Completely changing careers 15 years in is a leap of faith, to say the least, but CGI partner Judith Lang is incredibly glad she took the leap! From teaching English, to being a professional chef for ten years, to a new life as a software engineer at CGI, it’s been an unconventional route into tech. However, she couldn’t be more excited about what she’s doing now.

January 2024

My path to CGI is probably best described as 'the scenic route'. After obtaining a degree in History from Oxford University, I spent several years teaching English in Japan, then a decade as a professional chef in London and France. Joining CGI as a technical graduate came in late 2022, after completing a Computer Science MSc as a mature student, and I’m now a junior software engineer in our Space, Defence and Intelligence (SDI) business unit 

Before joining, I was apprehensive about how I would be received as a career changer. After all, I was a good 15 years older than the average graduate! However, these fears turned out to be completely unfounded and I was made to feel welcome from the moment I set foot in the office.

Now, my role allows me to work on an incredibly interesting project and I am learning both backend and frontend development with a team of people I consider to be both my colleagues and my friends.

An unexpectedly transferable skill set

While hospitality may seem as far removed from software development as one can be, I believe life in kitchens has set me in great stead for my current role. Technical skills aside, both careers are, at their core, working in a team to deliver a completed project on time, on budget and to a high standard.

The end product itself is completely different, but the process is strikingly similar. A sprint and a service are both carefully planned, tasks are assigned and timeframes established. The key to success in both is communication and support, and I am incredibly fortunate to be in a team who excel at both. I work with incredibly talented software engineers at CGI, all of whom are engaged in what we do and genuinely want to teach and guide juniors.

At first, I was assigned a buddy to help me settle in and navigate CGI’s internal systems, but everyone in the wider SDI  team has supported me greatly too. All in all, my career transition has been much smoother than I anticipated.

Freedom, trust and support

Aningrained culture of trust, collaboration and respect is what sets CGI apart from other companies. What we do is unequivocally complex and challenging, but we are trusted to meet these challenges without the need for micromanaging. There is a definite emphasis on how we can be stronger together than separate and we can always reach out to other members of SDI for advice and expertise.

Crucially, I am given the space and time to solve problems on my own, but I know I can turn to anyone for help at any time. Last week I popped a message on our Teams channel and it was as if I had sounded the Horn of Gondor! One conference call later and I had several approaches to choose from and people checking in to make sure I was making progress. I really couldn't ask for more.

Outside of our nine-to-five, SDI has a busy social calendar of events as well. It’s a testament to the team culture that we want to spend time together after work too!

Development and wellbeing matter

CGI places a great deal of focus on its members’ development. On top of formal training courses and a Pluralsight licence (a code training web application), I have mentors from across the company who advise and guide me, and a wonderful leadership team who want me to succeed.

My Director even goes above and beyond, highlighting any new resources I may be unaware of and organising visits to our Gloucester Innovation Centre to help expand my network and see the fascinating work being done around the business.

It’s certainly no small thing to change careers, but there is so much about my new career I’m excited about. I’m excited to see my first project deployed successfully. I’m excited by the technical progression I can make – I have learned a huge amount since joining already. And I’m excited about having more client interactions – it gives such real world context to what we are doing and it is gratifying to hear how well received our work is.

Of course, it’s natural to be anxious about the unknown, but choosing CGI as the place to begin your new career leaves you with no doubt you will be given all the tools and support you need to flourish. It is a leap of faith to make such a decision, but I am incredibly glad that I took the leap!

For all available opportunities at CGI, check out our careers page here.