Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a fully qualified actuary, and have been working within the actuarial space for more than 10 years; first as a regulator with Bank Negara Malaysia where I applied my actuarial skills towards developing policies to ensure the safety of the insurance industry, and now as an actuarial consultant.
In my spare time, I enjoy making music and outdoor activities like running and hiking. I have also been trying to learn how to play golf!
How were you as a student? Did you do well in Maths and Science?
While I eventually enjoyed Maths and Science, Maths did not always come naturally to me. It took me a while to start understanding how the Maths concepts could be applicable in the real world.
However, once I did, a whole new world opened up for me, and I began to enjoy and do well in it.
What do you do? And why did you decide to pursue this career?
I am an actuary, who is currently working as a consultant. I decided to become an actuary, as a classmate’s uncle was one, and she was always telling that he made a lot of money!
Truthfully, I didn’t know very much about what actuaries did, but I was intrigued, as I was told it involved applying Maths to solve business problems – that was something I was very much interested in.
Did you always want to pursue this career or did you have a different childhood dream?
When I was younger, I always wanted to pursue a career in the arts or in the creative space. However, I have come to realise that problem solving requires a lot of creativity – so I am still living out my childhood dream, just not in the way I had imagined.
Tell us a bit about your job. Describe a day in your life.
I provide advice to insurance companies on technical calculations. For example, using past data, I may be asked to help predict how many insurance claims a company may receive, and how much that would cost.
Broadly, the technical advice helps companies to make decisions on how much funds they need to set aside, what to invest in, what their business strategy should be, and how to manage risks.
My work is project-based, and I could be working on a few different projects with different clients at the same time. A typical day would involve understanding issues that my clients are facing, discussing possible solutions with my team, and developing calculation methods to support the solutions.
What do you love about your job? Tell us what keeps you motivated.
I enjoy the variety of different areas and clients that require actuarial expertise, from the more traditional areas like liability valuation, risk management and insurance product development, to coming up with new solutions to contribute towards greater sustainability.
A steady stream of new puzzles to solve keeps me motivated.
How about the worst bits? What are they? And how did you overcome it?
One of the main challenges is being able to effectively communicate technical outcomes to the wider audience in a way that is easy to understand and useful. Poor communication could lead to wrong decisions being made. Being a good communicator takes practice, and I’m still working on being better everyday.
Tell us a story about your weirdest or most embarrassing moment at work.
When I was first starting out, many people didn’t know what actuaries were. When I introduced myself and my line of work outside of my typical professional setting, some people thought that my work had to do with aquatic animals!
According to numerous studies, women are under-represented in STEM. Based on your observation in university and at work, do you think that is a fair assessment?
I think that there was a healthy proportion of women who did actuarial science in university with me. This is also true now, at work.
When pursuing your studies or career, did you ever feel that you were treated differently because of your gender?
No, I am fortunate enough to be in a field in which women are well represented. In fact, the current president of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (UK) is a woman.
Do you think it’s important to have more women in STEM careers? Is there something we can bring to the table that our male counterparts can’t?
Yes, I think that ultimately, diversity and balance make for better outcomes. The different genders tend to have different perspectives, approaches and ideas; collaboration can therefore help to ensure that issues or problems can be evaluated more comprehensively and solutions more well-rounded.
What advice would you like to share with young girls who are looking to pursue a STEM career?
As with any other career, there will definitely be obstacles and set backs, but don’t let that deter you from staying your course. Make sure that you build a strong foundation of knowledge and skills – those are the most useful tools that you will have, which will also give you the confidence to take on any challenge. Do good work, and it will speak for itself.
Do also seek out mentors in the field that you are interested in, as they can provide you with advice, or just be someone to bounce ideas off. It helps to speak to someone who has gone through all of it before.
Ultimately, if a STEM career is something you are interested in, go for it!