In this interview, we sit down with Sophia Songberg – a passionate and dynamic young actuary who finds her stride outside of her comfort zone.
Sophia shares her professional journey so far, her involvement with the Young Actuaries Advisory Board (YAAB) and her exciting experiences along the way.
Why did you join the Young Actuaries Advisory Board (YAAB)?
I was drawn to the idea of representing the voices of young actuaries, while helping shape our future.
I’ll admit that while studying at university, I didn’t understand what the Actuaries Institute was and what it offered to actuaries. It was only when I started working in the profession that I was able to fully grasp what the Institute does and the value it offers to the actuarial community.
The ability to be involved in improving experiences for younger members via representing their voices, assisting in communications that promote or affect our profession and running events allows me to extend my passion and encourage others to be involved.
What do you enjoy the most about being involved with YAAB?
I love working with peers with different backgrounds and experiences as it allows for diverse opinions and interesting and productive discussions.
How has your career experience been as a younger actuary so far?
I’m lucky to be working and learning from many inspiring people.
There is so much to learn from those with more experience, and I’m fortunate to have support not only in a work sense but guidance as mentors, too.
What has your career journey to date been like?
I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Actuarial Co-op Scholarship Program at UNSW. During this time, I worked full-time for 15 months while completing a four-year degree, with internships at Suncorp, TAL and PwC.
In 2020, I started working in the PwC Actuarial team as a graduate and, three years later, I’m still here! I recently qualified as an actuary working in both traditional and non-traditional industries, including general insurance and health analytics.
Why did you become an actuary?
Like many actuaries, one of the reasons that I became an actuary is because I enjoyed maths! Once I started university and my internships, I found myself surrounded by like-minded people and I have never looked back.
What do you find most interesting about your current role?
I like that my projects are very diverse. While it’s always the same principles, they can be applied in so many different ways.
What are some of your role’s greatest challenges?
One of the challenges that I face in my role is being able to summarise and explain complex situations to those with non-actuarial backgrounds.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Qualifying – it wasn’t a smooth road for me, so I’m proud of my tenacity and determination.
Why are you proud to be an actuary?
I’m proud to be an actuary as we are a highly-rated profession, filled with people who are movers and shakers within the business and finance world.
What is the most valuable skill an actuary can possess?
Communication! All the numbers in the world mean nothing unless they can be clearly communicated via written and verbal means, for a range of stakeholders.
Outside of work, what are your interests or hobbies?
I grew up dancing and competing in all styles of dance before just focusing on ballet – I even tossed up whether to pursue a career as a ballerina! When I was in Year 12, I decided that I enjoyed studying a little bit too much, but managed to pursue my love of dance throughout university as I joined the UNSW Warrior’s competitive dance teams.
My love of travel also led me to a three-month exchange in Italy as a freshly-turned 16-year-old, as well as a university semester at the University College Dublin.
What is something you would like to be brave enough to do?
One day, I would like to be able to not scream over the tiniest of spiders.
If you could travel back in time, what would you do?
I would eat more shellfish! I developed an allergy when I was 18 years old, so I can’t eat it anymore.
What skills allow actuaries to become more effective in your field of work?
I think it’s essential that actuaries know how to write code using different programs (SAS, R, Python, SQL, DAX, VBA, etc.). Data cleaning, transformation and analytics are essential to our work.
As a consultant at PwC, my work is driven by clients and what program I use depends on what they need — being a jack-of-all trades is handy! But if you don’t have these skills, don’t stress! When I started working, I didn’t know anything but basic R, but I’ve managed to pick up more skills along the way.
What is the most interesting or valuable job or project you have worked on thus far?
I was fortunate enough to have worked on quite a few COVID-19-related projects at PwC. It was a great experience as I could see my work and results being used in real-life decision-making and could see the impacts that our results had within the community.
What advice would you give aspiring actuaries who are interested in your field?
Be adaptable! Our profession is constantly changing; whether it be new industries, new technologies, new standards or new techniques, so being able to adapt is crucial!
Are you interested in joining our Young Actuaries Advisory Board? You can find out more here or you can join our Young Actuaries LinkedIn Group to access all the latest news, events, networking and more.
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