Brandon Smith playing drums

When I’m behind a drum kit with a pair of sticks in my hands, I feel my mind and body lock into the beat, like a heartbeat. The drummer’s role in the band is to lock in the timing. Keep a steady pace and the song comes together like a sweet blend of coffee, all of the instruments moving through the composition together. If you don’t find that pocket and stay in it, the song can fall apart as the other players alternately lag behind and run ahead of your erratic rhythm.

Being a drummer has given me the privilege of meeting lots of folks I would have otherwise not met—people whose music I listened to while growing up. I’ve been able to travel in different states playing music at a lot of music festivals. I really like to nerd out and play, and I can do this for hours and hours and days and days on end.

Keeping that steady pace is important for all of life, I believe. As an Agile coach at CGI, in the Lafayette, Louisiana, delivery center, I can help change people's mindset towards delivering software and optimizing the way that we communicate within our teams. My job is to ensure folks get to continually grow; in Agile, we call this relentless improvement.

A passion for service

In 2014, while I was attending college, CGI was building a delivery center here in Lafayette. I was really excited that there was an IT consulting company in my town so that I would not have to move away to work in technology. 

When I began my journey here, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do or, even deeper than that, who I really was and the things that really fulfilled me. CGI gave me a space to explore, through professional growth and development within CGI and through connections that I've made within my community. That has come through CGI’s commitment to corporate social responsibility.

I’ve found the career and the role of an Agile Coach, which I am very passionate about, and I’ve found connections within my community with non-profit organizations that I now work with.

I know now that what I want to do is help people to continuously improve, whether it be professionally, personally or mentally. Whatever I can do to help folks grow, that's what I want to do, and CGI gets a lot of credit for who I turned out to be.

The most appealing thing about CGI early on was its commitment to corporate social responsibility. To me, it's important that an organization goes out into the communities, where its members work and live, and make a difference. I now work with two non-profit organizations, one is Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. It’s a one-to-one mentoring program where we take younger students and pair them with adults who were a lot like them, who came from similar backgrounds. The adults can equip them with the mental and emotional tools to support them or just listen and give them advice on where they may want to go in their lives. I know I certainly needed this when I was younger, so I’m happy to now work with an organization that does that.

Another organization I work with is the Leadership Institute of Acadiana. This is a professional development organization that brings together young adults from differing industries with diverse backgrounds. It brings those perspectives together on behalf of the city and unleashes those those leaders to go out in the community and make change happen.

Coming home to CGI

At CGI, we’re members, not employees. To me, the word “member” means someone who is part of a team or a group, someone who is a peer, in equal standing.  We are members of the same team, aligned to the same vision.  When I offer opinions, my colleagues listen and value them. If I’m in a meeting and not speaking up, my peers will ask me what I think. We truly care about one another’s perspectives, and we understand that as a team, we can collectively develop better ideas than any one of us could alone. That’s what being a member is all about.

I don't think it’s wise to ever stop learning. I'm really grateful that CGI not only sees this but also gives us the opportunity to standardize it, to continue to innovate and bring members together. CGI encourages members to be their whole selves, whether that means someone is a Black member, a person of color, a woman in the workplace, or sexual orientation and gender. You bring your whole self to work; that's part of the perspective that we're looking to gain as we move forward as an organization that serves all people.

Relentless improvement

As an Agile Coach, I serve both internal and external teams. I get such a sense of joy when I can see something click for someone and can witness them learn something new.  When I can help someone reach a goal that they set for themselves, that’s fulfilling.  

A key feature of Agile is relentless improvement. When we reach an impediment that may be a high hurdle, oftentimes it's how we think of these things that matter. It isn’t always as high as we perceive it to be, and sometimes the solution lies in approaching it from a different angle.

I turn that same philosophy onto myself all the time.  I'm always talking to teams about how to improve their processes, how to shape their mindset in a way that helps them

Brandon Smith before and after
Brandon Smith before and after weight loss.

accomplish any goals that they have. Something we talk about a lot is small batch sizes that help you to accomplish your goals more quickly.  We do this in the software development world so we can deliver to our customers sooner, so they can give us feedback to know we’re on the right track.

I started to take this methodology and implement it into my personal life. I have always struggled with weight loss, and when the pandemic started, I was about 375 pounds and really unhappy with the way that I had carried myself. Understanding agile strategies, I knew that I had it within me to set these goals and meet them. So, I set small attainable goals for myself, things like making incremental changes to my diet and moving more. Ultimately, I started to reach the bigger goal and I'm happy to say that over the course of the pandemic I've lost over 175 pounds. I’m grateful for that experience, and it’s partly because I am helping people understand these processes that they can also take into their personal lives.

 

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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.