The Working Woman
Residence: Buckinghamshire, England
Nunnery: Kachoe Ghakyil Ling, Kopan, Nepal
Role: Employer, Manager
Occupation: Client delivery manager, at a multi-national IT corporation
Buddhist history: followed Zen (1960s), then Tibetan lineages with Geshe Yeshe Tobden, Geshe Rabten, Lama Yeshe, Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Lhundrup
Main Buddhist lesson: Tong Len (breathing in suffering of others, breathing out loving kindness)
Like many Western sangha (community of nuns and monks), there is no financial support mechanism in place. If we wish to stay in our own country to teach and promote Buddhism, we have to work to support ourselves. My years of retreat and study have given me a firm foundation.
The majority of my colleagues are driven by money. The proverbial “house, car, holidays, hobbies” formulate much of their desire and wishes. I am not interested in such things, and do not hold any value to them – other than what they can achieve when helping others.
I treat (my staff) as if they are a part of my family. I try to (look) at their point of view first. I use phrases such as: “Please help me to understand this problem, as I am having a problem with .” My staff and colleagues know they can approach me, and I do not use or pass on their information. This allows them to be relaxed in the workplace, when they are also facing problems on the home front. I do not mean that I am a soft touch and easily hoodwinked. I can be very firm when required. I have done my fair share of hiring and firing. The bottom line is that the client services have to be maintained, otherwise we do not get paid and keep our jobs.
Frequently in corporate life – the wishes of the CEO and senior management is not what is best for their staff, and it is a minefield of personal agendas driven from the top down. I approach everything without any personal agenda, other than wanting to resolve the issue. It really is a question of empathizing with everyone, and remembering that everyone is entitled to respect and wishes to be happy.
I remember the first challenge I faced with the company. My project manager had put a German in charge of a Spanish operation, with an English team. After (the German) telling the English team that they were second rate, and the Spaniards that their system was way behind the Germans, I had to fly out to avoid World War Three. I had two days to bring it back on track. It required my talking calmly to all parties, as well as keeping our (company’s) and the client’s objectives in mind.
Balancing it all can be a tricky business. I manage by keeping everything strictly in its box. Usually, I do not work late, and I do not take work home – mentally or physically. When I am taking on a new client, I often work into the night, until all (my thoughts are) on paper and can be categorized. I find it imperative that I get it all out of my brain, so that I do not use precious meditation time trying to remember a vital point for a client.
As a nun, I will not work on military or brewery accounts – under the principle of right livelihood. I do not sit at the bar with the men clients overseas, talking about the business until the small hours. I also do not go to some of the social places with them. This can sometimes cause a problem. I usually say that I do not do my job well if I have a late night. This is definitely easier as a female, as men are expected to be a part of the gang, and so much business is still done through this route.
If I am using one of our local offices, and not expecting to meet clients, I wear my lower robe and usually a yellow T-shirt and a maroon jacket. I do not wear robes when meeting clients. For client meetings, I wear formal business clothes. At this point, I am representing the company – not my nunnery.
Because I am open about what I am, I now have some (Dharma) students that were initially my staff and colleagues. I often lead meditation (sessions) in the workplace.
This article can be read in its entirety in Mandala