The Pacific coast is magnificent viewed from a bicycle, especially while taking a rest at the top of a highway overlooking sea stacks after ending a day of 80 miles and more than 4,000 feet of elevation change. I know because just before I joined CGI, some friends and I completed a bike tour from the Canadian border down to San Francisco.
A bike tour feels freeing. You take everything you need with you—clothes, supplies, food and water—you strap it to your bike and go. You camp in national and state parks along the way. Bike, set up camp, sleep, take down camp, pack, repeat. This trip was about 1,000 miles. We took a couple of detours, but mostly it was just riding along the Oceanside on cliffs, logging routes, countryside, and sometimes on highways (I do not recommend biking on 101!). We would ride for about three days at a time and then rest for one, giving our muscles time to recover and restocking supplies.
It was a long ride—and exhausting—but at the same time, it felt too short. I met some amazing people along the way and toured places I never would have come across. I came away with some absolutely awesome videos and photos, and a lot of good memories.
Journey to CGI
Go Wildcats! I found out about CGI while networking with other Northwestern University graduates who worked at the intersection of government and tech. I came across a CGI member who was a public sector director. I gave him a call just to better understand what CGI does and what kinds of projects he works on. I had never really understood the day to day of consulting. We all hear the stereotypes, but not necessarily what the job entails. Funny enough, I told myself I would never want to be a consultant because of this.
I had a nice conversation with him and about three weeks later, I received a message from him about a new opportunity that he thought I would be a “perfect fit” for and invited me to come to L.A. for an interview. I've been working out of L.A. metro (and now Salt Lake City metro) ever since. I've gotten to work with some really incredible people.
Right off the bat, CGI sent me to a business development training seminar in our Denver office. There were a few other recent hires involved, including some directors and Vice Presidents. It was a great couple of days to get acquainted with the other newcomers, and also some long-timers. And then I was thrown into supporting a large opportunity.
Consulting’s best-kept secret?
Reading over CGI.com, I learned a lot about the kind of work we do and how big we are, but I was curious about why I had not really heard of the company before. When I went in for my interview, I got a better sense of the different kinds of clients that we work with. What I found out interested me. The variety of the work we do and our diverse client base was really what sold me on wanting to join.
My role at CGI is interesting because there's no one thing that I do. I reach into different corners of the public sector, app development, and STEM education. By the time I was a year or two into my job, I started to focus a lot of my effort on the solution architecture side of the house. I wanted to work on that because I have a technical background with computer science, but wanted to learn more. I do what I can from a solution perspective to make sure that our clients are happy and our projects are going the way we want them to, and I also work with potential clients to understand what it is they're looking for.
Even though I now focus on delivery, there is still a significant business development aspect in my work today. During my time here, I’ve worked on technical development, functional testing, strategic initiatives, and more. My undergraduate thesis was on cybersecurity and Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDOS) attacks in government, and I worked as a web developer prior to joining CGI. I think that background helps when having conversations with clients. I can take my understanding of their technical needs and break it down into smaller, more practical chunks that everyone can understand. Being able to have conversations with clients and having a technical background really helps me be a more well-rounded consultant from a delivery and business development perspective.
Fitting in as a first-generation American
My parents emigrated from Mexico as graduate students and eventually found their way to the California, where I was born. I grew up in both Jalisco and California, speaking both Spanish and English growing up.
Stories like mine are so common across CGI, and it's cool to have those shared perspectives and shared stories, or even to pique someone’s interest. It leads to human connection, like if I have my camera on during a call and someone asks about a particular book or piece of artwork that they recognize because of their own culture. This kind of first-generation American story is really a lot more common than we probably think. During Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s cool to think about how many people have backgrounds similar to mine and how rich the Hispanic community is, especially here in California. By sharing my story, I hope I can break some stereotypes and spotlight my community.
Paying it forward with STEM programs
My professional development has taken lots of twists and turns. Part of that is because I never felt encouraged to pursue a career in STEM. I’ve always liked problem-solving, but that didn’t feel like enough. It wasn’t until the last few years that I thought “why not now?”
Now, I run STEM programs with CGI across the west coast to introduce young people—especially underserved communities—to a career in STEM. We provide technical lesson plans and mock interviews to give students real resume and confidence boosters. From creating the lesson plans to working with school coordinators, ordering supplies, training volunteers, and setting up classrooms at 6am, it’s exhausting! But I love it. And I love running programs here in LA with predominantly Hispanic students. I wish that I had experienced this program as a student to help build my confidence.
Feeling valued and respected
I really appreciate all of CGI’s values, but respect amongst peers is probably the biggest one. I think if you ask other CGI-ers, a lot of them would say the same. It really boils down to the team and the people that we get to work with. I appreciate having open communication with my project manager or my member manager, and my teammates. I feel comfortable talking about concerns or questions
The thing that has really struck me about CGI is the quality of the people in the company. By and large, CGI-ers are always willing to help. I appreciate being able to come to someone and say, “I really don't understand this, can you spend 10 minutes with me to answer my questions?” Or I can do the same for someone else. It’s a kind of environment where we help each other. I feel like a valued team member instead of an annoyance taking up their time. To me, that’s the respect that all team members have for one another, and it is honestly what I think is the best part of CGI.
Read more CGI member stories in the Life at CGI blog series.