CGI’s apprenticeship program, in partnership with Apprenti, provides people interested in an IT career who have been working in other fields with an opportunity to learn programming skills and put them into practice under the mentorship of CGI experts. Below, four current apprentices share insights into their experience with the program.
It was my son’s robots that turned my career focus to technology. Well, that and work at a major office supply chain store.
I had worked in retail through my career, almost 20 years, mostly as a manager and a pharmacy tech at a drugstore chain. I had done some IT work before, learning how to use and customize our inventory and scheduling software. In 2018 I accepted an offer from the office supply chain store and I did tech support for our customers’ computers. My workdays then included virus removal, troubleshooting and other kinds of support work.
Around the same time, my son, who is now a junior in high school, got into robotics. The school has a robotics team, and they actually program robots to do what they want them to do. That pushed my own interest even further into programming.
I've always been into puzzles and games, and coding is basically just like one giant puzzle and game to me. Over time, that began to draw me toward a new
career direction in software development, but I didn’t know where to start.
My education was in computer science. I graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but I couldn’t find the right opportunity. I came to the U.S. from Kenya, which added an extra layer of complication with immigration issues to sort out. I ended up working as an electrician, in the steel industry and lastly, in a retail distribution center until I encountered the apprenticeship program at Apprenti.
I was an electronics technician in the Air Force, and sometime in 2020 I went online researching apprenticeships for electricians. There weren’t any, at least not that I found, but I discovered Apprenti on the Department of Labor website. I started digging into their programs and found their connection to CGI.
Once I decided I wanted to go into IT, I had to figure out how to actually do it. Some sort of apprenticeship program seemed like a promising route, but I didn’t know how to find them. I wasn’t even sure there were such things or if it was just my wishful thinking. Then I discovered Apprenti, which is the company that places apprentices with CGI and other companies so I put in an application.
Most recently I was working in retail and training to be a firefighter, but in between that and six years in the Air Force, I provided technical support at a credit card company. It was a call center helpdesk, and I provided troubleshooting for problems throughout the company.
The first step with Apprenti was 16-week boot camp run by Coding Dojo. The first coding language you learn is always tough. I had to buckle down and put a lot of time day to day, since we had a limited amount of time to complete the program. Once you learn the first one, others come easier because you have gained an understanding of how coding works. My military training came in handy there, helping me to stay disciplined and focused.
During boot camp for training in programming. I drew on my background in computer science, but I have to say, it could be quite intense for someone who had no previous experience. The boot camp separates those who are serious from those who are not.
The boot camp runs four months where you spend a minimum of 40 hours a week in class. To be successful you have to expect to double that time commitment,
dedicating 70 to 90 hours a week to classroom time plus studying code and completing assignments.
It wasn’t one of those courses where they teach you a lesson and you take a test. You work on programming projects, and the instructors and course material only give you about 60% of the information you need to complete the assignment. They expect you to carry out research to find the rest. It’s designed to teach people to think like programmers. It changes the way you think.
You have to understand what the program you’re writing actually does, how the coding affects its behavior. There are many built-in functions, and if you don’t understand what it’s doing behind the scenes, you’re not really going to be a good developer.
The boot camp isn’t the end of training. I’m on a project now, but I continue learning Advanced Python and Agile methodologies and am completing online training that includes lab and programming work.
The learning didn’t stop when the boot camp ended. Even after I joined CGI, I continue to develop and refine my skills. I’m not doing project work just yet though. They’re making sure I have everything I need to know before starting. Right now, I’m working on a website using data frames and Tableau CRM software as a continuation of my training.
Now that I’m through the boot camp I have time for university classes and I’m pursuing a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity and taking online classes through Waldorf University.
Embarking on the training was a risk, because there was nowhere near enough time in the day for me to do it and to continue working. I gave up a fulltime job with benefits to go through the boot camp.
From boot camp to the onboarding and ongoing training and, soon, working on projects, it’s always a full day and always a varied array of things to do. That’s all to the good. For mid-career people like me, looking for an entry into the IT field, this program really helps. It’s a great program. In my opinion, my future opportunities are endless because of this.
Part of the apprenticeship strategy is bringing us in slowly, so that we get a firm grounding at each stage. The team I’m on is made up of very knowledgeable people, so there are a lot of things I can learn from them. I have formal mentor too, which provides some structure and regular check-in cadence.
I think I'm in the right spot here. This is a good opportunity to begin to get a feel of the IT world, which is huge. There is so much for me to learn, and I had never written code before this experience. Eventually, I would like to start writing code for programs.
I’m impressed with CGI. I like the teamwork involved in the way they have it all set up. I like that structure. The manager and the team all working together toward a common goal. In retail, I liked interaction with customers and mentoring my teams. I get some of that same energy here—but with a better work/life balance.
CGI strives to create an environment where working together is fulfilling and each member contributes to building a company we can be proud of. We are excited to extend the opportunities that a career at CGI offers to new CGI members and apprentices like William, Chris, Roy, and Asbel. As we continue down this journey of expanding how CGI identifies, grows, and builds diverse and inclusive teams for supporting our clients, we encourage you to check out our careers page for future early career professional, internship, and apprenticeship opportunities. Happy Apprenticeship week and congratulations to all of the apprentices out there across the United States!
Read more CGI member stories in the Life at CGI blog series.