I developed a passion for education early in my life. I would not have the life I have now if I had not been afforded educational opportunities while I was growing up. At CGI, I have been able to continue working in the education sector and applying technology solutions to help schools. I have spent more than two decades working in education. I’ve seen firsthand the struggles and challenges that educators face.
CGI provides me a sense of independence, in that I can design my own strategies and plans to meet the needs of our clients. I can work and collaborate with other Business Units within CGI who are also working in the education space, all across the U.S. By working with them, I get to be involved in several solutions and technologies, all serving educational institutions.
Recently I was working with a CGI team out of Pittsburgh, collaborating on some work that they're doing in higher education. I am also collaborating with the New England Business Unit. Here, in southern California, we have been able to grow our presence to more than 70 Local Educational Agencies, including community colleges, since I’ve joined.
School districts, generally speaking, are struggling to accomplish digital transformations while facing decreases in enrollment and increases in operating costs. Apart from the largest school districts, they don't have the necessary funding. That's an area where we can help by providing cost-effective solutions to help them achieve digital transformations. Their focus should be on student achievement, not their back office technology.
The fact that I can continue to do the work that I enjoy doing, and the fact that I also get to draft my own plans of what I want to do in education is very appealing to me. Prior to joining CGI, I was the Deputy Chief Information Officer for the second-largest school district in the U.S., the Los Angeles Unified School District. I was in charge of all the systems/applications for the entire school district. I have worked in technology for the majority of my career, and through executive roles such as Deputy Chief Information Officer, I've been able to shift my focus to the business side of organizations, with an understanding of how technology supports business priorities.
Serving the communities we call home
CGI is governed by a set of core values that resonates with me. I like that we focus on our clients and we want to make sure that we do the right thing for them, but at the same time we're also looking out for our members, making sure that they're being taken care of.
The company is active in corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. Through our CSR efforts, I partner with organizations to contribute to and support education in different ways. One of the key things we do is help conduct STEM camps that encourage students to consider education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s more than just sponsoring the events -- our members are very involved as well. They spend the day teaching students. We teach programming classes, we help them develop resumes if they are far enough along to need them. It's just amazing to see the turnout that we get from our members who participate and spend their day helping students.
It helps—both in our STEM education activities and in client work—that we have such a diverse team. We serve diverse communities in southern California and bring different perspectives from our own backgrounds. My team members are the ones carrying out the plans that I develop, and they are involved with the communities we are serving. Many of them work directly with the schools. Even now that we're working remotely, they're continuing to work with the schools in our communities. They communicate with their counterparts on the client-side, and they're the ones that are driving this work. They have that sense of ownership, which is empowering for them.
I am part of this diversity. I was born in El Salvador and grew up in southern California. I am able to stay connected to my heritage here. There are always events in the community to celebrate and honor different traditions. I had my own set of experiences growing up as an immigrant and that has shaped the way I view things, how I value diversity and inclusion.
CGI is such a big company, and it could be easy for new employees to get lost. However, it's full of resources. There's a wealth of knowledge across CGI. My advice for new members is to get to know the work that we do and the resources that are available to them. You can always call someone from a different office, even a different Business Unit. I have not found any situations where someone wasn't willing to help. Get to know your colleagues and build a network within CGI.
Finding and appreciating balance
As fulfilling as my work with CGI is, I appreciate that the company encourages us to maintain a healthy work-life balance and provides the time we need to do that. My son has been studying from home for the last 12 months, and I've been able to both manage my work and still spend time with him. There are some occasions where we have specific times and dates where we have client meetings or other obligations. Apart from those instances, there is some flexibility in scheduling. The balance is important for building a more well-rounded life.