Major/Specialization: Statistics and Actuarial Science
Class of: 2022
Caroline’s zest for learning has fuelled her interest for machine learning and insurance. From one internship to another, Caroline’s diverse experiences have provided her with the meaningful opportunity to expand her interests in insurance work. Heading into her year of PEY (professional experience year), Caroline’s internship experiences continue to enrich her passion for actuarial science in the real world and its value in everyday life.
Thanks for talking to us about your experiences as a StatSci Student! Let's start with your background! Can you tell us more?
I grew up in Vancouver with two younger siblings in a family that loves to travel together. This has inspired my desire to see the world, take on adventures away from home throughout high school, and, in turn, has stimulated my excitement for what the world has to offer a young professional like myself. I have always enjoyed schoolwork; I was involved in writing retreats, supplementary math seminars, and a robotics academy from early on in my academic path. Any opportunity to extend my love for reading, math, physics, or chemistry, I was there!
What drew you specifically to the statistical science program at UofT?
I came into university thinking I would study pure math, but actuarial science was on my radar. I began a double-major in these areas, but swapped math for statistics in 2019. I found that I was enjoying the material in these courses much more. Once I began interning, I saw the potential importance of data science in the future of actuarial work. The draw to statistics has always been apparent to me. I enjoy the concepts and the math behind the work, and it is a very diverse area of study in terms of where you can take that knowledge in the future. You have the chance to follow a second passion when choosing where to apply this background. It is so important to me to have options when I am figuring out how to develop my career.
I got involved in the Statistical Sciences Union and the Actuarial Sciences Club in my second year, and the people that I met through these groups were wonderful role models with great personalities. I chose this specific area of study because I liked the work, but I definitely stayed for the active community and people within the program.
The draw to statistics has always been apparent to me. I enjoy the concepts and the math behind the work, and it is a very diverse area of study in terms of where you can take that knowledge in the future.
What do you think being a part of the statistics program at UofT has to offer in the long run? What is the larger value?
The environment that U of T has to offer is truly unique. Our university is defined by its engaging, high-calibre members and professional connections which serve as a force to propel emerging talent into various industries. As a Peer Mentor, I have had the chance to work alongside other students and faculty members who truly give their every effort to create an exceptional student experience. And this is definitely apparent in the community we are a part of and in the resources we have at our disposal! Our department and student organizations do a fabulous job of providing industry exposure through career panels, information sessions, and networking events. U of T is in the heart of Toronto, and these connections are invaluable for emerging professionals. The student community is welcoming, intellectual, and one that I am excited to contribute to!
How did your undergraduate degree and experience prepare you for the next steps in your career? What does that look like?
Within the field of statistics there is so much scope, it can seem daunting to determine your path forward. The industry exposure that U of T provides has been such important preparation for my career because it has allowed me to gain insights from professionals with diverse perspectives. This is the reason I have been able to focus on what I want to do as a professional.
What makes you passionate about what you do? And what motivates you?
In short, I believe in the essentiality of the insurance industry. I love the certainty of the work; actuarial number-crunching turns uncertainty into reliable financing for insurance products. These products provide a foundation for development, investment, and so much else that is then possible in the world. It is exciting to contribute to this!
I am motivated by achievement. I enjoy learning for the sake of learning, but ultimately being able to apply that and see results is what I find most invigorating. It is rewarding to add value to a company, producing a useful spreadsheet or handling a presentation. I am motivated by the idea of building a career for myself where I can continually be challenged. This is well-suited to the actuarial profession, as there is a lengthy exam process!
Our department and student organizations do a fabulous job of providing industry exposure through career panels, information sessions, and networking events. UofT is in the heart of Toronto, and these connections are invaluable for emerging professionals. The student community is welcoming, intellectual, and one that I am excited to contribute to!
You mentioned your internships earlier and I know you did some amazing ones! Can you tell us more?
I began my first internship at Canada Life, working in a traditional life-insurance role on the Participating Dividend Management team. As part of our term-end presentations, I was tasked with researching and presenting topics in Machine Learning and Insurance. Working with an actuary mentor who was instrumental in their Data Labs, we were both quite fired-up about this area of insurance innovation! I realized I wanted to try many companies and facets of insurance work before I decided on a full-time role to pursue, so I am taking a year off school to work.
My role this summer supports the Retirement team at Willis Towers Watson. I have been incredibly lucky to work with a tight-knit group, who has made me feel so welcome and supported - even virtually! I am the only intern for the Vancouver office; however, I feel very connected to interns across North America, as we have training sessions together remotely. It is a very different social experience than my time at Canada Life for this reason, where there was a team of 30 interns in our location and we spent a lot of time together.
Remote onboarding definitely provided its technical challenges, and I am, in fact, commuting into the office since I could not get up and running on the company VPN! It is a disadvantage to not have my co-workers around for sure, as being immersed in the team environment is a big part of learning and understanding the work. My team is conscious of this, and they make extra effort to instruct me on Skype and be available to answer questions as I am completing a task. It is still possible to learn well remotely, but it takes effort from everyone involved - I am so lucky for my supportive team!
What has been the most rewarding thing about taking part in an internship?
I love the learning curve that comes from picking up a new role. You look back from one month and it’s so apparent how much you have learned since starting! I love the exercise of learning a new system or task - then becoming skilled enough to add value and insight by the end of your work period.
For students who are looking to start their first internship, what advice would you give to them?
For a first internship - definitely attend a conference if you can. Being an actuarial student, I found my first position at ASNA; the ASNA experience was intense and so much fun! Don’t worry if you don’t have much technical knowledge, as the right balance of confidence and curiosity is the real key! This holds true for employer-hosted info sessions as well, and I again recommend going to as many as you can - especially if you aren’t comfortable yet with networking! Note for actuarial students: you will likely need to have passed an exam before getting your first internship.
For students who are looking to do an internship, what kind of resources did you use to help you find a position?
Go to as many networking events and information sessions as you can. See which conversations and employers interest you; ask them for coffee chats or to discuss a certain topic further at a later date, if they are willing. Genuinely be there to discuss their work, not an internship. During my first internship, I was able to figure out what it was that excited me about the work, as well as what aspects didn’t; take this into further conversations with potential employers. Target specific companies that are leaders in areas you want to pursue, and show them your honest interest and desire to contribute.
I love the exercise of learning a new system or task - then becoming skilled enough to add value and insight by the end of your work period.
If you had any words of wisdom/advice for other students, what would they be?
It sounds so cliche - but find what work excites you and be genuine about your career interest! It truly stands out, and sets you up for success in any role you take on.
What is one thing that people should know about you?
I enjoy most outdoor activities and feel so grateful to have grown up in BC with so much skiing, hiking, and biking! I also love to cook, especially with friends or to host others.
We'd love to hear from you!
Interview conducted by Mélina Lévesque
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