The demands of
a legal career for Rinchen means proving that she is as
good as her male colleagues if not better. Sarahana, freelancing
as a graphic designer, adapts to the fast pace of deadlines
and works on several projects in a day. Tenzin’s international
career creates possibilities to learn about different cultures
and share a little of her own while working with people
from all over the world. Tsering braces herself to face
the challenges of new motherhood and meet the demands of
her role as technical designer in the fashion district.
On most working days another Tsering, a doctor, barely has
enough time to grab a quick bite for lunch, frequently sacrificing
that privilege between appointments with patients.
Indeed these stories have a familiar tune. They are stories
of women of the new century establishing themselves professionally,
often in gender biased environments. Interwoven with this
immediate understanding is the fact that all these women
are members of our Himalayan community. They face the obstacles
of pursuing their respective careers as immigrants in a
foreign land. (Not very surprisingly, it is not uncommon
to discover that many young professionals of our community
belong to the first generation of immigrants here.) They
are driven to create their own identity.
In sharing their stories, our women reveal that aspirations
are achievable and that dreams can be made into reality.
They make us proud as they walk the walk and talk the talk.
Since last June, Richen Sherpa has been working as principal
law practitioner specializing in U.S. immigration and international
law at the International Law Associates, LLC. Sarahana Shrestha
has been balancing school, free lance graphic design assignments
and several internships. Her recent stint is a new media
intern at Universal Records in Manhattan. For the past four-and-a-half
years Tenzin D. Dharlo has been in the field of administration
at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Tsering
Y. Sherpa is currently completing her fellowship in infectious
diseases at NYU Medical Center. Tsering D. Lama is a technical
designer at Perry Ellis, a competitive fashion design company
On getting started
Rinchen: I completed my B.A. degree from Lady
Shri Ram College, Delhi, and my LL.B from the Faculty of Law,
Delhi University, and finally my Masters in Law (LL.M.) degree
in International Transactions and Comparative Law from the University
of San Francisco School of Law, in San Francisco, California.
Sarahana: I started off on print but soon
moved to audio visuals, which includes web designing and computer
Tenzin: I was fresh out of college when I
first joined the UN in 1999. While in college, I sent out resumes
like you would not believe. I really worked overtime in doing
that, I would sit for hours searching different sites on the
internet and mailing resumes to different companies and non-profit
organizations. In hindsight, I might have gone overboard with
Tsering Y: Don’t clearly remember how
it all happened. I do though remember saying that I wanted to
become a doctor when I was a young girl but initially, I think,
it was my parents who instilled the idea into me. I guess one
thing led to the other and here I am. I’ve had to journey
through five years of medical school in Lady Harding Medical
College, Delhi, followed by three years of residency in Internal
Medicine at Harlem Hospital, Columbia University and now completing
my Fellowship in Infectious Diseases at NYU Medical Center.
Tsering D: I’ve always been interested
in fashion, though the concept of it was limited since I was
not aware of the multiple options that lie within this profession.
I’m sure a lot of people still probably hold similar knowledge.
When I look back, I admit that opening a boutique at some point
was as far as my imagination stretched. I suppose much of this
outlook changed after I came to the United States. While I was
in school — the Fashion Institute of Technology —
I realized that there were varying options which further helped
me narrow my career options and specialize in a particular skill.
On overcoming barriers in the community
is a challenging job for a woman to prove that she is
as good as her male colleagues — if not better."
Rinchen: In India there is a lot of gender
bias at the workplace, especially since the legal profession
is totally male dominated. In the United States, the environment
is more conducive for the professional growth of women lawyers.
It is a challenging job for a woman to prove that she is as
good as her male colleagues — if not better.
Sarahana: Convincing people back home, Nepal,
of its importance has been quite a task since graphic design
does not play a big role there.
Tenzin: I was lucky in a way that I did not
come across any barriers. My parents as well as my sisters have
always been there for me when ever I needed them. My parents
have provided me with the education I needed in life to succeed.
I cannot stop emphasizing the importance of education and family
support. I feel that having an education exceeds experience,
with the understanding that experience is as well an important
component of life.
Tsering D: I’ve constantly faced criticism
that fashion was simply training to be a darji. I suppose
there was no novelty in cutting and sewing of clothes. I did
not let such opinions deter my spirit or discourage me to pursue
what I was interested in. I am glad that things eventually worked
out. Even to this day it is relatively difficult to convince
people back home that fashion is a respectable profession. The
only way out for me is to tell them that I am working in a reputable
and big company. That does the trick!
Tsering Y: First of all trying to make it
through medical school was a challenge. While in college in
India we were called the chinkies, a negative connotation
since our teachers and doctors thought us to be dumb and not
serious. We had to work extra hard to convince them otherwise.
