Meet some of the members of our newest employee resource group, Asian at Ciena, in celebration of Asian Heritage Month.

In North America, May is Asian Heritage Month, also known as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This year’s Asian Heritage Month is a special one at Ciena since it’s the first since we’ve launched our newest employee resource group—Asian at Ciena.

One way we’re celebrating is by sharing the insights and aspirations of some of our Asian at Ciena ERG members. Each of these individuals has shared their thoughts on the ways their Asian identity and professional life intersect, as well as touching on the value they find in the Asian at Ciena group.

Grace Koh on the importance of giving and receiving mentorship

Hi, I’m Grace Koh. I’m part of the Legal team and responsible for Government Relations at Ciena. My parents (like many other Asian-American first-generation parents) wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. I did become a lawyer, but my work in public policy is a different path than my parents expected.

Growing up in two cultures as an Asian-American has been an advantage in my career. It helps me better understand others, and what I had thought might have been a disadvantage when I was younger, actually makes me a more flexible and creative problem solver. Unfortunately, I still find that there are few women and minorities in many of the professional spaces I’ve occupied un my career. That is changing with concerted efforts to recruit and retain diverse talent at all levels, but there is still room to grow in, especially in leadership roles.

In the future, I’d love to see more diversity and for people across all backgrounds to overcome biases and assumptions about others. That’s why I’m fully supportive of the Asian at Ciena ERG. I didn’t get where I am in my career without support from many other mentors. At this stage in my career, I want to help make sure my younger Asian colleagues are getting the opportunities they need to grow and advance.

Grace sits at a desk before a microphone

Ryan Yim on finding success with a unique background

I'm Ryan Yim and I identify as a 1.5 Gen Korean-Canadian, born in Germany. I spent my youth in Germany and Korea and immigrated to Canada at the age of 16. Having lived in three different countries throughout my early life, I frequently have questions about my identity, especially as it relates to my professional life.

When I think about my career, an image of a pyramid comes to my mind. While many people’s pyramids would have a consistent and regular foundation, I feel my pyramid consists of different-sized or even missing blocks at the bottom. I had expected that a solid foundation would help set me up for success and sometimes I felt that my irregular pyramid brought many challenges to my life. Lack of cultural capital, language struggles, and missing out on mentors with similar experiences to mine contributed to my difficulties.

In the hopes of supporting others like me, I joined the Association of Korean-Canadian Scientists and Engineers (AKCSE) and co-created a Young Generation program. Through these initiatives, I met many people with similar experiences who helped me develop stronger direction in my career and life. Now, despite all the challenges that I still face and struggle with every day, I see how my uniquely stacked pyramid has built my resilience and flexibility.

With the Asian Heritage Month theme of “Advancing Leaders through Awareness,” I hope for more leaders to be aware of the potential of people like me. Immigrants are often some of the most keenly intelligent people who have had the intense experience of rapidly adapting to changing environments and thriving in them given the right guidance and opportunities.

Ryan standing on a mountain

Nobuhiko Akachi on enjoying the richness of sharing diverse cultures

I am Nobuhiko Akachi. I was born in Mexico City as the third generation (sansei) in a Japanese family,  and I have lived here my entire life. One thing I cherish about growing up in Mexico with Asian heritage is its dualism—to be able to hold two cultures within me, where each one is so unique and different from the other. While Japanese culture is focused on discipline, order, and respect, it also has a profound connection to the soul/spirit, harmony, nature, and ancestors’ values (bushido). Mexican culture has this air of festivity and enjoyment of life among friends, which creates an environment of freshness and creativity.

That being said, sometimes the most difficult part about being Asian and not living in Asia is this dualism. Sometimes it feels like I am not from here, but also not from there. It can be hard for people growing up in one culture to truly understand you. This has created scenarios where I am misunderstood or was unable to express myself correctly.

I hope that the Asian community continues to share amongst ourselves and with others, the culture, friendship, food, and above all the opportunity to meet other members and feel free to express and connect with our Asian identities. I fully support the Asian at Ciena ERG's endeavors as it creates a voice in Ciena that everyone can hear, where everyone can understand better our cultures and ways of living. On a more personal note, I appreciate that the Asian at Ciena ERG gives me an opportunity to grow closer to my roots and get to know more people that share in the same things as I do.

Nobuhiko and his family in front of a Mexican pyramid

Join us in celebrating diversity every month at Ciena

Celebrating Asian Heritage Month with the Asian at Ciena ERG is just one way we uplift diverse voices and show our appreciation for the uniqueness of all our people at Ciena. If you’re interested in joining an organization where diversity is celebrated, explore our open roles or learn more about our people.

A group of employees in the Singapore office Team members in Singapore celebrating during our Asian Heritage Month speaker event

A group of employees in the Ottawa office

Team members in Ottawa celebrating during our Asian Heritage Month speaker event