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Deadlines and Fasting Don’t Mix: How I’ve Navigated Corporate America

Fahad “Freddy” Ansari
Product Owner
Pronouns: He/Him/His
Riverwoods, IL

Chapli, cricket and community

The moment that’s had the biggest influence on me was the day I met two of my best friends. They were consultants in the IT industry and held strongly to their South Asian roots. They lived in humble apartment complexes in Des Plaines, Illinois and taught me how to be an accelerated IT professional. At that time, IT was already a very competitive and fast-growing industry. I was infused with so much insight from them in such a short period of time. And better yet, during my nightly study sessions with them, I was surrounded by fresh cooked chapli kabobs and late-night cricket watch parties.

Deadlines and fasting don’t mix

For the most part, since I started working in the corporate world at a relatively young age, I allowed myself to become accustomed to its cultures and practices very easily. The only situation where I struggled to intertwine with the corporate American lifestyle was during the months of Ramadan.

Fasting was a prevalent tradition upheld by both my immediate and extended families (my favorite family tradition is preparing egg rolls and curry puffs with my mother before breaking our fasts). At work, I had to try to keep up, morning ‘til sunset, without any food or water. Because, well, deadlines were still due. Hopping from one meeting to another was still a popular marathon. But I can also remember countless times when my associates were willing to make fasting easier for me, whether it was canceling a lunch or adjusting their schedules to let me rest a bit in the day.

Staying true to my roots

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve fully embraced my intersectional identity yet. I still have so much to learn and am constantly searching for opportunities to stay true to my roots. Growing up in America, I was easily influenced by my public and collegiate schools (and of course my bffs). But only once I got married and moved into my own place, was I eager to look up the latest Indian recipe or find the right traditional attire to wear to family parties and get-togethers. Yeah, don’t tell my mother.

Sharing cultural experiences

The best decision I’ve ever made was joining Discover. I’ve had a wonderful line of managers who have enabled me to take the time I needed for my family and traditions. Also, being surrounded by others like myself at Discover has given me a chance to share similar cultural experiences and make connections that I never would have made on my own. I’m truly grateful for the inclusion Discover has to offer.

I’m currently co-leading the mentorship program for the Asian Professionals at Discover (APAD) employee resource group (ERG). I’m able to get real-time experience leading a program outside of my every-day job responsibilities. It is both very satisfying and energizing.

Being naïve isn’t a bad thing

The best piece of career advice I ever got came from a prior manager who said, “be naïve.” I’ve made so many mistakes over the course of my career I can’t even count or remember them anymore! But I do know that the biggest mistakes I’ve made along my career journey were when I became too complacent. When I didn’t allow myself to be naïve again or to expand my expertise, I lost sight of my ultimate goals.

From starting my career as a Business Analyst to now becoming a Product Owner, I’ve come across numerous opportunities to grow and expand my knowledge. I’ve developed a knack for absorbing content across industries and connecting with colleagues to solve ongoing problems. I’ve realized that I can only be successful in my career if I hold onto that eagerness to constantly learn and improve.

 

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