Fahad Digankar is a technical account manager on the Ciena government sales team who shared his experience balancing his military career in the army with his civilian career here at Ciena.

Fahad in uniform on a grey backgroundFahad’s career at Ciena started when a salesperson at a career fair—who was also a veteran—took note of the military service on his resume. The salesperson recognized his potential right away. As a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadet in his senior year of college, Fahad landed the perfect profile for a role on Ciena’s government sales team. Today, thinking back to the start of his career, Fahad recognizes that his path into his current role as a technical account manager with the government team was in large part because of his experience as an army cadet.

Finding Balance Between Military and Civilian Life

The hardest part of being an active service member while working full time at Ciena is the time management requirements. Getting everything done and keeping his Ciena clients satisfied means that Fahad has to be an expert at clear and consistent communication between his colleagues in both roles. This transparency, planning, and preparation ensures that he stays on top of his responsibilities without over-booking his schedule.

Ciena is phenomenal when it comes to balancing both.

When you’re in the military, you can’t plan for everything, however. As a reservist, Fahad can be called up at any moment to respond to emergency situations with the National Guard. He recalls being called up in 2020 to help with pandemic efforts: “I was part of one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) response units for the United States, and I was building field hospitals, helping nursing homes, transporting all these different goods” in order to help save lives in unprecedented circumstances.

When natural disasters strike, or any other unpredictable emergency arises, Fahad needs to be ready to respond within a maximum of 72 hours. As a Ciena employee, he’s grateful to have the support of a flexible and understanding team in these situations. He remembers that in 2020, “Ciena was completely understanding” and he was “lucky to have a lot of good managers” to make sure his responsibilities at Ciena were covered when his military responsibilities had to take precedence.

Developing Career-Boosting Capabilities in the Army

Some of Fahad’s fellow reservists find that their military obligations can create complications at their civilian workplace, or create tensions between themselves and their colleagues. In contrast to their experiences elsewhere, Fahad finds that his military role actually buoys his civilian career at Ciena. He says, “when you have both jobs and both responsibilities, you might think it would kind of be seen in a bad light, or detrimental, but it’s the complete opposite at Ciena. People respect you for it. They understand it. They thank you for it.”

His colleagues and managers have recognized from the very beginning that his military training and experience can give Fahad an advantage in handling stressful or high-pressure situations.

There are so many skills that I develop in terms of leadership and organization that carry over to Ciena.

Amongst other early-career Ciena employees in the sales development program, a program Ciena offers to new grad employees to help them grow their skills, he stood out for his calm demeanor and leadership skills. He explains: “I’m calm because I know there’s always a path forward. There’s always a way to get things done” which is an attitude and competency that he developed in the Army and now brings with him to work each day at Ciena.

These skills have reflected positively on Fahad, whose managers appreciate the valuable skillset his military experience has brought him.

Thriving Amongst a Supportive & Understanding Community

Ultimately, Fahad says it’s the people at Ciena that make his civilian and military careers so compatible. With resources like the Vets at Ciena employee resource group and the openness of all Ciena employees to understand and appreciate the unique position of holding a civilian job and a position as a reservist at the same time, Fahad enjoys the connections he’s able for form with his colleagues due to his military experience.

I would not be able to do it without great people at Ciena helping me along the way.

Support from leadership is also crucial to creating the positive experience the Fahad has found in balancing both roles. He notes that “Ciena has great company policies when it comes to military leave,” and emphasizes the unwavering support of the people behind the policies. “To say it is one thing, but to actually do it is another. And Ciena does it,” he points out. “Since day one I’ve had phenomenal managers that have been so understanding, working with me and helping me out” he says, and mentions that when duty calls, his managers’ “first response is always: ‘how can I help you do that.’”

Fahad’s experience reflects Ciena’s goal to foster an environment of belonging, vibrancy, and happiness to support our people and their careers. For current and former military service members, our commitment to our people means embracing the unique benefits of your experience and providing a supportive environment to help you thrive.