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.