Organizations across the globe are driven by a very real need to innovate. These days, that often means undertaking successful digital transformations aimed at better serving customers in any sector.
But it’s not just businesses: Complex IT issues require solutions for government agencies, too. Here in the U.S., CGI Federal, an operating subsidiary of CGI Inc., helps civilian, defense, and intelligence divisions of the U.S. federal government that are intent on streamlining their various processes. And as of March 2021, two-time McIntire alum Stephanie Mango is at the helm as President, overseeing an organization comprising thousands of employees.
“It’s a humbling experience, stepping into this type of role during such a time of such intense change—the pandemic, the administration, the increased call for action to end racial injustice, and so much more,” Mango says.
Mango, who was named the National Security Executive of the Year at WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards in 2018, had been overseeing cybersecurity initiatives to secure national assets and streamline process challenges as part of her portfolio during that time. Despite all that she’s experienced during her impressive career at CGI, the pandemic brought a new set of leadership challenges.
“Being a leader during a pandemic is really interesting. We all had to learn how to handle remote work for federal agencies and ourselves. It made me realize just how resilient our teams and systems are,” she says. Mango was heartened by the ability of CGI’s government agency clients to quickly and effectively transition to managing a remote workforce in order to manage important functions like conducting security checks, issuing tax refunds, providing relief money, and more—all while sustaining strong cybersecurity measures.
“COVID brought so much tragedy, so I’m not comfortable saying that anything that came of it could rise to the level of a ‘silver lining.’ But it changed our environment and expectations, forcing many organizations to accelerate their digital transformation to address short- and long-term stakeholder needs. For many federal agencies, that included finding new ways for their employees to telework and identifying creative ways for U.S. citizens to remotely conduct business with the government.”
Having been with CGI since 1994, she says the many experiences she’s had, and the knowledge she’s accumulated over the years, helped ease her transition into the role of President during the pandemic.
“Throughout my career, I’ve grown alongside many CGI Federal members as I held a variety of different roles across the organization,” Mango says. “Not only did this give me a broad perspective and understanding of how our business and clients operate—it also makes this so much more of an honor to have the opportunity to lead our 7,000 professionals who are passionate about providing mission-critical services to federal agencies.”
Digital Transformation Insights
As CGI Federal dedicates itself to understanding the needs of its federal agency clients, Mango says that they administer an annual series of interviews as part of its strategic planning. Its “Voice of Our Clients” program sees the firm conduct interviews with approximately 1,500 business and IT executives worldwide to gain useful data from the industries CGI supports in order to recognize client trends and priorities. She notes that the insights gleaned from the process help clients to guide their own strategies and investments as well.
“Interviews in 2020 were split nearly 50-50 between the periods before and after the pandemic declaration. That unique timing provided insights into how business and IT priorities are evolving rapidly,” Mango says, pointing out that the top trend by impact, continuing 2019’s result, remained “becoming digital to meet customer and citizen expectations.” That response was top of mind for IT executives and the second most important priority for business executives.
CGI’s U.S. government clients aligned with these trends, which ultimately spelled out a critical need to be more digitally focused to meet the expectations of citizens engaging with the agencies. Mango has seen her federal clients manage challenges as they attempt to digitize for their customers.
“While many of them have some form of strategy in place, the numbers drop for those who have an enterprise-wide strategy, and get even lower when you look at who is extending an enterprise strategy to their external ecosystem,” she says, explaining, that despite that decrease, a growing number of agencies have prioritized digital transformation. In those organizations’ plans, it remains firmly fixed as one of the most important areas of innovation investments, and more agencies have reported positive outcomes resulting from digital strategies.
“It’s exciting and good news for all of the constituents—the American people and others—who rely on these agencies for so much. It’s a fascinating time to be in our business where we can help agencies on this journey.”
Shared Expertise and Measured Risks
Mango’s rich professional experiences have not only served CGI and its clients well, but also the Commerce School. She’s served as an Executive on Grounds to share her expertise with professionals enrolled in McIntire’s M.S. in MIT Program many times. She says that it’s a program she always looks forward to.
“It’s a great opportunity to network with other executives participating and the students who bring a rich set of experiences and ideas,” she says. “Each year, I leave energized by the exchange of ideas, the thought-provoking conversation and papers, and the possibilities explored.”
Additionally, she has been a part of many other learning opportunities at the Comm School, which have included serving as a panelist for courses and events on strategic leadership with Professor Emma Zhao, the Corporate Strategy Event with Professor Adelaide Wilcox King, and Women in IT as part of the UVA Innovation Forum.
“My career was very instructive to the topics at hand,” says Mango. “The mobility in my career at CGI has given me insights into many aspects of the business, which has enabled me to develop unique strategy viewpoints, as well as develop relationships within and outside of my organization to refine those strategies.”
This year, she’s enrolled as a participant in the 2021 Knowledge Continuum, a yearlong executive education engagement produced by the McIntire School’s Center for the Management of IT (CMIT), and is looking forward to the next installment.
As an alumni of the M.S. in MIS Program, a graduate degree program that eventually became the M.S. in MIT Program, Mango says her education prepared her in a multitude of ways for her career. “I learned effective teamwork, the importance of written and verbal communication, the importance of understanding all of the pieces of business—not just IT—and so many other practical skills.”
And while the various engagements at McIntire offer her an important way to stay connected to School, they also reinforce what she’s learned about the essential skill of hearing the ideas of others while she shares her own. As such, Mango has taken these first months in her new role to be sure to take the time to pay close attention to those who work with her as well.
“I’ve learned the importance of listening to our people. That has helped shape my top priority: ensuring we remain optimally equipped to partner with our clients through this evolution,” she says. “As a part of this role, I’ll also continue to pursue my strong belief in fostering the best of our culture: empowerment, inclusion, transparency, positivity, and measured risk-taking.”