James Hamilton’s experience at CGI has seen him become a very ‘T-shaped solutions architect’, giving him the opportunity to work on diverse and incredibly rewarding projects where he feels like he’s truly contributing to society. Read more about his career journey with CGI here.
My career got off to a pretty impactful start as a graduate at CGI. My first project was implementing algorithms that would work out the likelihood of RAF flight plans colliding with one another. The biggest challenge was not the coding but getting to grips with the much more rigorous approach to testing required compared with my final university project!
I then ran an IT support desk for a company in the aviation industry, which involved support of the entire environment; PCs, servers, network connections. It was a great learning experience as I had to cover a very wide range of infrastructure and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products. I even had to splice cables in hotels and set up temporary networks to support the yearly International Air Transport Association (IATA) convention; I got through a lot of gaffer tape.
For a short while, I then became a networking/infrastructure expert, on various projects. I designed the national infrastructure for OFSTED for their new remit of the regulation of day care and childminding. Following the successful bid, I wasn’t particularly interested in rolling out another large network. But then the Project Manager (PM) asked me if I’d like to design the new case management system and my reply, of course, was yes!
I had absolutely no experience in application design but that didn’t hinder anything. I told the PM, he responded, “No problem, I’ll help!”, and with that I transitioned into a completely new role capturing and analysing requirements and working with the delivery teams to create a cohesive solution. It was fantastic to be working so closely with the customer, helping them structure their business processes and shape their new IT solution.
I’ve since performed a variety of both infrastructure and application based roles, including designing the UK’s largest single wireless network and am now the Delivery and Operational Lead on a large account in the criminal justice sector.
So what have I learned, most of all?
These key principles
I’ve a number of key principles I live by, each learned from the supportive and knowledgeable colleagues I've had at CGI. CGI members are always willing to share what they know. The three core ones are:
- To avoid client disappointment, always ensure that all stakeholders are identified and that all requirements are fully flushed out, including non-functional requirements. Ensure that they are agreed and then tightly controlled. Requirements/scope management is fundamental to delivery success.
- Solution diagrams are worth a thousand words when explaining the overall vision. When presenting to different stakeholders, business/delivery/operation/etc. a solutions architect has to remember to present the solution from the different stakeholder viewpoints. The same diagram can replace several different sets of a thousand words!
- Every meeting should summarise all the key decisions made, and any follow up actions. Also, every action must have an actionee and a delivery date. This may seem obvious but this simple process is so often overlooked.
CGI gives me a chance to directly contribute to society
Working predominantly in the Government sector for the majority of my career here, I’ve had the opportunity to work on many different IT solutions that directly contribute to society. I don’t have the required skills myself to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults, to diagnose patients or to prosecute criminals and help service justice – but I am able to use my IT skills to help those who can, to do their job more effectively.
My current position is a great opportunity to help the various criminal justice agencies work together in a more efficient manner and make society safer. It combines the joint satisfaction of helping to resolve the difficult business and technical issues and bringing together and empowering CGI teams to successfully deliver fully considered solutions. Understanding end user concerns/issues and working with the business to resolve them via better IT solutions is very fulfilling.
CGI has a very open and supportive culture. We’re all given an opportunity to grow careers in different directions and try out numerous roles. The extremely wide range of clients, and both public and private sector work, offers a chance to work with diverse environments, business processes, technologies, delivery and design methodologies. This has helped me to become a very T-shaped architect. I love being a jack of all trades who can help unite all of the various business and technical stakeholders together through the creation of a unified vision.
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