To all women on professional career paths – such as the legal field – with heavy workloads and long hours, Cheryl D’Sa has a simple advice: “Allow yourself to change your mind.”
D’Sa, managing partner at Narwal Litigation LLP and president of the Vancouver Bar Association, is very active as a mentor to law students and female attorneys who are constantly facing questions of balancing life and work – particularly in cases where starting a family becomes part of the consideration.
D’Sa, who often speaks to female professionals about her experiences as a working mom in the high-pressure setting of civil litigation, said the key is for women to not put too much pressure on themselves to conform to norms and expectations – particularly their own expectations.
“Sometimes, I find a lot of the stress can be just that your previous goals and current goals are different,” D’Sa said. “So allow yourself to change as you experience new things.”
In many ways, D’Sa’s dedication to mentoring other women in the professional field comes from her own experiences. She recalled her love of children initially driving her desire to become a pediatrician, but then falling in love with law and pursuing the path to her current success.
But her decision to follow law didn’t mean she forgot about her desire to have a family – even before she got married in 2012. “For me, in terms of trying to do things with women coming into law was that, it was more when I started to think about, ‘Well, down the road, I think I want to have kids. But I really like law. How is that going to work?’ I myself was facing those questions … and I didn’t know where I would go with these questions.”
D’Sa added she has been lucky to have many supportive people in her life, including her husband and the entire team at Narwal, as well as opposing attorneys, judges and court officials. That support has spurred her to take active roles with groups such as the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, Canadian Bar Association BC and the Business of Law Committee, at the same time balancing the care for a young son.
Where you live now: Vancouver
Highest level of education: UBC Law LLB/JD, 2007
Currently reading: PAW Patrol! It’s every PAW Patrol book; I’m reading with my son
Currently listening to: I love everything from the ’90s. I’m a massive Backstreet Boys fan
When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: Pediatrician, but I didn’t like Chemistry 11
Profession you would most like to try: Nothing really. I’m probably pretty lucky that way
Toughest business or professional decision: Trying to juggle family and work. Every day, there are elements of challenges – but there are also huge elements of reward. So it’s also the best thing
Advice you would give the younger you: Just keep going
What’s left to do: A lot of people ask me that, but I’m not entirely sure. And the reason is my son is now transitioning into full-time school, and I want to be available for that. Once he’s fully transitioned into school, then I feel like I can think about further goals
Join us to celebrate the 2019 Forty under 40 Awards on January 30, 2020, at the Westin Bayshore. For tickets and event information visit https://www.biv.com/forty-under-40