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MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Each month, we will feature a member of the Academy and share a glimpse into their professional and personal lives.

KIRSTEN PEDERSEN

Practice Area: Life

WHAT IS YOUR AREA OF FOCUS OR PRACTICE AREA?

One of the things I have always enjoyed about being an actuary was that I can work in a variety of different areas. My favorite focus, and where I have most of my experience, is product development, including underwriting and compliance for life insurance. A few years ago, after seeing all the updates in modeling and data, I took some classes and added data science to the mix.

WHAT LED YOU TO BECOME AN ACTUARY? AND WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE PROFESSION?

During my first few years at college, I thought I wanted to be a biochemical engineer. However, as my studies progressed, I realized that was not the path for me. My father, who worked in marketing for an insurance company, suggested talking to a marketing actuary. I loved the picture that his coworker painted around being an actuary. It combined business acumen with my favorite subject, math. I was hooked!

DESCRIBE A PROFESSIONALISM-RELATED CHALLENGE THAT YOU HAVE FACED IN YOUR CAREER. HOW DID YOU HANDLE IT?

As technology and products changed, discussions would often emerge about how to proceed with illustration compliance testing, setting pricing assumptions, and modeling. There was also a time where we needed to define who should be responsible for signing off on something since it was for a new type of product. I have found that referring to the ASOPs [actuarial standards of practice] and life practice notes are great resources for helping make these decisions.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU WISH YOU WERE GIVEN WHEN YOU WERE AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER? 

I was fortunate that I had a few wonderful mentors at the beginning of my career. They gave me advice on being an actuary but also helped me to understand the business and marketplace. One of my first mentors said I should always look at the whole picture, including what the market and competitors are doing when making decisions. That advice has stayed with me throughout my career. While I was given excellent advice, I wish I had understood all the resources available to actuaries (like those at the Academy) when I had just started working.

WHAT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST LESSONS YOU'VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER?

Communication is key! Communication should be clear and consistent. Using the right language helps others understand and hear what we say. If people understand what we say, we can all do a better job and better decisions are made. Early on I learned that my team could not operate in a bubble. I discovered that it was important to let others know what we were doing and see if there were any implications for other areas. This also means looking at the big picture (another great lesson).

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WHAT DO YOU VALUE MOST ABOUT YOUR ACADEMY MEMBERSHIP?

 

One thing that I value a lot is learning, because there is access to so much to help learn new things and keep up to date—research papers, publications, seminars, webinars, committees; the list goes on and on. This has also been very helpful while working on emerging topics.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE ANYTHING ELSE WITH ASPIRING OR NEW ACTUARIES, OR THOSE INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING FOR THE ACADEMY? 

It's important to keep learning and trying new things. I recommend being open to new roles and challenges, even ones outside of the usual actuarial path. Actuarial knowledge and experience can be an important asset in many different areas (or industries). Volunteering with the Academy has helped me meet others with similar interests, learn about emerging issues with my focus areas (life underwriting, data science, and compliance), along with having the opportunity to give back to the actuarial profession. As a new or experienced actuary, you can expand your network, learn new things, help the industry and other actuaries. A hidden benefit is that I have also found that I get more out of volunteering than I put into it.

SHARE A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR HOBBIES OR OTHER PERSONAL INTERESTS? 

I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. My daughter is starting college this fall, so spending time with her is a priority. I also enjoy biking, hiking, kayaking, movies, traveling, fishing, and eating out. It's fun to try new things too, like playing the ukulele and painting. I also believe in giving back to my local community and am co-chair of a charity I helped found.

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