Emma Myers is a senior at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. She is double majoring in Actuarial Science and Mathematics and is also the president of the CMU chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma. Emma graduates in May 2019 and will be working at Auto-Owners Insurance in Lansing, MI after graduation. We spoke with Emma in April 2019.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
I sang in choir throughout high school and part of college. During my time in college I was actually able to travel to New York City and sing in Carnegie Hall with the CMU Choir. That was a pretty cool experience.
What has your experience at Central Michigan University been like?
The two major things about CMU that I enjoy are the strong community of students and the really great professors. As far as student life goes, there are a ton of different organizations that you can get involved with. As far as professors go, every professor that I’ve had the opportunity to work with has been very caring, and they always want to make sure that you’re successful.
I think with any college experience, it really is what you make of it. Even though you might not want to be involved in a ton of different things, I still think it’s really great that we have the opportunity to be involved in different communities.
I like insurance because, at the core of it, it’s all about helping people put their lives back together after something bad happens.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose CMU?
I actually went to one school before CMU. I started out at Michigan Technological University, which is in the upper peninsula of Michigan. I originally wanted to go into engineering or computer science, which is what MTU specializes in. After the first year, I decided that wasn’t for me.
When I was looking into actuarial science, I was looking into a few other schools in Michigan, but I eventually chose CMU because I had heard really great things about the community from CMU alumni. I also liked that there was a chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma at CMU, which is an organization that’s specifically for people going into insurance and actuarial science.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
With engineering, I felt it was a lot less about math than I had originally anticipated, so I didn’t really enjoy that. I wanted something much more math-based, and engineering seemed to be a little bit more science-based, which I’m not great at. That was the start of my decision to pursue actuarial science.
I knew I liked math, but I didn’t really have a direction that I wanted to go in. As I was looking into different professions, actuarial science stood out to me because there was a large focus on math, but you also got to study things like business, finance, and economics. I liked that you got a broader view of business with actuarial science.
Why should other students consider a focus in actuarial science?
In my opinion, it’s really engaging. You’re able to learn things not only about math, but you’re also able to tie that into business and finance. You develop solid ideas of how you’re going to apply math in the real world.
In addition, actuarial science is always changing. There are always going to be new risks that you have to look at and ask yourself how you’re going to work with that and cover it. I think it’s interesting to be able to look into new things that are coming up, like drones or self-driving cars and other new, exciting technologies, and see how insurance fits in.
I also think there’s high potential for raises and promotions, especially because a lot of that is based off of the exams that you take for actuarial science. It really is up to you how successful you are in the industry, which I think is great.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
All of the professors in our program are really awesome. They want you to be successful, and they’ll work with you so that you’re able to understand their classes, be successful in their classes, and be successful outside of their classes.
We have three classes that prepare you for the first three actuarial science exams that you’ll have to take. Those classes are really nice if you’re planning to pursue the exam track. They help you learn the material, and you have your professor, who can walk you through everything and is there if you have questions.
Our school also offers a Gamma Iota Sigma chapter. This provides an extra resource outside of your classes where you can learn more about the insurance industry in general. Almost every week, they have industry speakers come in and talk about what they actually do day to day, what their college experience was like, and how it applies to their daily lives now. It’s just a great opportunity to network and get to know what you’re actually going to be doing in the future and also get to know other students and peers in your major.
I started out in GIS as just a member. I was interested in learning a little bit more about actuarial science because what you read about actuarial science online can be kind of vague and hard to understand. As I became more involved in the organization, I was on the board of Gamma as Industry and Alumni Relations, in charge of getting all the industry speakers and making sure that they were prepared for our students. I was also in charge of running any networking events that we put on.
