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TechVibe Takes a Deep Dive with CGI's Bernie Mongilio

Interview by Audrey Russo and Jonathan Kersting

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TechVibe Radio is back on air at ESPN 970 AM every Saturday at 8:00 a.m. from the Huntington Bank Studio.

 

CGI is one of the world's largest and most innovative technology solutions providers with offices around the world, including a fast-growing presence in Pittsburgh. As Senior Vice President of CGI's Great Lakes Business Unit, Bernie oversees territory from Pittsburgh to Detroit. 

Learn what's driving growth at CGI in Pittsburgh, as well as its latest acquisition in Columbus to further cement its presence and reach.

Transcription:

I think one of the most foundational tech companies here in the Pittsburgh region is one CGI doing some great transformative work here. Their presence has been growing here in Pittsburgh like it is no one's business. So I thought it's only appropriate that we dedicate an entire show to what's happening at CGI today. We're doing a full CGI geek out today on TechVibe Radio

Well, that's great, I'm gonna be glad to have a conversation about their footprint and its impact that they've had on the region because they're bigger. I think it'll blow people's minds when they realize how big of a company this is. Absolutely.

And also we can announce we actually have them now on our board of directors so excited because our guest today who's actually no stranger to tech live radio one Bernie Mongilio stopping by with us today and just joined our board of directors that we're very excited about to have his leadership here, the Pittsburgh Tech Council. So Bernie, we're so pumped to have you hanging out with us once again, on tech vibe radio. It's been a little too long. But we're gonna make up some lost time today. That's for sure. Excellent. Jonathan. Glad to be here. It's always a pleasure to chat with you and Audrey. Audrey, thank you for giving, giving us the opportunity to opportunity. And you already mentioned my joining the board. I'm very excited about that. We've been pretty active, actively involved with the tech council since I first came even before I came to Pittsburgh, actually, as I started doing some business here, now. And so for me that you know, having the opportunity to serve on the board is is a I'm excited about it's a privilege to do that. And to kind of take the relationship between CGI and the tech council to the next to the next level.

We kick it off with you just give us your background and what you do at CGI maybe a little bit about what you did before CGI because I know you got some serious, some serious tentacles into the tech industry here and beyond.

Sure, Jonathan Um, so again, maybe the best way to talk you know talk about me is a little bit talk about CGI and how I fit in I'll do I'll do that. So on. CGI is actually a very large IT services company. And it really end to end it services company headquartered in Montreal, Canada, we've got about over 76,000 people globally, and are about a $12 billion company. We we are organized geographically. And the operating unit in our geographic model is what we call a business unit. there's a there's a bit there's a bit over 60 of those around the world. I actually leave one of those business units or something called the Great Lakes. It's part of our US Commercial and state government strategic business unit. And so I lead I lead that unit, which is headquartered here in Pittsburgh. And it's really the, that Great Lakes is focused really on four cities, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cleveland, and Detroit. And I'm said headquartered in Pittsburgh, I would be downtown if it weren't for the pandemic, I would be downtown. And that in our office, right across in the, in the old, the old Alcoa headquarters across the hotel Monaco, which is also one of our national innovation centers. But since since March, you know, it's getting getting closer and closer a year, every day now, and yeah, I've been, I had all of my staff have been working remotely.

So, and, yeah, so we, as I said, you know, that's kind of, you know, where, you know, how we operate globally on Great Lakes has about 900 people that are part of the, you know, actual members of CGI. across those cities. The largest concentration is in Pittsburgh, we probably have about I think, you know, again, how do you say about how big we're getting to be we're about 500 people now, in Pittsburgh key. A lot of people ya know, we've been really we've been really fortunate our services we bring are we such have such great Rather than what we bring to our customers that we like to say, we're able to serve them in both good times, and in some in bad times not so good times with the propositions we bring are a little different. So we've actually been really fortunate that throughout the pandemic, we've actually Great Lakes, we've been hiring pretty much every we've been hiring and onboarding people, pretty much every week, throughout the pandemic, which again, um, you know, is a, you know, just, I think a function of, you know, how we're able to adapt, you know, as the pandemic hit, we, we, you know, we looked at what we do and thought about that in terms how people respond, and put together a program we called our respond rebound, reinvent, and which was meant to think about the evolution of the pandemic, and how it's going to affect all of us respond being the very those things you had to do immediately to get everybody remote, or get some new digital capability out quickly. Rebound was in the things to start recovering, and then reinvent is we do, you know, I think we all feel that there's some pretty fundamental change to how we do business. That's going to result as the pandemic even we get, you know, back to whatever normal is, and that's going to be an opportunity, we think, for innovative companies to really look at as an opportunity to, you know, change their business models and so forth.

