Computer coding now rules our lives, and by developing a new app allowing teachers in Glasgow to continually assess classes, IT firm CGI is blazing a trail in a rapidly changing reality

When Kirsty Ramsay became Vice President, Consulting Delivery at CGI last October, the global IT firm’s Scottish delivery centre was already a beacon of innovation within the firm’s operations.

Based across Glasgow and Edinburgh, the centre had been working with the company’s clients delivering the major programmes and roll-outs that it was tasked with, but as Kirsty explains, with every project, sometimes it’s best to step back and look again at the capabilities of any part of a business before taking two steps forward.

“I was asked if I would come in and look at the potential for the centre,” says Kirsty, who joined CGI in 2017. “We needed to look at how it was going to develop. Also, focusing on what kind of people we could employ there, and also the nature of the work that we should be doing.”

At the same time, Kirsty and her team were looking at the accounts CGI was servicing such as councils and Scottish government work. However, she discovered there was also one particular area filled with potential.

“We had an emerging tech area focusing on coding,” explains Kirsty. “This area had great potential for designing and promoting Intellectual Property (IP). We were thinking of solutions to clients’ problems and being able to solve them by the design of their own IP.”

Kirsty and her team set about building one the foundations of the centre with a renewed focus on IP design, supporting not only accounts in Scotland, but right across the UK. 

“We have kept quite a similar shape. We still have the testing function, but we also have partnerships with a couple of coding tool providers. We’ve also been moving more into automation, performance and partnering with testing tool providers and looking at new coding tools. This means we’ve been carrying out quite a bit of upskilling and retraining, as well as recruiting around these posts.”

The centre is now looking to bring the Java developers up to the next grade but also looking to introduce different coding software such as .net and C#. 

HeraldScotland:

STREETS AHEAD: CGI’s delivery centre in the thriving City Innovation District.

“We are supporting some big accounts and on the emerging tech front, we recently launched our first piece of IP. This has been the result of working in partnership with Glasgow City Council to provide an app for teachers that allows them to be able to measure and check the progress of students,” says Kirsty.

She says CGI also requires specialist consultants and business analysts who can work with clients to identify new opportunities in areas such as RPA Discovery. 

“What we’ve done at the centre is taken a group of our business analysts and then retrained them slightly on the first part of their thinking, because the tech landscape is changing rapidly.

“The speed of evolution that we’re experiencing is something like the Industrial Revolution,” adds Kirsty. “When I’m sitting having conversations with people about robots and automation, there’s nothing science fiction about it. 

“Initially, that could sound quite daunting, but when you start to break it down you can see the benefits that it’s going to bring to a lot of organisations.”

IDENTIFYING TALENT
EMERGING talent is crucial to CGI’s plans and its multi-generational workforce is key to not only providing clients with the best possible service but also creating a team that can learn from one another.

Kirsty explains: “Although we already have apprentices who are currently in the first year at university and a few final year students who are due to present their dissertation in June, we are always trying to attract young talent.  

“Equally however, I have a developer who joined us a year ago whose career had been in chemical engineering. He put himself through his master’s degree in software development. 

“We have benefited greatly from his maturity and commercial experience, while he has benefited from being part of a development team in a global IT company.”

Kirsty believes that the younger members of her team are filled with the dynamism and energy that is expected from the beginning of a career, but observes: “The people who might be coming to the end of their careers are still  demanding those fulfilling jobs that give them that intellectual stretch. 

“Experience is something that cannot be overlooked. The more mature team members are some of the best testers because of their eye on detail.”

The delivery centre is now seeing an increase in enquiries. “Customers can see the quality of the people that are sitting in the unit in Scotland, and that we can really compete with the offshore and nearshore-type models now,”  Kirsty concludes.

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Inspiring the next generation of coders 

BEFORE Kirsty moved into her exciting new role at CGI, she had been looking after the firm’s Scottish government accounts for two years. 

She knew that there was a challenge because, as she says, “the whole landscape around the delivery centre was changing”. The business plan going forward had to be different in all aspects – focusing on what would be carried out there, in the type of people who would work there and what CGI could do to stretch them. 

HeraldScotland:

MAKING CONNECTIONS: Kirsty Ramsay is Vice President, Consulting Delivery at CGI in Glasgow.

Kirsty explained: “When I came into this role, CGI’s Scotland Business Unit Leader, Lindsay McGranaghan, told me she needed someone who could have a good rapport with younger members, including school leavers and the graduates.

“I don’t have children, so I felt that was quite a compliment, but I also feel now – as I’m watching and listening the team – I’m learning and keeping my own skills alive.”

Kirsty says that being around young bright sparks also connects with the CSR activities that are part of her remit. “One of those is working with female founders and young entrepreneurs, and again, working with the skills around me to help individuals in their business.

 “One project that has come on more recently is Digital Xtra,” she says. “It’s a charity that works with children from around the age of four to 16. There are coding clubs and other associated activities to inspire them and make sure that, no matter where they come from, these children have the same opportunities. We are one of the partners but it’s a Scottish Government initiative.” 

Kirsty also works on a project alongside Skills Development Scotland, which involves taking industry into schools. Clearly, inspiring and encouraging young talent is something that Kirsty is interested in.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people in government here and they talk about the mass exodus at graduation time. Graduates still go to London or abroad, so we need to create opportunities where people can start their careers here. With the workforce that we have, I want to make sure that their jobs are interesting and relevant.”