Forging one’s own path

Stacey Lin

10 minute read

Specialising in providing analytical solutions to clients across the public and corporate sectors, ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE) alumna Stacey Lin has accumulated lots of experience in her career as an actuarial consultant.

Recounting the “tough choice” she made to continue studying before working and her journey since then, Stacey candidly shares her professional experience so far and the challenges new graduates could face in the workplace. 

Stacey will also be a panellist at ‘Alumni Talk Series: International students – Finding Employment in Australia’ on Thursday 28 May. You can click here to find out more and register

Q. Can you tell us about your career path and what led you to the role you're in today? 

I graduated from The Australian National University (ANU) in 2016, with a Bachelor degree in Actuarial Studies with Honours. I then joined Taylor Fry, an actuarial and analytics consultancy firm, as an actuarial consultant.

The choice between working and continuing study after high school was an important life decision for me. While studying at ANU, I was very lucky to have professional internships and research-related experiences before I graduated.

n my third year at ANU, I was offered two internships with the actuarial-pricing team at Munich Re, where I learned a lot about what it is like to work as an actuarial analyst. In my Honours year, undertaking a research project and eventually getting it published gave me a taste of working as an academic researcher. Dr Aaron Bruhn, my Honours’ supervisor, was an extremely supportive mentor who encouraged me to apply for the Honours programme and undertake a research project. These opportunities significantly advanced my decision-making abilities and influenced my career choices.

During my time at ANU, I enjoyed solving real-life problems by applying my technical knowledge and research skills. This led me to accept the offer from Taylor Fry, which has an industry reputation of technical excellence and implementing a research-focused work style. I have now enjoyed working with the organisation as a consultant for over three years and am learning a lot from my kind and intelligent colleagues.

Q. What shaped your decision to choose your degree major at CBE? How did it prepare you for your career? 

I didn’t start with a degree in actuarial studies at CBE, but instead a double degree in finance and statistics. After the first year, I found I was particularly interested in mathematics and statistics, and I learned more about the profession of actuary, where I could apply mathematical and statistical skills to solve problems. I decided to transfer to the actuarial studies program and was able to do so thanks to the flexibility of degree-transfer processes at ANU.

The actuarial degree at CBE is well-structured and highly suitable for a future career as an actuary. Many lecturers in the faculty are qualified actuaries with years of work experience. The learning materials and assignments they develop for the courses mirror the type of projects I currently work on. I still occasionally refer to my notes from university when I need to refresh my knowledge.

When I went through the process of obtaining my actuarial qualification, I found I was exempt from several of the exams due to the courses I had already completed as part of my degree. I only had to pass a small number of exams after I started working, which significantly reduced the length of the period I had to combine working and studying at the same time, and helped me avoid a lot of stress in my first job.

Everyday is about solving problems, big and small, and I never find myself repeating the exact same thing I have done before. 

Q. Could you please describe your experience of being a CBE Student Ambassador? How did your experience as a Student Ambassador benefit your student life and career? 

As a CBE Student Ambassador, I have participated in ANU Open days, given speeches at student workshops, held a webinar for prospective students and written articles for promotional materials. These experiences helped me with my public speaking, presentation, communication and writing skills, which are very important to my career in actuarial consulting.

Through the Student Ambassador program, I met and worked with lots of brilliant people. For example, I knew Preetham Arvind through the program, who then joined Taylor Fry a year before me and introduced a graduate opportunity to me. He has since been a great friend and colleague. I am grateful for the Student Ambassador program where I made good friends and professional connections. 

Q. Can you describe your typical day as an actuarial consultant? What challenges do you think new students wanting to work in this field will face? How did you overcome these challenges yourself?

As an actuarial consultant, I get to work on a wide variety of projects. Every day is about solving problems, big and small, and I never find myself repeating the exact same thing I have done before.

Typical work tasks include reading papers and reports as background research for projects, discussing solutions with the project teams, data analysis, statistical modelling, results visualisation and drafting reports. At Taylor Fry, our culture promotes working independently and we don’t have too many internal meetings every day. Therefore, it is important to summarise key insights from my own work in a concise way and share it with team members for review and discussion.

From my own experience, there are two main challenges a new graduate may face.

One is the ability to summarise and report the results concisely. I remember when I first started my job, I often struggled to find the most important material and results to report in a logical way. I realised that I was struggling and sought feedback and advice from other people on what I should and should not include in my reports.

The second challenge is to be a confident communicator. Initially, I was not confident in discussions and meetings, especially when others are much more experienced than I was. I also focused too much on mistakes I made, which did not help. I overcame this through talking to my mentor at work, getting feedback as well as encouragement from others, and being more thorough and careful with my work.

Q. From your experience, could you share with us three pivotal career lessons that you have learned?

(1) Keep learning. Don’t’ be limited to just reading the bestsellers that are accessible at the airport bookstores. Try to pick up some serious textbooks, academic papers, and talks and presentations in the fields related to your work, as well as new disciplines you are interested in.

(2) Be confident. I was not confident when I first started my job. I kept on focusing on how much I didn’t know and all the mistakes I made. A senior colleague whom I respect encouraged me, pointing out that I should acknowledge myself for each small achievement and be confident about my own work if I have put in  a good effort and delivered carefully thought out work.

(3) Attention to detail. As an actuarial consultant, attention to detail is the key to quality work. It spans across applying close attention to the details in the data, modelling, and reports, as well as the accuracy of your communication with clients and colleagues.

The ANU College of Business and Economics offers an extensive range of specialised programs in Actuarial Studies. Click here for more details.