project. This just goes to show that CGI's Sponsored Degree Programme really brings the most out of you and that you are thrown in to real work right from the start. The fact that I feel as though I've made a real contribution to the team has been a real highlight for me since joining the company.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
When I joined the scheme I had little to no technical experience whatsoever, which was quite daunting knowing that my first role would be very technical.
Over the 7 months that I have been with the company I have developed skills in some very technical products at a pace I did not expect I could achieve and am now considered a project expert in some of them. I am constantly learning new skills due to the wide range of tasks on my role. So far, I don't think I've had a week that something new hasn't been introduced.
In addition to the workplace development, I am also working towards a BSc in Information Systems Management. This is a full time degree that is carried out alongside work. The degree course covers a wide range of topics with a key focus on good business management practice, responsible managment and the development of technical skills. We are also carrying out a level 4 City and Guilds apprenticeship alongside this which links strongly to the university course.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
The programme has been a fantastic experience so far. I genuinely don't feel as though I have accomplished anywhere near as much as I have in these past few months before. The course is incredibly challenging but very rewarding. People are worried about the social side of a course like this but, with such a small group (there are 23 of us in our cohort) you get to know each other very quickly and, ultimately, the social side is only what you make of it. Having such a busy schedule does mean that you won't get the chance to go out as much as just going to university but, in my opinion, when you do go out, you appreciate it much more this way.
The stress is something to take into account as balancing work and study at this level (bearing in mind this is a full time university degree) can be a real challenge at times, but all in all I feel that the end result and accomplishments so far have been worth it.
4. How valued do you feel by CGI?
Since joining CGI, my colleagues have been nothing but supportive in the workplace. I have been involved in real project work practically since day one and now feel well integrated into the team.
I am very conscious that I am not as efficient as those around me but that just comes with being a trainee. I did expect that the day off on Monday would cause some disruption with the work life but you come back and feel as much a part of the team as if you were working a full five days a week.
5. How well organised/structured is your programme?
Generally the course is very well structured. The work side is fantastic, CGI's members are very experienced and know how to train up their new joiners.
The university and apprenticeship (i.e. training) side of the course generally has very good course content but the organisation of it has been a bit flakey at times. It is a new course specification this year and so this was always going to be the case, however, you can expect that these issues will be ironed out fairly quickly.
6a. How much support do you receive from your training provider?
As mentioned, the university course has some fantastic content but there are areas to be improved. The university organisation and assignment specifications really stand out as areas for improvement here. Some of this could be attributed to the fact that this year the course is a new specification but some of the things we've encountered here have been questionable. Of highest impact are the fact that the assignment deadlines have been moved regularly due to misinformation or late updates. This has been quite disruptive to the work plan considering the amount of time we have to allocate to university work. Also, the requirements of tasks are not always particularly clear. For most of the assignments so far, additional clarification from the brief has been sought out. This is a touchy area as at university level it is stressed that work should be independent. However, considering that the work must meet a fairly strict marking criteria, it is important to have a clear specification (i.e. what content is expected but not how to get there) to be able to match the criteria. Without this, it is almost a guessing game, which is not a real world situation.
Whilst this seems incredibly negative, I'm just trying to highlight the challenges of the course. Really, it is a testament to the support given that the majority of students on the course have averaged over the 2:1 grade boundary for their assignments so far (myself included).
6b. How much support do you receive from your employer?
CGI has set up a fantastic support structure for Sponsored Degree Programme students. Each new joiner has a People Manager (who helps with finding roles, approving timesheets etc) a Line Manager (who is in charge of day to day tasks and responsibilities) a Buddy (who is another SDP student from another year group) and a work place mentor (who supports certain university modules and provides a point of contact for work based support).
These contacts are just the baseline for new joiners as, by working on a project and in different roles, you expand your work network and make new contacts that can support you in learning new skills or your daily tasks.
CGI focus on making their School Leavers independent in the workplace but also recognise that they are trainees.
7. How well does your salary/package meet your costs?
I still live at home and the pay/expenses package is more than enough to cover me and for me to save. I work away from my base office so travel costs are covered by expenses and am put up in a hotel with a food contribution for two nights a week to help support my university studies.
I know that those who have relocated find it more difficult financially but the pay is plenty to cover the cost of living at the very least. This is specifically for the first year too as the pay rises each year are fairly significant.
8. Are there many opportunities outside of work?
There is almost always something on outside of work, be it company socials, company updates, volunteering schemes in local schools or charity sports events. There is also a sports and social club that runs regular events and the grad/undergrad community is usually very active.
The only limiter here is having the time to join in with some of the more time intensive events.
9a. Would you recommend CGI to a friend? *
9b. Why? *
CGI are a fantastic firm to build the foundations of your career with. You join the 5th largest independent IT firm in the world and are immediately working alongside graduates. At the same time you get to work towards a degree. The benefits of this are clear, you get to finish the degree after three years (alongside many of your peers) with a full degree, three years of work experience, none of the £60k average uni debt and having earned a salary. It's a no brainer!
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to CGI? *
CGI is a fantastic company that presents a wide variety of training schemes. They really look hard in their interview/selection process that the candidates are suitable for the course but, notably, that the course is suitable for the candidates.
One of the most important things to think about is which course is right for you. If it's the Sponsored Degree Programme, Graduates programme or one of their Higher Apprenticeship schemes, CGI does provide opportunities to progress and will support you in your development throughout.
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