Shivani Garg Patel
Venture Capitalist and Social Entrepreneur

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Be unafraid. In my career, there were moments when I let self-doubt or fear of failure prevent me from stepping up or speaking up. As I learned to shed some of that fear, I became bolder. In those moments, I often surprised myself.

About Shivani

Shivani Garg Patel is one of the rising stars in the social entrepreneurship space. She is a Principal at the Skoll Foundation in California and the co-founder of Samahope, a crowdfunding site for critical medical treatments for the world’s poorest. Formerly at Microsoft and McKinsey, Shivani studied Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at U.C. Berkeley and received an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. 

Her technology-driven social innovation work spans the Grameen Foundation, the World Bank and the World Health Organization. She lives in San Francisco and is the proud mother of two.

Questions

How did you get to where you are today?

After studying engineering and cognitive science in college, I had a career in the private sector as a product manager and strategy consultant. Throughout this time, I had a deep desire to put my skills to work to tackle inequalities in our society. Growing up I would visit our extended family in India. These visits exposed me to the fact that the conditions into which you are born could unfairly dictate your reality - how much food you have or if you can afford to get an education, for example. This seemed utterly unfair, and I wanted to tackle this inequity and create pathways to more opportunity. This desire led me to business school, where I turned my attention to social entrepreneurship and social innovation. After working on projects with organizations like the World Health Organization, Grameen Foundation and in early stage impact investing, I co-founded and led a global health nonprofit that helped doctors and nurses in rural medical clinics treat more patients in need. Through an unexpected M&A process that could propel my nonprofit's growth, I took the opportunity to work at the Skoll Foundation, where I get to now help other entrepreneurs and social innovators scale the impact of their organizations. I help make investments in their work and be a partner to them as they grow. It's so humbling to now be able to support the work of other social entrepreneurs and bring to my role all that I've experienced in my career thus far.

How do you manage to balance work and your personal life (especially as a mom)?

I've found my pursuit of balance to be a continuously moving target. Over time, I've translated that desire into an aim to be more present. As a mom to two young kids, I try to find moments to be present with each of them one-on-one each day. This could be me reading books with my four-year old daughter or playing on the ground with my rolling seven-month old son. I love making them each feel special and cherish the connections we share in those moments. My husband and I also find time to connect throughout our busy work days with quick calls to check in with each other. These calls are reminders that we're thinking of each other and make me smile when we hang up to head to our next meetings. Because the work I do is personally and deeply meaningful for me, my dedication to it keeps me motivated to work hard and show my kids that they can be changemakers in their own right. I definitely don't spend enough time doing so many things I wish I had more time for - exercising, seeing friends as much I'd like, organizing my closet, to name a few. That said, I try to consciously be grateful for what I do have, which helps ground me. 

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As a woman working in the social innovation field, what key learnings would you like to pass on to the next generation of women?

Know your power: You have the power to realize your dreams and be a force for change. Have confidence in your voice and self. As the mom of a bright-eyed little girl (and a little boy!), I'd love her and women of the next generation to know that they can do anything and should live life without self-imposed limits.

Be unafraid: In my career, there were moments when I let self-doubt or fear of failure prevent me from stepping up or speaking up. As I learned to shed some of that fear, I became bolder. In those moments, I often surprised myself. It didn't always turn out perfectly, but I never regretted trying. I aim not to let opportunities pass me by anymore.

Support others: I have been fortunate to have gotten encouragement from friends and family at various points to step into my potential. Mentors and co-workers have given me courage to believe in myself when I may not have otherwise. Following their lead, I try to pay it forward and support others in their journeys. Find your supporters and then become someone else's supporter when you're in a position to do so.

How do you think fashion can make women feel empowered?

I think fashion can be incredibly empowering. Personally, a sharp blazer and a flattering pair of black pants are my go to when I have important meetings or speeches. Feeling put together helps me enter a room with confidence. Fashion is also a vehicle to express one's uniqueness, quirks and all. While much of my closet trends shades of black and grey, I enjoy finding shoes, bags and scarves that have a fun pattern or bold pop of colour. I also look for fashion choices that align with my personal values. It's been great to feel like money I spend on clothes and accessories can also do good in the world. What could be more empowering than knowing that I can express my values across multiple facets of life?  

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What do you love about DeMellier and what is your favourite DeMellier handbag?

 I really appreciate that DeMellier is a woman-led company that gives back with a social impact for each item sold. The nonprofit I co-founded was a global health organization that provided maternal and child health access to patients in rural settings globally, so I love that the brand provides access to critical vaccines. My favorite DeMellier handbag is the Mini Venice in black grain. As an avid traveler, I like having versatility in my handbags that can transition from long days of walking about to a nice dinner out. I love the convenience and safety that comes from traveling with a crossbody bag.

What are your handbag essentials that you cannot live without?

My phone, sunglasses, chap-stick, mints, eyeliner, a pen and notebook for ideas that may spur at any moment. 

Finally, tell us something people don’t know about you!

My guilty pleasures include eating dark chocolate and binge-watching tv shows, especially late at night when the rest of the family is (finally!) asleep. I relish those moments of quiet on my own, even if I'm sacrificing a bit of my own sleep.