Got Mindfulness? An Interview with Conscious Workplaces Founder Stephanie Tate

Stephanie Tate at desk moment of mindfulness

We are excited to introduce Stephanie Tate, Founder of Conscious Workplaces and works in Talent Acquisition & People Development at Atlas Informatics. Stephanie is a life-long advocate for mindfulness, specifically in the workplace and is considered a mindfulness expert within the Tech industry. She also volunteers at ChickTech, where she participates whenever time allows. She is dedicated to raising awareness about healthy mindfulness practices, whether you’re an executive of a large tech company or a young woman just starting her career!

ChickTech Stephanie TateYou studied Fine Arts, Psychology and Sociology at Orange Coast College before getting your HR Management certificate. Why did you choose these fields of study? How did they help you on your path to talent development?
ST: I was an artist at heart and had always intended to become an art director as I worked as a scenic artist and then went back to school. Sometimes life has other plans for us. Sociology as a minor was more of a personal interest. As long as I can remember, I’ve been curious about what makes people, communities and different societies similar and different. I also have a Master’s equivalent in Buddhist Studies and teach mindfulness meditation on the side.

I believe these last two things link closely together and set a good foundation for how I approach Talent Acquisition and People Development. I’m consistently fascinated by what motivates people and how to cultivate mindful, productive and compassionate workplaces.

When hiring for an entry-level or internship role at a tech company, what are the things you look for in a young candidate?
ST: Interns are great! I consider all interns to be a potential future full-time employee so we look for not just technical or functional competency, but also if their values align with our culture. As a start-up, we’ve been very fortunate to have some stellar interns.

For young women specifically, do you have any tips for interviewing and getting their first job in tech?
ST: Gosh, how do I answer this without sounding defensive? We all know that tech is typically a “boys club.” That said, the truth is I don’t think about my gender much. I consider that technical or functional competence, sound critical thinking / problem solving and self-confidence are really your allies. Not that I don’t see gender discrimination or have to deal with the fall-out of men saying or doing dumb things. I am in HR after all and people are generally well-intentioned. However, sometimes they speak or act before they think and that’s where they get in trouble.

I really wish that I had started mindfulness meditation as a teenager

How did mindfulness play a role in your life when you were a teenager?
ST: I really wish that I had started mindfulness meditation as a teenager but alas I came to it as a young adult. I have the good fortune to get to work and volunteer to teach mindfulness to teens and I see how it helps them with decision-making, emotional regulation, stress management and overall well-being. If there is one thing that we should supersize in our culture and organizations is mindfulness.

While your company Conscious Workplaces focuses on developing mindfulness in the workplace, do some of your strategies work for high school and college students as well? If so what are a few easy ways for young women to be more mindful in a school setting?
ST: First, I do recommend that they start a mindfulness meditation practice. Like I said, this is something that can be supersized and there are local teachers, YouTube videos, podcasts, or even myself as resources. We live in a very distracted culture and mindfulness simply means bringing full awareness and attention to the present time with some absorption into the task at hand. What do I mean by that? It means to be present with what is now. Avoiding mentally wandering off, entertaining stories of the past, worrying about the future, judging the present time with your preferences are all ways that detract from the present moment.

Example: As you’ve been reading this article maybe you started worrying about a test, social interaction or maybe you’ve been busy rehashing an interaction you had in the past instead of being fully present in what’s happening now? That’s where mindfulness practices can come in handy!

What’s one thing you do to relax and take a break from work?
ST: Do I have to pick one? If it’s during the work day I try to build in opportunities to take a short walk. If it’s a particularly stressful day I might book a conference room and go do a short meditation to induce better emotional regulation and reduce stress. I consider it a reset button for my mind.

Maybe it’s my rebellious nature but I’ve always been inspired by strong people who stand-up to injustice.

Can you speak to the female role models that have inspired you? How important are they to your success?
ST: Maybe it’s my rebellious nature but I’ve always been inspired by strong people who stand-up to injustice or inequality whether they are female or male. The list is long but I’ve been particularly inspired by the women from the Suffragette movement that gave us the right to vote. And my current heroine is Malala Yousafzai. You go girl!

If there is one piece of advice you could give your 16-year-old self, what would it be?
ST: Be gentler and kinder to yourself. You are worthy of that care and attention. That’s something I really didn’t have a grasp of at 16. I was already on my own and had terrible self-esteem, self-worth. It took many years into adulthood before I even had a glimpse into my own capabilities and started to develop a healthy self-esteem.

At Metiza, we are challenging everybody to do one act of kindness a day, 365 days a year. What would you say was your act of kindness today?
ST: This is one of my favorite things ever! I often encourage this same exercise amongst my meditation students. Instead of telling you what I did today I’d prefer to offer a mindset and open-heartedness about kindness and generosity.

Yes, we love that idea! Please share!
ST: For an act, gesture or word to be truly altruistic it should be done with a mind and heart that are open hearted and open handed. That means it’s done without the expectation of receiving anything in return, including a “thank you.” To me that is the highest form of kindness and generosity because it checks the ego at the door. Here are some ideas that I think are wonderful:

  1. Providing food, hygiene packs or other items to the homeless. I’ve seen groups of people do this annually and they’ve touched thousands of lives.
  2. Saying “hi” to everyone you pass on the street or in an elevator. Warning: this may make some uncomfortable.
  3. Paying for someone’s coffee or meal.
  4. Volunteering to any organization or cause that you feel passionate about.

Interview sponsored by ChickTech.