WHAT LED YOU TO BECOME AN ACTUARY? AND WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE PROFESSION?
As an undergraduate at Kalamazoo College, I was a math major looking for a career. After some research, I finally found the actuarial profession, but that was in my senior year, too late to make meaningful progress on actuarial exams before graduation. I enrolled in the Master’s degree program in Statistics and Actuarial science at the University of Iowa, which turned out to be just what I needed. It worked out great, leading to exam progress, an internship, graduate teaching experience, and ultimately a full-time position at a life insurance company.
DESCRIBE A PROFESSIONALISM-RELATED CHALLENGE THAT YOU HAVE FACED IN YOUR CAREER. HOW DID YOU HANDLE IT?
I have the opportunity to serve on multiple discipline panels over the years, representing two different actuarial organizations. I have found those experiences to be both challenging and rewarding, from the perspective of the level of responsibility I feel, not only to the individuals and organizations directly involved, but to my respective actuarial colleagues and peers and to the profession overall.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU WISH YOU WERE GIVEN WHEN YOU WERE AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER?
In the early years of an actuarial career, one is typically focused on the exam syllabus and the day-to-day work responsibilities of a junior actuarial role, all of which are important for early career success as an actuary. In retrospect, however, I was probably further into my career than I should have been by the time I really understood the broader business operations of a life insurance company, including understanding the differences in distribution channels, and interacting more with producers, underwriters, reinsurers, etc. It’s only after we understand the broader perspective that we can bring transformational impacts to help the sector, and that has been the most rewarding. As the other consultants know, our daily job is to influence important decisions to help our clients. I often work at the intersection of strategy, product, and new business operations, including underwriting, for our large life insurance clients. At times I am the only person on a given team who is a credentialed actuary, yet I feel my actuarial experience comes through in almost everything that my cross-functional teams deliver, because the actuarial aspects are so fundamentally critical to the strategy and design of products and new business operations for life insurance companies. I touched on this earlier, but it is to understand the big picture; to think holistically, beyond the actuarial details. As they say, long ago someone was asked to find a faster horse to pull the buggy, but instead invented the automobile.
TELL US ABOUT A TIME WHERE YOUR ACTUARIAL EXPERTISE INFLUENCED AN IMPORTANT DECISION IN YOUR WORKPLACE.
A broad understanding of core business operations of the life insurance ecosystem of producers, underwriters, direct writers, and reinsurers takes time, and is a never-ending maze of opportunity for improvement in many aspects, especially with today’s modern technologies, data sets, and related tools. I enjoy that pursuit.
WHAT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST LESSONS YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER?
Find your professional passion. Whether that is working in larger teams or working mostly by yourself, working on consulting vs. industry, or any of the countless other dimensions of our professional experiences.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE ANYTHING ELSE WITH ASPIRING OR NEW ACTUARIES, OR THOSE INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING FOR THE ACADEMY?
Figure out which roles and experiences bring you energy, passion, and an appetite for more, versus what takes your energy away, leaving you feeling drained or not looking forward to more. I believe these are mostly just personal preferences, but you have to figure out what those are for you, which happens over time, with experiences in in a variety of roles and environments, often with a variety of employers. The more you can understand those for yourself, and identify roles and experiences that bring you energy and passion, the more your “work days” will begin to feel less like “work.” I think about this when I meet people that don’t like their job or even their career, and I feel very lucky to have found a career and I job that I love.
SHARE A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR HOBBIES OR OTHER PERSONAL INTERESTS?
Outside of work, I have always enjoyed sports and exercise. I played football through college and have been an avid downhill skier for my whole life. I also enjoy running outside during the summer. I watch all sports, but my favorites are college football and basketball. Finally, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, and at our lake house in Michigan.