And we're, we're prepared to help them well, so Bernie, it when described for people, you know, who are listening that don't might not understand specifically what IT services are some examples and who your target markets really are? Sure, sure, Audrey, thank you. So we focus, we tend to focus on larger companies, in terms of people or organizations in terms of people that we help. So for example, financial services, companies, retailers, state governments, manufacturers, health, health providers, and so forth. As an example, um, you know, when when, you know, as we think about it service, I'll do in the context, again, of, you know, both of the pandemic and in general, but with a financial services company, a lot of what banks today offer is really fundamentally underpinned or almost defined by the technology in terms of way it manifests itself to an end consumer. So you know, your mobile app, or your you know, or you be your online banking experience with the PPP. Again, one of the things that made a lot of headlines was the PPP program. So we've helped our banking customers quickly be ready to offer loans through that program, giving, you know, giving x giving small businesses access to some of the support that they needed. One of our customers, we've spoke about the past his sheets, as an example, you know, some of the curves, you know, adapting their business model, they were in essential business during the pandemic, but then being able to adapt, like, you know, to curbside and some of those other capabilities. So we help we sit with customers, when I say end to end, we'll start with, you know, helping a customer design what they want their user experience to be or their product to be. And then helping them you know, from that concept, design the technology, build the technology, deploy the technology, and in some cases continue to support the technology, depending upon how kind of their approach to it. All of those examples help, you know, help you. I mean, and so do you have any expertise in any kind of domain? Or do you work in any market sector?

So, we, I'd say we have kind of a couple of different pieces. So we we as a company focus on particular industries, although given the scope and scale of the company globally, you know, that list of that list of industries is pretty big. in Pittsburgh, there is considerable expertise in healthcare, in, in banking, in retail, manufacturing, so again, a lot of those those key industries, and then from a technology perspective, you know, thing, you know, full stack Java development, microservices, cloud native, you know, a lot of cybersecurity, a lot of the things that are very topical, and part of it is we, you know, we do have you conduct strategic planning with with a set of interviews we do every year with our customers globally, we interview last year, approximately 1500 executives on both the business and IT side, to understand what their priorities are, that becomes an input into our strategic plan. So that again, you know, it's no surprise then that the things that we're focused on are the things that are topical, because we're hearing directly from our customers and what matters to them and our investing and, you know, in our business to be best positioned to bring value. And so, are there anything that have surprised you that you've discovered over these last this last year? I mean, we've been talking about COVID, you know, and everyone's talking about rapid digitization and, you know, accelerating their business plans and you know, more automation rather than Unless, etc, are there anything that you're seeing that you think it's gonna just stick with us that? You know? It's we're not going back to?

Yeah, well, I think there's a couple things. So one is, um, I used to be a balance over time. You know, I think one things we find is, you know, when everybody's working remote, we can actually we actually have proven the remote, you know, can work really, really well. I think if we go back to people, you know, being more in physical offices, we don't want to miss that opportunity for physical interaction, there's still a lot that happens on an ad hoc basis. But it also I think we've also demonstrated, you know, all of us demonstrate to each other, that remote delivery bundles can work, and to collaborate, especially with some of the tools. I think we've seen in general things are they're going to stick Audrey's I think, yes, digitization in general, right, there's, you know, the, the COVID forced more rapid deployment of digital transformation, then that might otherwise have happened. You know, in fact, one could argue that the, you know, the big, the, you know, a positive upside, if there is one of something as awful as the pandemic is, you know, the change, you know, COVID was almost the change champion for digital transformation. Right?

