WHY DID YOU BECOME AN ACTUARY?
I became an actuary by accident. I had planned to attend law school or graduate school in international relations but due to financial considerations I decided to stop attending school after graduating from university. As I had taken many math classes I completed an applied mathematics degree my senior year. I applied for a job after graduation— “mathematicians wanted”—and it turned out to be for an actuarial student position, which I jokingly referred to as a track for a “poor man’s PhD” because exams were inexpensive and employers paid you to study. Despite having no plan to become an actuary, I am very happy I did so, as it has opened up many interesting career opportunities for me and has let me work in many countries.
DESCRIBE A CHALLENGE YOU HAVE OVERCOME.
I became a political lobbyist after working on many public policy issues following Hurricane Andrew in 1992. In that role I had to learn to distinguish between “correct” answers and “right” ones, plus provide actuarially sound input even if it did not fit a political position. Being a member of the Academy sometimes limited my ability to create facts as some of my political colleagues could, but in the long run the credibility of having professional standards I followed opened many doors. I wrote a Contingencies article on this titled “Sound Bites and Fuzzy Math” in November/December 2001.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST ABOUT BEING AN ACTUARY?
Having a foundation in mathematics, risk, and sound reasoning allows you to understand so many other disciplines. I have been able to use those skills in many different settings during various phases of my career. I have spent most of my time doing “nontraditional” work, which has been very rewarding and interesting. I currently lead a climate risk practice, which is something I would never have thought of when I left university in 1979.
SHARE SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF.
I live in Australia and enjoy outdoor activities like hiking.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU SHARE WITH YOUNG ACTUARIES?
Get prepared for a lifetime of learning and keep updating your skills. The needs of society are evolving at a rapid pace and continuing education is a key to having a successful career.