Kristen Long

Kristen Long HeadshotCan you tell us about your academic background? What was your undergraduate path?

I have my BSc in Actuarial Science from Western in 2016 and received my ASA in 2019. I am currently working towards my FSA and will hopefully receive it in 2021.

What was your career aspiration in first-year and why?

I knew I wanted to do something with math that was more business-related, and I knew I wanted to be in a senior management position within a company. In first-year, I decided to try Actuarial Science because my mom googled high-paying math jobs.

Were you aware of any of the job options your degrees could lead to? Were you surprised by some job options?

A degree in Actuarial Science prepares you to work mostly as an Actuary (it does a very good job of preparing you for most of the preliminary exams you have to take), but it is also beneficial for other jobs in the Financial sector as well. It was encouraging to learn that Actuaries are typically part of an insurance company's C-Suite and have started becoming highly valued outside of the insurance industry.

What challenges did you face throughout your undergraduate degree?

Some of the challenges I faced were not knowing how best to study and not being quite as good at grasping the theoretical concepts in my classes compared to my peers. It took my internship and some wonderful mentors to help me realize my strengths were being able to communicate complex actuarial concepts to non-actuaries and use strategic thinking and problem-solving to find positive business solutions. The real world of working as an actuary is much less technical than my classes would have to lead me to believe which has made my love my career more.

How did you overcome the challenges you faced?

I leveraged my network - I had friends tutor me, I went to office hours to get additional help, and I sought out mentors that guided me through and helped me realize having the highest average was not the most important thing. Having a good enough average with communication skills and involvement in relevant work or volunteer groups is much more beneficial to show your commitment to the career.

What skills did you take away from your undergraduate years and internship that you find valuable today, in the work you do and in life?

Surround yourself with people who push you and help you grow, and never be afraid to ask for help. A good place to work will encourage lifelong learning and personal development because it benefits you and the company. Life is too short to not enjoy your job and the people surrounding you every day.

What is your current occupation, what was your path to get here?

I am currently an Associate Actuary at Unum in their rotational development program. During my 4th year at Western, I knew I wanted to move back to the US (my parents and I had lived there for a long time) so I applied everywhere. After numerous interviews, Unum flew me out to Tennessee to interview and hired me less than 24hrs later. I knew leaving the interview, if they extended me an offer, I would take it. They focused on hiring for the future leaders of the company and the culture felt in line with what I was looking for. I started as an Actuarial Assistant after graduation and was promoted to Senior Actuarial Assistant after a year and when I got my ASA, was promoted to my current role.

I have worked in our Voluntary Benefits Valuation area and currently work in Corporate Actuarial. In the summer (2020), I will be moving to Maine to work in our Group Pricing area.

What do you value in a job to feel fulfilled?

The thing I most value is feeling like my work and my opinion matter. My company does an amazing job of making sure all levels (interns included) have meaningful projects to work on and have an opportunity to share the work they've done and make recommendations for change/improvements/etc. to management.

If your current occupation was not the same as your career aspiration, when was the moment these aspirations changed and why?

Honestly, my current occupation exceeds my expectations. It took having the right role and support of my team to really make that clear for me.

What advice would you give current undergraduate students/ or to your undergraduate self?

Life isn't all about living in the library to get above an 80 or a 90. Find a balance. Learn to network and communicate with people really well. You can't get a job if you are afraid to say hi to someone.  And if you get a job, no matter what work, you have to be able to communicate what you are doing to others so they can use your research/findings/recommendations/etc.