A bronze sculpture of the dying Buddha as he passes away into paranirvana inside the Mahaparinirvana Temple, Kusinara, India, 1993
How His Holiness The Great 14th Dalai Lama's Government-in-Exile Helped Trade and Developed Business Between Microsoft and India in the 1990s- Leading to a Global Software Employment Revolution
As part of my self-initiated work at Microsoft I did a couple of things to help India and Indian nationals in the early 1990's after a pilgrimage to Northern India in the entourage of the senior Tibetan Lama in the United States, HH Dagchen Sakya.
At Kushinagar, India, in the Mahaparinirvana Temple, a memorial building marking the location where Lord Buddha died (passed into Parinirvana) I spoke with a group of 30 well-educated Indian men who were hanging out in a tour group on the memorial site grounds. These brilliant men from good families wanted to practice their English language skills with me - but soon I discovered as they encircled me excitedly chatting about life - that they almost all had Master's degrees and yet, all lacked jobs! I was very surprised.
In our discussions I told them I was an American businesswoman working in high tech at Microsoft. They told me there was little possibility of work in India even for those with advanced degrees. Their Indian cultural bias meant that they asked me things like -
"How old are you?"
"Are you married?"
"How many children do you have?"
even after I said I worked in high tech. They didn't even know what "high tech" meant - none of them had heard of "Microsoft" they told me.
"These questions," I said - "are these really the things you want to know about me? I mean are they actually important to you? Because", I said, "as long as these are the questions you are asking a business woman, then your culture will not support business women - grow beyond these things!" I exhorted them. They agreed. In return I said I would try and get Microsoft to grow it's business in India and then to hire them or work with their companies.
After that trip I received a letter from a member of the Tibetan royal Sakya clan requesting that Microsoft donate software to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Government-in-Exile in India which they would use to communicate about the Red Chinese governments' violent invasion and overthrow of Tibet.
So, per my agreement with the Indian men at Kushinagar - first - I advised Microsoft to donate software to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Government-in-Exile as requested. I also suggested to Microsoft's VP of International that any government that wanted the software be provided it for free or a reduced cost to grow market share (Microsoft did this much later).
Microsoft shipped the software - but the software was not delivered due to lack of co-operation between the countries of the US and India (the shipment of 18 sets of Windows, Word, Excel, etc., sat on the dock in India for months due to heavy tariffs). I took steps to resolve these issues in 1991-92.
Secondly I recommended Microsoft's Vice President of International to establish internal trade policies internationally and advise the US government on changing the laws. I tapped my friend and co-worker at Microsoft, John Scarborough to help advise me and the VP via email. John had been a monk in the Hindu tradition for 18 years prior to working at Microsoft. Essentially I advised Microsoft to start trading goods with India and hiring Indian nationals - Rajiv Nair was the first full time Microsoft employee - and from there Microsoft hiring grew.
Bet you didn't know that HH the Dalai Lama had something to do with Microsoft working with India!!! India has certainly helped His Holiness - and it seems no small thing and no accident that it worked the other way as well.
Working in high tech for 26 + years - I am one of the very few women working that long in the field. I have always promoted equality, egalitarianism when managing development teams - and calling out prejudice to reinforce fair, EQUAL behavior in my staff and those around us. Education appears to be a determining factor for success.
-Linda M. Lane
Principal – Experience Design
Global Diversity Council USA
Seattle, Washington, USA