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Author: Jeferson Souza, Senior Consultant

I’m often described as a passionate guy. I like to put 110% of myself into things – but not everyone is like me. Professionals come in all shapes and sizes, and bring a wealth of different experiences, perspectives and passions.

The role of an employer is to be supportive of every individual in the rich tapestry that is their team. Having worked my way through many organisations over my 25-year career, I’m happy to say that in CGI I’ve found one that helps me to be the best that I can be, while also helping others, who may be very different to me, do the same.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

My journey from graduate to CGI

I graduated with honours as a telecommunications engineer 25 years ago. I started my career at Nokia in 1996 as deployment manager. Since then I’ve added value to the market in a variety of different sectors and in a variety of different roles. I’ve been lucky enough to work within top tier organisations across the world.

Fast forward to now, and I find myself working as a senior consultant at CGI in Australia. Here I manage and deliver a broad range of services and solutions, and it’s work that I truly enjoy.

My career path has been forged through a combination of pursuing interests and putting in the hard work. I was introduced to Microsoft Project for the first time back in 1997, and it was love at first sight. I instantly started using the software to manage my schedule, resources and milestones, and this informal training led to my eventual career in project management. I then upskilled with several international certifications in project management – Project Manager Professional in 2008, Prince2 Foundation in 2014, SCRUM Fundamentals in 2016, and Disciplined Agile Lean Scrum Master (DALSM) last year. I’m proud to say that I was the third person to gain this certification in Australia, and the first in Melbourne.

This list neatly encapsulates my attitude to my work. You need to be willing to improve and upskill, not just to realise your potential, but to stay relevant in fast moving and competitive professions.

Regrets and lessons learned

The word ‘regret’ is a tricky one for me. I believe that even the worst experiences are opportunities for growth, so I don’t regret anything that has happened over the course of my professional career.

That said, my propensity to push myself harder and harder, to exceed managers’ and customers’ expectations, saw me working 16+ hours a day and over weekends in my earlier career.

While I don’t regret putting in this time before joining CGI – it’s how I got to where I am, after all – the consequences were that I became quite unhealthy. If I had my time again, I’d put less pressure on myself, and look after my mental and physical health better. And I think this advice should be heeded by anyone with a tendency to overwork.

Finding comfort in discomfort

I’ve collected other experiences that have influenced how I attack my work. I feel that career progression is based on your behaviour, so I am always trying to challenge myself and push myself out of my comfort zone. A feeling of safety and control means that you’re not dealing with new challenges and acquiring new skills. My advice? Trade the comfort zone for the growth zone.

For me this attitude extends beyond work. I push myself, even in the small things. Why cook the same things for dinner when your favourite dish might still be out there somewhere? I want to be constantly progressing personally, professionally and spiritually in my life.

Outside of CGI I volunteer at three different organisations. I am one of the board directors for Project Management Institute (PMI) in Melbourne, where I help NFP organisations solve issues by offering pro bono project management services, ultimately helping people like asylum seekers and the disabled.

In short, I am passionate beyond work, and I attribute my career progression so far to this general passion for life. The fact that I’m willing to volunteer my time to other causes, doesn’t go unnoticed at CGI (or with our customers) and further demonstrates that I’m a doer.

Circling back to project management, my advice is that project management is fundamentally about leadership. This can be demonstrated in a lot of different ways, like supporting your teammates, celebrating achievements, and being analytical and pragmatic. Leadership isn’t about barking orders and being the final decision maker – it’s about bringing people together and getting the best out of them.

In the Disciplined Agile certification one of the core principles was ‘be awesome!’ How great is that? Be awesome for your team, stakeholders, clients and managers. This principle instantly struck a chord with me, and I’ve been trying to apply it in all aspects of my life ever since.

How CGI has supported my growth

I joined CGI two years ago. I was captivated by the culture; one of innovation, and of uniting the team in a common dream: ‘to create an environment in which we enjoy working together and, as owners, contribute to building a company we can be proud of.’

We constantly push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, challenging ourselves to be better for our peers, managers and customers, as well as ourselves.

CGI has supported me no end in my development, part of which has been through encouraging me to become involved in numerous Not for Profit initiatives that reflect our company’s values.

I recently participated in a couple of wonderful initiatives run by the Project Management Institute. Women in Project Management is an inclusiveness program designed to enhance diversity in the project management market, while Project Management for Life inspires young people to become interested in project management and view it as valuable skills for life.

My CGI journey, although still in its infancy, has already been an incredibly rewarding one. Last year I was the winner of an award for corporate social responsibility, and the fact that the company took the time to recognise my efforts means the world.

In the end, my success has been built on hard work and a willingness to try new things, but it has been made easier by employers like CGI, who are actively supportive of these efforts.