I finally made it through the five gruesome years.
On motivation and support
Rinchen: My mother, and the valuable lessons
that she has taught me over the years. She has shown me that
I don’t have to be superwoman to be a wife, mother, friend,
sister, and have a great career at the same time…..that
a good education is the best gift parents can give their children….
that I ought to stand up for everything I believe in, and most
important, that my being a woman should never be used as an
excuse to cover up my failures and weaknesses.
Sarahana: My motivation is design itself and
I have been fortunate to have a supportive family.
motivation, inspiration, and strength come from my family.
My family is my comfort zone, we talk about everything;
we have discussions on life, on current issues and of
course the plight of our country. I must say that we really
are an open family."
Tenzin: My motivation, inspiration, and strength
come from my family. My family is my comfort zone, we talk about
everything; we have discussions on life, on current issues and
of course the plight of our country. I must say that we really
are an open family. I think parents should know what their children
are doing and sort of monitor them. Another person who affects
me on a daily basis is my husband. I have been married for only
a short time, however I have known my husband from my college
years and he inspires me a great deal. For a young person, he
really sets his goal and does his work with utmost humility.
My husband and my family are my strengths; they motivate and
Tsering D: My father was always very encouraging.
He had confidence in me and supported me to do what I was good
at. My mom’s opinion, not very dissimilar to most people
in our community, was wary that I had no future as a darji.
Tsering Y: My family’s constant motivation
and support for what I am doing . And definitely also the satisfaction
of reviving people from their illnesses and their total faith
and hope in me.
On the immigrant status
Rinchen: Law firms in the US usually have
reservations about hiring foreign lawyers, unless they have
completed their J.D. from a well known US law school. The going
is tough because everyone has to start from scratch, but I guess
the road to success was never easy to begin with.
Sarahana: Most positions are freelance; that
complicates matters for non-citizens; I haven’t been able
to take up numerous contract-based projects because I do not
have a work permit yet.
Tenzin: To answer truthfully, being an immigrant
has never hindered my goals or me personally. I would like to
believe that it will never hamper my dreams, hopes and aspiration
for the future. When I first came to the states, my 7th-grade
guidance counselor told me, “This is the country of opportunity
and I should take every opportunity that come to me and go after
my dreams as nobody will come to you and offer them.”
Tsering D: I found myself constricted in my
choices on opting where I worked since my first priority was
to settle for a company that was willing to sponsor my working
status. As a result I had to comprise on many things. Though
after the initial phase and after considerable experience in
this field one has more credibility and is therefore more saleable
in the job market.
Tsering Y: My residency in the US has been
another hurdle. As a foreign medical graduate as were thousand
of other aspiring doctors from all over the world, we had to
take an extra test that the American graduates did not take
and the test was very expensive, so for someone who has just
arrived into the US it was financially draining as well.
On challenges and demands
Rinchen: Multi-tasking, late hours and efficient
time management! I suppose this is the same for all professions
in the United States.
Sarahana: Deadlines compromising designs to
serve function first.
Tenzin: We have to face deadlines and also
different types of bosses and their work habits. One of my main
responsibility is to handle the promotion cases, recruitment
cases within our division, so I really have to work on schedule
otherwise it can jeopardize staff members’ chance of promotion.
Tsering D: First and foremost was to find
a job. Now my work involves ensuring that the designs, created
by designers, comes across as envisioned. The biggest challenge
is conveying this through to the production team since most
of the work goes overseas. Communicating ideas and overcoming
the distance gap can be quite a task.
Tsering Y: Time is one of the biggest demands.
One never knows when one will be done with work because it is
difficult to clearly predict how much of your time each patient
will take. The other challenge is to have to be able to be up
to date with medical literature and medical technology. It is
an ever evolving field so one is constantly studying, reading,
On advantages and limitations of professional growth
Rinchen: I can only think of advantages if
you are a lawyer in the United States! For women it can be difficult,
though not impossible, to balance their professional and personal
life especially if you happen to have a particularly demanding
career. I believe there is no limit to professional growth in
any career as long as you are an efficient and sincere worker,
and willing to make sacrifices to realize your goals in life.
Especially in professional organizations in the US, a good worker
never goes unnoticed.
advantages are the fun of doing something you love.."
Sarahana: The advantages are the fun of doing
something you love. Limitation: Can’t think of one right
Tsering D: Definitely. All experience gathered
along the way only helps you climb further up professionally.
I’ve expanded tremendously since I first started working.
There are several layers to this job and each post can certainly
be achieved with increased time spent in this field. To the
extent that even at the age of forty or more you can still find
a fabulous job.