Sort of funny, people had these plans, right? Your plan, this is when they were gonna invest, this is what they were gonna do. And then boom, it's like, whoa, wait a second. We can't even wait. We have to do this now. So I think people are going to continue to move that fast. Yeah, I agree.

Yeah, I think so. I think people have learned how to, I think we've learned how to move more quickly. Right. Um, you know, and, and to manage? You know, I think the fear in the past has been, what about you? What's the risk associated with that, but once you've leapt off a burning platform on you, I think it gives you perspective on, you know, what the, what the risk reward paradigm really looks like? So I do think, I agree, I think we've learned, we've built some muscles over this, we have and to move faster, I think, though that'll be sustained.

And now, it'll be it'll be so fascinating to see what the long term effect of that that rapid inflection of fast is. But if we really look back at time, it's just, it's just sandwiched, right, you know, it's just a sandwich piece of time, not necessarily, you know, in terms of like a smooth tail. And, you know, one thing that I actually worry about, and I know that CGI has been a good partner with us on is making sure that this bifurcation and the digital divide that has occurred as a result of that rapid movement, is we don't leave people behind. Right? Because you're, you're in the business world, you're working really, really fast, and you get to see, you know, ways to accelerate it. And then, in the other part of the world, where people are not part of tech and innovation, we saw really quickly about the divide. And I know that CGI has been very interested in supportive in terms of making sure that our communities are not left behind. And, and appreciate your role in that. But any sentiment about that at all? Any other for the ultimate?

Yeah, well, I think talent, you know, ties very quickly a conversation for me a conversation about talent. And I think, you know, opportunity for us and others to look at how do we reach to people that, you know, maybe for whom STEM careers weren't, you know, something on their radar, and how we make help bring some people along, and tap into sources of talent that we haven't in the past. So trying to bridge that divide, with some investment and training and so forth. Because again, I still, I still, I still see talent as the big constraining factor in my business, just in terms of the continued demand for it.

And you know, it isn't in this this word talent, it's, you know, you overseed Bernie, how big of a region and we're gonna, we're gonna break and then come back to Bernie, but tell everyone what your your footprint is. Approximately terms of people overall, it's not my region, about 900 people extending from here up to Michigan, hold Great Lakes.

That's what I want people to understand. So the other thing and we're gonna come back to Bernie who who runs the, what is it called the Great Lakes region, you can tell that I'm not a native lakes. Yes. We're gonna come back and talk about that. But Bernie also has an understanding of what's happening in the region that's even beyond 32 counties. And I think that's an important piece of the puzzle for the next 10 years of the United States. Ordering This is why I'm glad we have a double segment a double dose. Bernie Mongilio from CGI because there's a lot going on. We're coming right back after this quick break. This is Jonathan Kersting. And this is Audrey Russo. W're more about the Pittsburgh Technology Council going to PGH tech.org. And we'll see it in a flash. We all need

I'm so glad we have another 30 minutes to talk with one Bernie Mongilio from CGI, Audrey, there's so much going on. We could not pack that into just half a show no way. And it's alway fun to talk to Bernie. So we're really excited to have him on. And if people want to know your website, what should they go to? Sometimes when people are listening, they want to go to a website?

Yep. Our website is cgi.com.

They own that URL? Absolutely. We were talking about the Great Lakes region that Bernie runs. I mean, he's got some territory underneath his feet here in Columbus has been a growing spot, and they just closed a big deal there just before the holiday break. So I want to learn more about that. Bernie, what's going on with the Columbus acquisition?

