Helpful advice for early career actuaries

by Deepti Tammareddi, FCAS

Actuaries in their early careers aim to navigate and balance career, exams, friendships, family and sleep. Many of us take exams in order to learn and ultimately propel our career forward, believing exam success is a key determinant for career success. But outside of exams and technical know-how, have you wondered what could help move your career forward? Read on as amazing actuaries tell the advice they have received — or would give — and the positive impact this advice has had on their successful careers.

Ethan Triplett, FCAS, AVP and Actuary for QBE

“The best career advice I received was that it’s better to take on a new challenge ‘a little before you’re ready.’ Your development follows a pattern — it is low in the beginning and end and high in the middle. Early on, you’re so confused that nothing makes sense. But then you make some connections and before long you are improving rapidly. Then learning falls off — you’re perfecting things you already know. My mentor told me that a lot of actuaries reach this phase and are reluctant to move on because they are ‘still learning.’ In the literal sense, that is true. His advice was to take on the new challenge once the returns start to diminish. It’s easy to enjoy the comfort of doing the same project for the fourth time, but you’ll be a stronger actuary if you consistently seek out the discomfort of a new role.”

Frank Chang, FCAS, VP, Applied Science for Uber

Frank, CAS’s recently elected president-elect, shared some treasures of advice he has received:

  • “We turn numbers into stories and stories into numbers.” The “we” are actuaries, who are uniquely suited to build narratives to explain their work.
  • “Prioritize development, not numbers.” To translate: Take on roles that allow you to learn and develop, as opposed to taking a role purely for monetary purposes.

He also shared some of his own advice:

  • Surround yourself with good, smart people.
  • Stay organized, stay curious, stay fit.
    • Be disciplined and have good habits, such as clearing your calendar. This will reduce messes and will allow you to stay on top of things.
    • Be willing to experiment and always be learning because there’s always something you don’t know.
    • Your body functions better if you exercise regularly. If you need to multitask, then read on the stationary bike or treadmill, do 1:1s while walking. Take healthy breaks instead of spending breaks on social media.

Nick Getter, FCAS, Group Chief Actuary for Enstar Group

The path to credentials is demanding, rigorous and sometimes quite long. After reaching that huge milestone, actuaries are ensured to be very strong mathematicians who are well-versed in actuarial science and have been exposed to areas and history of the P&C industry well beyond their tenure. At that point it’s often the nonactuarial parts of the job that can most distinguish actuaries from their peers. Learn about the roles from other professionals around you and how our actuarial work fits in and supports them.

Susan Gildea, FCAS, Chief Actuary for BHSI

“If I were to choose one piece of advice that resonated with me the most as an early in career actuary, it would be ‘if you speak with confidence, people will believe what you are saying.’ Taken at face value, one could think this means you can tell non-truths, but that is not the point at all. You need to have confidence in your abilities and findings to share with others. Whether you are working in a large organization with many credentialed actuaries or in a small shop, sometimes it can be intimidating to speak up, particularly if what you are about to say isn’t the norm. If you have validated your work, and hopefully had a peer review, you should be confident enough to share your thoughts with others. These days my advice to the aspiring actuaries is, speak with confidence, but be open to other thoughts that come from within and outside of the actuarial team. Learning from others will help actuaries to become better business partners for the organizations we support.

“Ultimately, the advice shared seems to fall into two broad categories: (1) Be curious and open to learning from new roles, business partners and teammates; and (2) Learn how to have a compelling narrative when presenting and speak with confidence — communication is key.”

“I hope you found this advice useful and that you’re able to implement small changes in your day-to-day routines as a result. Onward and upward!”