On March 30, EXFO was awarded a Certificate of Recognition by the Canadian Forces. This certificate acknowledges EXFO as a supportive employer towards Reservist employees. In the light of this news, we decided to have a chat with Denis Halle, EXFO Senior System Support Analyst and Master Warrant Officer of the Régiment de la Chaudière. Senior Manager Olivier Dewit also joined us to add to the discussion.
Q: So, Master Warrant Officer Denis, how did it all start?
Denis: I joined the Forces as a reservist 30 years ago. It all began as a summer job and then it became my part-time job as a student. From the start, I loved the team spirit that the military life fosters. It is really all about team life and teamwork to make things work whatever the situation. After my studies, I stayed with the program and gradually rose through the ranks while working a full-time job in parallel.
Q: Walking the warrior path with a full-time job, that’s no easy feat. How did you make that happen?
Denis: The reservist program is indeed extremely demanding and keeping such a pace was not easy; I did reach a standstill at one point. To give you some more background, I joined EXFO 20 years ago and in 2015, I decided I wanted to challenge myself further as a reservist. My first attempt wasn’t a success as I hadn’t expected the program to require regular availability for conference calls in addition to the field trainings. So, I took a step back and talked to my manager Olivier to prepare for 2016.
Olivier: Yes, we had a look at the program together and I organized my team to see how we could make this work for Denis and for everyone else in terms of the workload here. In general, I always try to respond positively to the requests of my team members and this has always given the best results, for them as individuals and for the group as a well-knit team. Giving time off to the reserve force, people who voluntarily put their lives at stake for us, was absolutely not an issue. By the way, Denis actually did trainings called “Noble Warrior”. Denis, you should tell them about that! [chuckles]
Denis: Yes, I did two Noble Warrior trainings back in 2011 and 2012 which simulate wartime deployments in the field. But my hardest challenge was the training for Infantry Platoon Second-in-Command in March 2016. I joined 30 other reservists for a leadership training course in New Brunswick. The training spanned 4 weeks and culminated with 10 survival days in the field. I walked around with a backpack weighing 60-70 lbs, slept one or two hours at night all while executing mission scenarios on military rations. And I confirm, it was outside, it was in March, in our beloved but cold Canada.
Q: How did you manage that??
Denis: It’s a physical and a mental exercise. I believe humans are capable of tapping into resources deep within themselves when confronted to tough circumstances. This type of resilience prepares you for stuff you didn’t think you could overcome. Out of the 30 individuals, 22 completed the program. 36 hours before the end, I strained my calf muscle. It was hell, but I decided I wouldn’t let that stop me. So, I kept on. I finished the training and became Warrant Officer at 45 years of age. Most of the other individuals were about ten years younger than me.
Olivier: Not bad for a Senior! [chuckles]
Q: Wow, that’s amazing! And you continued with the program afterwards?
Denis: Yes, I had a training in 2017 where I obtained the rank of Company Sergeant Major, allowing me to administer 90 people from various military units. I love the continuous education aspect of the reservist program. I’m always learning. I’ve done a couple of more trainings since.
Q: What lies ahead now?
Denis: During my summer holidays this year, I’m off with the Regiment to Normandie to highlight the 75th anniversary of the D-Day. This year is also the 150th anniversary of the Régiment de la Chaudière. In my capacity as Master Warrant Officer, I might, just might, get to meet the Queen…
Q: Our readers who are fans of The Crown are gonna swoon!
Denis: I’m holding my horses though. It’s just a possibility and also, I have to get permission from another queen, my wife. She has been a great support too. Juggling the job, reservist duties and family life is quite a rodeo, I wouldn’t have made it without her.
Q: Sweet, thanks Denis! Olivier, my last question is for you. How do you juggle such requests as a manager?
Olivier: To me as a manager, being flexible is key. If an employee approaches me with a request, this means that it’s important to that person. I trust my team, they are professionals. Happiness dwells in feeling accomplished in several spheres of life, so helping my team members to achieve the things that makes them happy, also makes them better professionals. You get it back. We find solutions as a group, and this flexibility helps to build a positive attitude, team spirit and a strong sense of belonging. The fact that my team can count on me, I know I can count on them whenever there’s a rush or a tight deadline. As a team, we go the extra mile. It’s win-win for all.