Tsering Y: Advantages are that it is mentally
satisfying and the disadvantages are that we have to be very
careful and watch out for ourselves because of the medical malpractice
lawsuits and that sometimes hampers patient care.
On options and opportunities
Rinchen: Needless to say, the legal profession
in the US is very lucrative. There are boundless opportunities
in laws such as copyrights, patents, and trademark laws, which
are synonymous with scientific, and technological progress.
There are avenues opening up everyday. Therefore, there is no
actual limit to how much one can learn in this profession.
Sarahana: Employers in graphic design mostly
look for how well ideas are communicated visually; priority
is given to how experienced you are with software, deadlines,
etc.. the more work experience the better; everything boils
down to your portfolio in the end. You have to be able to understand
the artist’s image and be able to project that in your
work. If your work is good, getting a job isn’t hard —
although most jobs are project-based or freelance positions,
which is hard for non-citizens. Full-time positions usually
are for finance companies, etc., which have a more dull sense
of design and aren’t as creative as companies that offer
Tenzin: Since my current field is administration,
it is very general human resources type of work. Nevertheless,
within the organization, they are many possibilities. There
are so many other interesting areas such as human rights, peacekeeping,
disarmament affairs and political affairs.
Tsering D: Like most other professions, the
field of fashion and design is a vast one. In the case of apparels
itself one can opt for fashion designing, merchandising, pattern
making, technical designing, production management. These are
just to list a few. One can also opt for interior or jewelry
designing with possibly similar or more options.
Tsering Y: Well, there are two major fields
that one can choose. Either the clinical or the research path.
The first involves contact and working with patients. For e.g.
examining patients in clinics and hospitals and treating them.
The research setting is basically working on a project that
will affect the practice of medicine. For e.g. working on a
new medication for a disease, or working on a disease that is
not clearly understood, such as the recent SARS outbreak.
On a typical day at work
Rinchen: Work….work….and more
Sarahana: Design, design, design.
Tenzin: After getting freshly brewed coffee
from the cafeteria, it is straight to work which consists of
making phone calls, drafting memorandums, preparing different
forms for recommendation to post. I guess it is interesting
in its own unique way.
Tsering D: As a technical designer I have
to work very closely with fashion designers. A very interdependent
relation, so to speak. Though nothing close to the world of
glamour, an idea that had initially evoked my interest in fashion.
Nonetheless, hectic days of fitting, measurements, specifications
and it goes on till the design is transformed into a ready to
long or difficult the day may be I always walk back home
with a sense of intense satisfaction that I made at least
one person happy or happier."
Tsering Y: Each day is different and as alluded
to earlier I can never predict when my day will be over. In
a day I see many patients, some are patients that I have been
seeing for a while and some are new patients that may have an
infectious disease issue that the primary doctor wants us to
help the with. However long or difficult the day may be I always
walk back home with a sense of intense satisfaction that I made
at least one person happy or happier.
On future plans
Rinchen: Better immigration lawyer, and a
wiser human being.
Sarahana: Founder of my own design company.
Tenzin: Let’s see, five years from now?
I would like to see myself moving up the ladder in the UN.
Tsering D: It depends where I am. If here,
in the US, perhaps as a senior technical designer or (laughing)
even as a technical director. If in Nepal then I’d definitely
want to establish an institute where fashion interests can be
enhanced and expanded.
Tsering Y: An infectious disease consultant
in a hospital and also with a booming private practice. And
probably with two kids and more weight and gray hair.
Advice to our readers
Rinchen: I hope to see more people from the
Himalayan community joining the legal profession in the US in
the coming years. We are always here to guide you!
Sarahana: The more work experience the better.
Tenzin: I would like to stress to the younger
generation of our Himalayan community to strive for success
in whatever field they desire. It is important to go to school
and get an education as well as being true to yourself. I feel
it is imperative that we preserve our unique beautiful culture
yet at the same time learn to appreciate the new culture which
we are living with. Finally, “It is today that we create
the world of the future”. Eleanor Roosevelt.
hold yourself off just because others are not keen. If
you are cut out for it and have the knack you won’t
Tsering D: I’ve heard that a lot of
younger people show interest in this field, though I personally
don’t know anyone as yet. I’d advise to those interested
to give it a shot. Start with a semester at school, see how
it goes. Don’t hold yourself off just because others are
not keen. If you are cut out for it and have the knack you won’t
Tsering Y: Don’t be afraid of the medical
field, because it is not as difficult as it sounds and even
if it is, it’s not impossible...you definitely have to
be ready to work extremely hard and make a lot of sacrifices.
Look If I did it I think anyone else can.