CGI’s Dream Connectors program supports members who want to get involved contributing to the wellbeing of their communities. Each year members submit ideas and the ideas that will be supported by CGI are voted upon by our members. I was lucky enough to have my idea chosen in 2021
Winning CGI’s Dream Connector award this year has provided our mentor team and me with an exciting opportunity here in Pittsburgh.
We worked with the Best of the Batch Foundation, a community partner we have worked with many times. It is a Pittsburgh-based non-profit organization founded by former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch whose goal is to provide year-round educational programming to kids in financially challenged communities. My Dream Connector project involves teaching high school students how to use Microsoft Word and Excel. The ultimate goal was to get them Microsoft-certified.
I had no idea what a marvelous ride I was in for. The students who participated were bright and creative, and ready to roll at the start. We met twice a week for over 4 months. They learned a lot—and so did I.
For example, I learned that conducting such a program virtually in a pandemic does not have to be a barrier to making connections with students. I learned that high school students are concerned about their future and that we have a unique opportunity to guide them. And most importantly, I learned that I have a lot to learn.
I went into this program thinking it would be a breeze. Far from it. I had an amazing team around me that helped each week with the instruction, remarkable mentors, delightful students, a wonderful community partner, and an understanding family who put up with me spending long hours making sure that we would be ready for the students.
The experience was far more than I expected and challenged me more than I would have predicted, but I would do it again in a heartbeat! We helped four high school students and a team of eight-member volunteers who helped deliver instruction over 20 weeks. I hope we can do this again and I have been talking with members in other metros who would like to replicate the experience.
Earning Microsoft certification while in high school will open opportunities for them, whether they move on to college or choose to find a job after high school.
The sense of giving back to the communities where we have offices, especially working with students, is something I like about CGI. I work on our STEM@CGI program, encouraging students to explore science and technology career fields. We have people from all over the country involved, with a rich diversity of backgrounds. We are also out in the community working with community partners. The students that we work with sometimes come from economically challenged and underserved areas.
STEM@CGI, and so many other programs within the company, represent a true living out of the company’s core values. The core values were one of the first things that drew my interest in CGI because they aligned so closely with my own.
My voice matters
I know that not everyone who submits an idea to Dream Connectors gets to carry it through, but the program is an example of one of the things I love most about working at CGI. CGI values your ideas. If you have an idea, you can talk to your manager, and talk to people in your business unit about it, and often they will say go ahead and try it. A lot of the things I do here, I do because they were in my ideas and I have to put them into practice.
When I first started working at CGI I thought that it was a little bit odd that the company refers to us as members instead of employees. As I continued to work here, though, I came to realize that the corporate culture here really is that of membership. It is not just something the company says. It is as if we belong to something, rather than just work for a company. We are building something together here.
Collaborate on meaningful work
One of the best things about working with our clients is that that we have an opportunity to be a partner with them. We are not just a vendor, we help them solve problems. We have the ability to let them see the future, and I think that that's really important. When we engage with clients, we’re looking at what they're doing and understanding where they're going with it. Then we can make suggestions about solutions. It's not always just about what they're doing right now; often it's also about what they're going to do in the future, and how we can help them see a better future.
Balance to be my best
I don’t spend all my time at work. I really like to spend time with my grandchildren. I have two—Aelyssa is almost 10 and Demitri is five. When they come to my house we do all kinds of things. Demitri loves dinosaurs and regularly corrects me when I get their names wrong. Aelyssa is following in the footsteps of a family tradition and is into crafts, so I’m trying to teach her how to sew and crochet. She is working on her first quilt. I spend a lot of time crocheting myself. I can whip out a scarf in an evening, and an afghan in just a couple of days. I also make jewelry out of wire and stones that I tumble and polish myself. I paint landscapes and work in polymer clay.
I am also a photographer. I shoot with a Canon DSLR and primarily shoot graduation pictures, other people’s pets and parties. I have done a few weddings, but brides can be difficult. But my favorite subjects are wildlife, my grandkids and my pets – three dogs and four cats. Yes, it’s a zoo!
I started collecting elephants about 30 years ago and now I have over 400 of them. When my son was very small, we went to Sea World in Aurora, Ohio, and of all the things to get in the gift shop, I bought an elephant. That was the beginning. The next thing you know, I was collecting, picking one up here and there. Now, every Christmas and birthday, I know my family and friends are going to buy me elephants, usually figurines. I do have an adopted elephant in Africa, through the World Wildlife Fund. My granddaughter helped me name him Egbert. We also give regularly to the Pittsburgh Zoo where we also have an adopted elephant named Tasha. Saving animals and our wildlife is a cause that is near and dear to my heart.
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