An Empowered Woman

March 25, 2020 Avani Desai

An Empowered Woman

In honor of Women's History Month, Schellman & Co celebrates the accomplishments of strong, determined women! We turn the spotlight to Schellman President Avani Desai, who reflects on her professional achievements, as well as her most important role -- being a mother.

by Avani Desai

As a child, I never could have pinpointed that I would end up as President of Schellman & Company, but there was another dream I had back then that I did also fulfill. Professionally, I have achieved a lot, but I also hold another very important role as the mother to my son, Sahil (age eight), and my daughter, Sareena (age five). 

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a mom. 

With my dolls, I always mothered them, even going so far as to build them their own individual homes with Legos and blocks. As I grew up, my dreams shifted and branched out, and I then imagined that I wanted to be an engineer, thanks to my dad’s own stories of building bridges and the construction of tunnels as a civil engineer himself. And so, I went off to the University of Florida, graduating from the college of engineering with a Computer Science degree. While I didn’t get to build bridges or tunnels, I instead got to build applications and platforms—my own niche, rather than my father’s. Upon graduation, I had the great opportunity of working for a Big 4 accounting firm. As my career progressed, I moved up, traveled the world, and worked hard, loving every minute. 

As I climbed the corporate ladder, I was also was blessed with motherhood, finally realizing that childhood dream along with my professional goals. However, it wasn’t easy, and I had anticipated that—but then, nothing worth it is ever easy. But as my family adjusted, the first year after Sahil was born, I only saw him 50 total days. I knew that wasn’t fair to my son or myself—I’d always wanted to be a mom myself, not employ someone else to raise my son for me. As that had become my reality, I came to a crossroad—I knew I was passionate about my work, wanting to leave a lasting impact somewhere, but now I had to weigh the cost of balancing motherhood the way I truly wanted.

The decision was the most difficult of my life, but I did leave that firm. There were days I felt I’d made a mistake, but inwardly, I knew there had to be a way that I could have both of my dreams, and I clung to that faith, unwavering—something that would pay off immensely shortly thereafter. It was only a few weeks later that Chris Schellman called me to talk about his vision for his company, and what my role would be to help him—finally, I thought to myself, I could have it all. I accept that job opportunity, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Being a working mom isn’t easy—the famous saying that “you need a village to raise children” is true. Though my new job comes with a lot of responsibility that still requires me to be away sometimes, I am lucky to have family to help with overnights when I travel, friends to remind me that Friday is pajama day, a tribe of moms who lend an ear when the days get tough, and a husband who is supportive of my goals. My second year at Schellman, I had my daughter, and again, the adjustment of going from one child to two wasn’t easy. But with the support of my “village,” the firm, and our leadership team, I was—and still am—able to manage. For the first time, I don’t have to choose—thanks to Schellman, I am living both of my dreams, professionally and personally, to the fullest.

About the Author

Avani Desai

Avani Desai is the CEO at Schellman. Avani has more than 15 years of experience in IT attestation, risk management, compliance and privacy. Avani’s primary focus is on emerging healthcare issues and privacy concerns for organizations. Named as one of the 2017 Global Leaders in Consulting by Consulting Magazine she has also been featured and published in the ISSA Journal, ITSP Magazine, ISACA Journal, Information Security Buzz, Healthcare Tech Outlook, and many more. Avani also sits on the board of Catalist, a not-for-profit that empowers women by supporting the creation, development and expansion of collective giving through informed grantmaking. In addition, she is co-chair of 100 Women Strong, a female only venture philanthropic fund to solve problems related to women and children in the community.

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