Yeah, thanks, Jonathan. Yeah, we Um, so part of part of cgis overall growth strategy is, you know, is is what we call building buy. So building up, you know, business organically continue to hire people, when you know when business with customers, and then a B complement that with an acquisition strategy. In fact, if you recall about, I guess a bit over three years ago, we merged with Summa technology in Pittsburgh, that gave us a big boost in the tech in the you know, in the Pittsburgh market, and also helped with some of our national innovation programs as well. So I'm really excited we just on New Year's Eve, closed a merger acquisition with HMB are actually the Professional Services Division of HMB in Columbus. This, this brought to us 165 people to CGI, and it'll be now CGI members, some great leadership on there. To see the CEO of HMB is out she has joined CGI, and will be running our Columbus sector. Our historically our work in Columbus was largely and continues on the CGI side had been with the state was largely state government business, which is which is great business when we look at us, you know, a city like Columbus is a vibrant commercial market as well. So the the business coming to us from HMB is largely on the commercial side, particularly some some high profile clients in the in the utilities, manufacturing retail space. So as well as there was some work that he was doing with the state that's complimentary the work that we do, so excited about that. A lot of work also from a from a technology, if we think about the way I described things back to your earlier questions, the first segment, both industry and then, you know, kind of horizontally, what are we doing? So a lot of work in app authorization, app management, cloud native, you know, cloud, cloud migration, that sort of thing. So are really, really excited. We're, you know, we're only two and a half weeks into the integration. Or not even I say to half, it's actually two weeks that today's only Tuesday on a holiday week with a holiday in it. And so we're, we're already finding, you know, you're getting the, you know, the folks together and looking at opportunities, as we say to you know, you know, the kind of the power of two, how do we make one plus one equal three in the Columbus market.

So your thoughts on your bullish on Columbus, right.

Absolutely. Yeah, we're getting, I think we see Columbus, you know, as we were talking Pittsburgh, it's been great for us to continue to see growth in in Pittsburgh, Columbus, we think is another great city, great market for us. And we see the merger, you know, the the acquisition, you know, kind of boosting that, you know, you're supercharging our growth there. And then I mentioned You know, Great Lakes, you know, I describe it more in terms of cities rather than chunks of states. So my other two cities are Cleveland and Detroit. And you know, we've got, we actually have quite a bit of presence in Cleveland people eyes right now, not too many. Most of the work we're doing is extension work we're doing for customers based in Pittsburgh, but we're looking to grow more there. And then also, I'm in Detroit, we do quite a bit of work with the state of Michigan, we're looking to build up more commercial business, we just landed a really big business agility project for one of the one of the large suppliers, subsystem suppliers to the automotive industry. So these are folks that build, you know, subsystems that go into automotive automobiles. And what's interesting is this business agility project is really applying as, you know, agile techniques, not to it, but actually to product engineering. Wow. And so we're really excited. They're, they're going to be they're based up in up in the Detroit Metro, but they were a global provider. And some of the, you know, some of our first rollout with this is going to be a piece in China and a piece in Spain, actually, in addition to a rollout in, in Detroit. Um, so we, um, you know, again, I think this whole, you know, this whole region, you know, what, you know, I, you know, this area that we call the Great Lakes and the Midwest in general, I think, has a tremendous amount of growth, growth, potential potential, in the tech industry, in general. And again, I see Pittsburgh continue to have a leadership role, but these other cities also coming up coming up fast and have a lot of a lot of activity. So, a couple of things, I want to make sure that we talk about there's so much to unpack in here, but one is, at CGI, in terms of your civic engagement has been pretty strong. And one of the areas has been in Science and Technology Engineering, and, and sort of helping those people who might not have access and might be underserved. What are some of the things that you've been?

