I joined the Army when I was 17 years old. I actually had to have my parents sign a waiver allowing me to join at such a young age. My father was in the Army and I really looked up to him so was excited to follow in his footsteps. I completed basic training between my junior and senior year of high school. After basic training, in my senior year, the 9/11 attacks happened, and I was activated as soon as I got my diploma. I served for nine years responding to acts of domestic terrorism until a back injury led to an honorable discharge.

I had no experience in the professional civilian world but, luckily landed a job as a help desk/field services agent. When my contract was up, I could not find a job as I had no college degree and no certifications. After searching for over six months, I finally found a company willing to teach me what I needed to know to be a junior system administrator. I vowed never to struggle to find a job again, got my bachelor's and master’s degrees from Western Governors University. I have also earned 12 professional IT certifications. I’ve done everything in IT from help desk to SQL DBA, to cyber security and now as a service delivery manager with CGI. Of all the roles I’ve held, I enjoy this one the most because I get to interact with my customers on a daily basis.

Exploring potential

I’ve worked for a plethora of companies since I transitioned into the civilian world in 2008 and CGI is by far the most veteran-friendly. There are so many career paths available, outstanding upward mobility, and so many resources to earn and get professional certifications. When I got my first civilian job, I had no opportunities to grow. Nobody gave my guidance and it was a real culture shock. There are support groups, Teams channels, and an entire learning catalog available to veterans which is a big leg up when you have never been a member of the civilian workforce before.

Battle buddies

Eric Johansen in uniform

CGI shares some important values with the military culture. In the military, you know that the person by your side has your back. You need to depend on that, as it could be the difference between life and death. Since joining CGI, I see that mentality every single day. I feel as though I can depend on my team and trust that they what is best for me. I have made friends here that will be lifelong, people that I can count on. That is what is lacking at many companies that I have worked for. CGI is a place where I feel I have “battle buddies” again.

It isn’t just at work that that experience comes into play. My family goes by “TeamJohansen” to remind them they are a team and can depend on each other.

I do miss some things about the military, but not the food. I miss the feeling of awe that I felt every day. Each day felt like an adventure and when I look back, it seems like it was an entirely different life. I spent the earliest days of adulthood as a soldier and I have so many amazing stories I can tell my children. It really put me on the straight path and that led me to where I am today.

Serving the veteran community

CGI members who never served in the military can still support the military community. The best advice I can give to people who want to is to understand the sacrifices that these men and women made to serve our country. Many of them have seen things that changed them in ways that you cannot truly understand. If you see a veteran on Veteran’s Day a simple, “Thank you” means more to them than any medal could.

Eric Johansen (CGI) and his daughter

I have been truly blessed in my life and I am fortunate enough to not suffer from major post-traumatic stress disorder. I cannot say the same for many other veterans. My family takes these blessings and regularly donates items to the Vietnam Veterans of America. This charity helps veterans with health care services, clothes, household items and more. Visit their site to learn more and find a donation center.

Family time

When I’m not at work, I try to spend as much time with my kids as possible.  My father was in the Army and I didn’t get a lot of time with him. I don’t want that for my kids.

Read more CGI member stories in the Life at CGI blog series.

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About this author

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Life at CGI

Life at CGI is a different experience for each CGI member. Some of them tell their stories in this dedicated blog.