Each month, we will feature a member of the Academy and share a glimpse into their professional and personal lives.
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME AN ACTUARY?
I had heard about the actuarial profession several times throughout high school and college, but did not think seriously about pursuing it until I was working on my master’s degree. A few of my teaching assistant colleagues and I challenged each other to take the first exam. We all passed and thought that it must be pretty easy to become an actuary. Reality set in when I took exams that had not been covered in my college courses! The combination of using math skills and solving business problems was very attractive to me. The ability to design products that helped consumers manage the financial risks of dying too soon or living too long was also intriguing. Finally, I was very interested in the challenge of making long-term decisions based on historical data and expected future results.
DESCRIBE ONE OF THE PROFESSIONALISM CHALLENGES YOU FACED EARLY IN YOUR CAREER. HOW DID YOU HANDLE IT?
I was fortunate to work for a company that did not ask me to walk too close to the ethical/professionalism line. I found that in leading other actuaries, I had to be careful about how I asked for a better answer than the one they had provided, in case they would not be able to say the same in the future! I tried to keep an open environment where actuaries could debate the issues at hand and not be afraid to challenge authority. And I was always cognizant of whose signature was going on the document.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU WISH YOU WERE GIVEN AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER?
Cultivate relationships with your non-actuarial colleagues, recognize the perspective they bring to the table and give them the same respect that you give to actuaries. It took me too long to figure that out on my own.
WHAT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST LESSONS YOU'VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER? AND WHY?
Figure out what is important to you and to your employer and then keep your eyes on those big things. It is very easy for actuaries to get bogged down in issues that don’t have a large impact on the final results. But, on the issues that do really matter, be tenacious, be prepared, and communicate effectively.
SHARE A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR HOBBIES OR OTHER PERSONAL INTERESTS?
I try to stay focused on the big things in my personal life as well and I am committed to helping those people around the world who are in need of things that most of us take for granted—clean water, adequate nutrition, and a safe living environment. I like to travel and am looking forward to pursuing some bucket list items in a post-pandemic world. I like gardening and have had lots of time to be outside on our property during the past year. When weather permits, I enjoy riding my motorcycle, a Harley Softail. I must say I am a bit of a fair-weather rider, but that is probably just the risk aversion coming out in me.
"In 25 years, I can honestly say my job has never been boring. It has been complicated, intimidating, even frustrating, but I continue to learn and to find satisfaction in the topics that I continue to learn about."
"Get your credentials, learn to work with others, jump into new things, and challenge yourself. You will never grow without doing these things."
"Cultivate relationships with your non-actuarial colleagues, recognize the perspective they bring to the table and give them the same respect that you give to actuaries."