CGI member Steve Warner loved the civil service and leaving wasn’t a decision motivated by any desperate urge to get into the private sector. Rather, it was his experience of working with CGI as their client that convinced him to join. In this article, Steve shares his story: why he moved to the private sector, how he found it and advice for others looking at a similar transition.

February 2022

I was a civil servant for most of my professional career. I loved working within the civil service, but admittedly there was always a part of me that wanted to prove to myself that I had what it takes to be successful in a private organisation. 

However, it was my experience working with CGI and being on the receiving end of their excellent services that convinced me it was possible to work for a private organisation that was just as dedicated to creating change and serving public interests as I am.

When I saw the opportunities available at CGI to continue making a positive societal impact, I was excited for the chance to jump into a new stage of my career, working in CGI’s Central Government Business Unit.

Making the jump from civil service to the private sector

For me, there were plenty of things to love about working in the civil service: the challenge and importance of the work; the sense of personal achievement following a successful delivery; and the opportunity to develop both myself and others, helping make the public sector a top employer.

Whilst in an Operational Management role for the Highways Agency (now Highways England) in 2009, I realised that I really enjoyed working on process improvement, change and project delivery. I went on to a variety of programme leadership roles driving diverse public improvement initiatives. These ranged from traffic management, to digital projects that transformed how HMRC handled customer correspondence, to IT programmes for corporate risk mitigation from a cyber security perspective. 

My next – and final – role in the civil service saw me leading a novel programme within HM Courts and Tribunals Service that revolutionised how Civil, Family and Tribunal cases are submitted and processed. That’s where I was fortunate enough to begin working closely with CGI.

I was particularly struck by the talent, diligence and professionalism of the people I worked with from CGI. It also became clear to me that, whilst they certainly all had a personal desire to succeed for themselves, the company and me (the client), there was something else at play. There was a desire to delight the client that was seamlessly woven into the DNA of the organisation. 

It was awesome and exciting to think that I could work somewhere that would set me up and support me to go out there, do my very best work and delight the client by meeting and exceeding their expectations.

Continuing to do good work

Above all else, joining CGI’s Central Government Business Unit meant that I could continue to satisfy my desire to do great things for Government and Public Service clients. When you've been a civil servant for as long as I had, it’s likely because you really do care deeply about the ways public services are delivered.

The great thing about working in Programme and Projects, at any level, is that the frameworks within which one works are very mature. The skills, attributes, behaviours and knowledge sets of a successful PPM professional are so transferrable that the transition from the civil service into a private organisation – especially a great one like CGI – can be very smooth.

In addition, I feel that my operational management experience has also helped me a lot, as I’ve been able to continue to see change through the eyes of our clients. In fact, I have found that the very best PPM professionals often tend to have an operational management background and therefore, like me, they really care about people and how well the change they are leading lands with the business/client. 

What I’ve learned along the way

Perhaps the biggest thing I have learnt from making the jump is that people are people and large organisations are large organisations, whether public or private. The experience and solutions you have packed into your armoury over many years are just as relevant and effective regardless of who you’re working for.

The advice I would give anyone who is considering the change is probably the most obvious piece of advice out there – do your homework! Satisfy yourself that the organisation you hope to join is as aligned to your values as you are. CGI’s commitment to giving something back to society is exactly what I have sought in any place I ever worked. The member benefits are extensive as well, and the focus on our wellbeing as individuals is just as strong as the focus on achieving the company’s business goals.

I couldn’t be happier with where I have landed professionally with CGI and I’m very much looking forward to what my future holds here.

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