After that role, I transitioned into being president, and now I have more of a role where I’m talking a lot with the Grand Chapter about how to improve the organization as a whole, rather than just our chapter. That’s been really neat because I love getting to know people across the country and working with them to better our organization. Within our chapter, it’s also really great to just get to know everyone on a more personal level and be able to help them with their specific officer roles or just being able to help members navigate interviews, exams, and all of those fun things.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
My favorite actuarial class has been my prep class for the first actuarial exam that we take, Financial Mathematics—one, because the professor was really great, but two, because it ties in content that you’ve learned from your early math classes with your other classes in finance and econ. It ties all of those concepts together and makes you understand what you’re actually working toward and what you will possibly be working on in the future.
My favorite non-actuarial class was an art history class. The professor was great, and it was just neat being able to learn things outside of my major that, maybe I won’t need in the future, but might be good talking points or just fun knowledge to have.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
I think mostly it’s just studying for the actuarial exams. I’ve passed two exams so far, but I also failed both of those exams the first time I took them. What’s challenging about that is you’re just putting in so much time studying for these exams. When you end up failing, you feel really bad about yourself, and you don’t want to keep studying for it. I think that’s challenging, just getting over that hill, believing that you are good enough, and that you’re able to pass these exams as long as you just keep working at it and putting in the time.
The thing that I wish I had known before I came in is that actuarial science is a lot more statistics than math. I do enjoy stats, but I did originally get into the field because I love math so much. That’s part of the reason I decided to also pursue a Math major as well, just because I wanted a little bit more of the math side of things. But actuarial science is still a really great field, and I really enjoy all the math and stats that I get to do with it.
Have you had any insurance-related internships? If so, how was your experience?
I was a software development intern at Auto-Owners Insurance in Lansing, Michigan. It was a good experience. I didn’t have any experience really with programming, except for an entry-level course that I took, so they were really great about that. I took about a month to train and get up to speed. I really enjoyed the training program because I had a mentor that I could work with. A lot of it was independent, but I could ask my mentor any questions that I had, or if I was struggling with something, they would help me.
Once I was done with training, I got real projects that actually mattered. I had a project that was a top priority for the team, so it was really awesome to be able to see that I was really contributing to the team and that they had faith in me that I was going to be able to get that project done.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
I’ll be going back to Auto-Owners Insurance, but I’ll be in the Actuarial Department. After my internship, I decided I didn’t want to pursue the software development side of things, so I applied for an actuarial position there. I’d definitely say that I got my job because of my internship because I had a good relationship with my manager, and she was able to talk me up to the Actuarial Department. I was really thankful for my internship, even though I didn’t end up staying in that department.
In the future, I just want to work through exams and get over that initial learning curve. So in the short term, I’ll be working through the exams and learning as much as I can, and maybe eventually work my way up to a managerial position at some point. I’ve really enjoyed being president of GIS and the role that I have here, so I think in the future that’s something that I aspire to do in my work life.
Given your education in both Actuarial Science and Math, why did you decide to pursue the Actuarial Science side for your career?
With actuarial science, even though the exams are not the most fun thing ever, I still like having the goal of working through the exams. I also like insurance because, at the core of it, it’s all about helping people put their lives back together after something bad happens. So even though insurance companies can get a bad rap, if it’s a good insurance company, that’s really what they’re about—being loyal to their promises to help their customers out when they’re having hard times.
What are the latest developments or trends in insurance?
Across any insurance company, I think there’s a really big technological shift into more modern technology. I definitely saw that working in my internship. I was working in a really old programming language called COBOL, and we were working to eliminate that and get everything into Java, which is a much newer programming language.
Another development is that predictive modeling is becoming much more relevant and used throughout every insurance company. Companies are using predictive modeling to better assess their risks and learn about losses in the future.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
The first thing I always tell anyone is to make sure you network and just get involved right off the bat. Honestly, all of my connections have helped me get my job and my president role at my organization. I know I have a bunch of connections where if I needed a job in the future, I could reach out to a bunch of people and see if they had anything for me. Networking is definitely very important, especially in insurance, because even though it seems like a large industry, it’s actually pretty small.
Another tip, especially for Actuarial Science majors, is to make time for yourself and your hobbies. Don’t get so bogged down in schoolwork and studying and extracurriculars that you forget to pay attention to things that you like to do for fun as well.