Um, so I guess, a couple a couple things I do. So one thing is, STEM it you know, you mentioned science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or STEM education is actually a big program for CGI. both national and even, to some, to some extent, even at the global level. So we've had a history of, of doing, we call stem camps over the years on which where we would go and Park, you know, have our members of our team go and sometimes partner with a client, sometimes just on our own, and then with a partner with a charitable organization, to provide some kind of STEM exposure to, you know, to folks that might not otherwise have that, you know, whether that's we've done a lot of work of last couple years with the best of the batch foundation locally, one of the one of the ones that, you know, one of the ones that was very exciting for one of our teams, not up in, up in New England was one where we did a stem camp with the American School for the Deaf in partnership with one of our customers up there. And so not only not only where we teach, where are people teaching the students about technology, our people, we're learning American Sign Language as part of that, and you know, so so that's been great. We did last year conducted something we call the cgit girls challenge, in which we had teams from local high schools, compete to build an app, and then have a judge by a team, a team of local leaders, and then the winning team, we gave a $20,000 scholarship to and really trying to target, you know, but again, women because women are still under generally underrepresented in STEM careers. And then, but also tried to pick some of the, you know, within within, you know, some of the school districts that were a little less, you know, less economically or more economically disadvantaged, I should say. And we, that was that event last year was sponsored at the overall us level. I'm happy to say that this year, we're actually having, if you will pilot it last year, we're now doing it again this year, as and trying to do as a sustained program here in Pittsburgh. in Columbus, we've done similar programs with other organization, other travel organizations. In in Columbus, where we've been we've done those, those stem camps, one big thing that we did with the it girl challenge, and we've done a lot with a lot of our STEM curriculum, is we actually had to make it virtual. We were in the middle of of the tea girl challenge when the pandemic ends. And so we had to figure out how to deliver that content. In fact, one of the things we ended up doing was we actually, we made sure that we you know, Danny's any of the participants that did not have them, we actually bought laptops for them as part of purchasing the program last year, because, you know, you know, some of them just, you know, that was something that they didn't have all of a sudden, and to be able to participate. So um, yeah, and, and that's the kind of an area We're both, you know, applying, you know, you know, it's investment, but it's also applying, you know, you know, knowledge and expertise that our people bring on. And that's why we're particularly excited to do that.

So thinking as we begin to land the jet here. Yeah, I agree, we got about three or four minutes left, and I want to talk a little bit about what's happening in Pittsburgh, no boom went to break. And you had mentioned that you're hiring for almost like, like 80 plus positions, right here in just the Pittsburgh area. I mean, your commitment to stone to tech, I mean, you guys are so busy. I don't know how you get everything done that you do in a day plus hiring another 80 people and bringing them on board? What's happening in Pittsburgh like that?

Yeah. So again, I think one of the things that you know, makes, you know, I think that distinguishes CGI, is our, you know, is our overall model, we tried to strike a balance between our customers, what we call our members, which are our employees, we use the term member to connote an ownership sense in the company. And then our shareholders, of course, because we're publicly traded. And I think one of the things that distinguishes us is that, you know, that fundamental balance model, where we're trying to serve, making sure we're serving our customers really well creating exciting careers for our members. And then also, of course, running the company with the proper discipline. So we're here for the long run, and I think we see is, you know, we, you know, our customers tell us that we deliver extremely well for them. And our members take a lot of pride in them, that makes CGI really exciting place to work coupled with the work that we're doing that's highly innovative. And, you know, and so forth. So, I think, you know, that's why we continue to have demand for our services. And that's why we continue to hire, because by the way, my retention rate is very real, you know, my or, you know, is very, very strong, my I, I have some of the lowest attrition rates in the industry right now in my market. And so those 80 people aren't replacing a bunch of those people that are coming to add to our presence.

So exciting. That's additive, right.

Yeah. And we're, again, we're doing things like I mentioned, you know, business agility is a big piece of what we're doing now. Innovation, we, you know, we're helping our customers bring new products to market. We are continue invest in new technology. So it you know, the work we're doing is absolutely leading edge. It's exciting. And the information just go to CGI.

Yes. cgi.com, I believe slash careers, I believe that will help. If not, I'm sure once you're on the site, you can find it I'm pretty sure it's slash careers. And, and again, also, I'm on LinkedIn, if anybody that hears the broadcast just wants to reach out to me via LinkedIn, I'm more than happy to, to connect.

We appreciate Bernice, thank you so much for stopping by the show today. Just a fantastic conversation. And I'm so glad that got us an entire show. Even just still chisel a little tip of the iceberg that CGI here, and just so glad to be part of it today.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai