Ask an Actuary
Ask an Actuary
Mischelle Schweickert, FSA, MAAA, works in actuarial services at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, CA.
Q: When did you first decide to become an actuary?
As I was graduating college. I had gone to school part time while I worked so it took a while to get my degree. I was tired of studying and wanted to "get out into the world". Fortunately, we had a new chairman of the math department who was advertising the actuarial profession. The rest is history.
Q: Who or what influenced your decision?
I attended the SOA's first conference geared toward college students. I believe it was during their general meeting that year in DC. Listening to actuaries talk about what they did really inspired me. It was exactly what I had been seeking! And the pay wasn't bad either.
Q: What is your educational background? Where did you attend college, and what was your major? Did you have any internships during college?
I have a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from San Francisco State University. I had no internships. I was seeking paid internships but could not find any and could not afford no income.
Q: What classes did you take in college that helped prepare you for the career? What class was most helpful? What non-quantitative classes were helpful?
Of course, the math classes were key. But dealing with boundary problems in partial differential equations is something that still helps me with some analytics today. Funny that the one math class that had me "against the ropes" is the one that I refer to time and again.
Q: What was your first job in the profession? How did you get the job? Did you start as an intern or in an actuarial training program? What type of work did you perform in you first actuarial job?
My first job was at Milliman in the San Francisco office. I got the job after pounding the pavement for a year. I wasn't the ideal candidate but I was relentless. And fortunately, there were some who saw potential. My first work was primarily modeling provider contracts, mostly hospital contracts.
Q: Was the job like you expected? Did you have any second thoughts?
I didn't know what to expect.
Q: When did you take your first exam? How long did it take for you to get through the exam process? Did you find studying for exams to be very helpful for your work?
I took my first exam in 2000. It took me a long time to get through my exams. Having two children was definitely trying at times. It slowed me down but it didn't kill my goals. There were a few portions of the exams that were helpful for work, but mostly work helped with the exams.
Q: What was your career path from your first job to your current position?
I started at Milliman (it was Milliman and Robertson then) and moved to Blue Shield of California, where I really developed my actuarial skills. I left there after nine years and moved to Kaiser Permanente where I remain today.
Q: What type of work do you do on a day-to-day basis in your current position?
I primarily work in the ACA arena, so my day-to-day can be random. I support the pricing tools for our products in the individual and small group markets. There's never a dull moment when ACA is involved! I also am heavily involved in cost share reduction reconciliation work (for those who don't know, this is a program for low-income families that subsidizes low cost sharing provisions).
Q: How long have you been in the profession?
17 years and counting.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
Seeing the answer develop in the analysis. I still get a thrill from "figuring it out".
Q: What advice would you give to students who are interested in becoming an actuary?
- Don't tell yourself you can't. Plenty of others will do that for you. Tell yourself you can and then go figure out how to do it.
- It's ok to say "I don't know" but then go and educate yourself. Don't try to come up with an answer off the top of your head without support to back it up. Everything you say carries weight. Everything.