Born in Bangalore, India, Sharmila Seth describes her childhood as very happy. “I was very fortunate to have amazing godparents to help take care of my two younger siblings and I. So, I had two sets of parents! I was very lucky to travel the world with my godparents. When the time came for me to pursue my college education, I knew that I wanted to study in the United States.”
At 19, she traveled to New York to pursue a business degree. While studying, she met her future husband Vivek, who was working on Wall Street. After graduating, she worked four years, deciding to pursue a master’s degree from the London School of Economics. Then came marriage and working in the consulting industry for a few years.
“When I got pregnant with our first child, my son Curran, in 2000, my husband got recruited to work for Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg, and we moved to Tampa as a family in January 2002. A year later, I gave birth to our daughter Annika. When the kids were in school full time, I began to think about going back to work. In considering many different ideas, my husband and I decided that building a nonprofit organization that would include getting family, friends and colleagues motivated to give back to worthy organizations in the USA and India would be a great way for me to use my talent and work experience.
What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?
Love, hard work and super strong values. Though my husband and I met in New York, we are from the same city in India (as fate would have it) and have traveled extensively, and consequently, view ourselves as citizens of the world. Similar beliefs and somewhat similar backgrounds make it easier for us to instill our common values in our kids.
What is your biggest fear?
Probably death. I’m learning to overcome it and embrace life to its fullest and appreciate how lucky I am.
What advice would you give to other women?
Be comfortable in your own skin. Don’t make judgments based on what you hear. Judge for yourself. One of my favorite everyday quotes is, “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” It helps me make unbiased decisions. I also believe that strength comes from within yourself. So stay true to yourself. Don’t let other people’s words minimize your efforts. Lead with your heart not your head.
What is your proudest moment?
The success of my public charity, Children Across Borders. To be able to make a difference in children’s lives across the globe and have peoples’ trust in my work is super cool! My husband and I started Children Across Borders in 2009 to benefit underprivileged children around the world, starting in the community we live in (Tampa) and the community of our birth (Bangalore, India). CAB’s mission is to provide financial and nonfinancial support to children-focused, nonprofit, grassroots organizations, primarily in the areas of education, health, housing and wellness. CAB’s beneficiary organizations are chosen with great care while being held to the highest standards of accountability, ensuring that 100% of monies donated are used solely to benefit these children.
What is your biggest achievement?
My children. My son Curran, 13, and my daughter Annika, 11. I am very proud of them.
What makes you happy?
Traveling around the world with my family and watching my kids grow and be influenced by those unique experiences makes me very happy. This past summer we traveled to Kenya and South Africa, and it was an incredible trip! Having my children witness the harmonious relationship between human and animal life, living side by side with respect for each other was surreal and breathtakingly beautiful!
How do you relax and take time for yourself?
Momentary escapes – meditation, playing tennis, reading, cooking, and watching good movies! Occasional girl’s trips and weekend trips with my husband, thrown in for good measure, help as well!
What kind of message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?
Stay true to yourself. Don’t get caught up in societal pressures. Give back to your community in whatever way you can that is fulfilling to you – whether it’s a child, an elderly person, an animal or fighting a disease — but make a difference. You have one life to live. Live it right.
What else would you like to share with our readers? About being a mom, about your work?
I am very fortunate that my work is something I can share with my kids and be a role model for them. Entitlement isn’t something our generation grew up with so finding the right balance in the present day world is a lot harder. However, communicating, sharing the right experiences and teaching strong values are very important. My work allows my kids to experience giving back and sharing – and I am very lucky for it.
How do you enjoy or draw information from the magazine?
It is one of the best magazines out there for families as it has a ton of information! For someone like me who is constantly on the run, I love reading the event happenings around the bay so I can keep up with family activities, especially when I have my 3-year-old niece or friends with kids visiting from out of town.
What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in the Tampa Bay area?
Go to the beach, where we play soccer, Frisbee, paddleboard, fish, swim and, sometimes, surf and kayak.
Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?
Bill and Melinda Gates are probably my biggest role models. I am always inspired by people who make a difference in the world (in their lifetime) no matter what their status or wealth. I think you’ve reached greatness when you can utilize your success and wealth by giving back to the community and the world, making it a better place for future generations to live.