Finding Balance and Building CommunityQ&A with Nikita Sabade, ASA, MAAA, senior consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP July 2020
Photograph: Joel Maisonet
What attracted you to the actuarial profession?
Initially, my high school math teacher suggested that I consider becoming an actuary. She knew I loved math, and she had family in the profession who enjoyed it.
So, my interest was already piqued when an alum from my high school returned to talk to my statistics class about actuarial work, as well as the actuarial science program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, from which she’d recently graduated. She gave a compelling presentation: She spoke to the interesting work, strong job market and high rating of the profession. I went on to join the program at UW–Madison and co-present with her at our high school in a future year—and then I followed her to my current employer!
My experiences in the actuarial science program at UW–Madison, as well as “in the field” as an intern, were affirming of my decision to pursue a career as an actuary. I was drawn to the actuarial community—one of high-achieving individuals who also enjoy each other’s company outside of studying and work.
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What is your favorite part of the job? What brings you the most job satisfaction?
The best part of my job is the people with whom I work. I enjoy working with a smart, diverse and caring group of people, many of whom have become close friends over the years. In my five years at Deloitte, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how often I’ve had the opportunity to make new friends—a function of new people joining the firm and new project assignments. As one of my colleagues put it, each project team becomes a small family you maintain within a bigger, more constant actuarial family and the much bigger organization.
My job also affords me a great deal of flexibility, and I appreciate that now more than ever given our current work-from-home situation.
I feel most satisfied when my team members and I feel proud of how we’ve presented or delivered a work product that each of us played a role in building.
Who inspires you and why?
I’m inspired by my dad and mom, who immigrated from Mumbai, India, to the United States in 1982 and 1990, respectively. They worked hard and sacrificed the greater levels of comfort and independence they had in Mumbai to pursue a future for our family here.
Staying with my parents since social distancing measures went into effect has given me more opportunities to learn about their past and adjustment to moving here 30 to 40 years ago. In particular, I admire my mom’s ability to keep an open mind while also staying true to her values. Her career in health care inspired my own, and I aspire to the work/life balance she’s achieved in recent years.
Define a good day.
A good day is a balanced day. It’s a day during which I’ve made solid progress on a project that I’m interested in, with a team that feels likewise accomplished and invested in the work. It’s also a day during which I’ve gotten to catch up with teammates on life outside of work, spend quality time with family or friends, and dedicate some of the day to a hobby (reading, cooking, being outdoors—if it’s sunny) or cause I care about.
How important is innovation in the actuarial profession?
From an actuarial consulting perspective, innovation is key to ensuring we can continue to serve our clients that operate in industries that are constantly changing. COVID-19’s unprecedented impacts are examples of environmental conditions, which required that we break from the status quo to meet new client needs in the health care space, for instance.
As part of a broader response to emerging technologies and workforce models, Deloitte’s Exponential Actuary™ initiative is helping the actuarial industry transform into a workforce of the future. This transformed actuarial workforce consists of more strategic professionals who capitalize on disruptive change to create more value for stakeholders. The future actuarial professional is empowered to “flex their innovation muscles,” performs rapid prototyping and isn’t afraid to “fail fast” in the process.
What are the most important nonactuarial skill sets individuals can bring to the workplace?
I especially appreciate the soft skill sets that my colleagues bring to difficult but important conversations in the workplace. These include communication, active listening and leadership skills. As I see it, honing and practicing these sometimes-underrated skills goes a long way in building respect and driving meaningful action within internal teams, as well as externally with clients.
Time management skills are also essential, for example, to actuarial students’ success with studying for exams while working full time.
Do you have any advice for those seeking to enter the actuarial profession?
- Take advantage of informational interview, job shadow and internship opportunities, which allow you to get a feel for the day-to-day responsibilities of being an actuary and whether you consider yourself a fit for the profession before committing to it full time.
- Be ready to dedicate a significant amount of time and energy to preparing for the exams. A former manager used to say, “a successful exam attempt is one you feel prepared for”—which is to say, one you’ve put yourself in a position to pass, regardless of the outcome. It helps to have a strong support network. The advice and encouragement of my family, friends, teachers and colleagues made all the difference in my personal experience.
Tell us more about your role as a culture ambassador for the Actuarial & Insurance Solutions group. Why did you become involved?
The Actuarial & Insurance Solutions (A&IS) Culture team at Deloitte creates space for members of the A&IS community to come together outside of work activities—a purpose that’s become a bit more challenging, yet arguably more necessary to serve, as we can’t meet and socialize in-person as usual right now. We host regular lunches and coffee chats with practice leadership (these events will be virtual this year), along with other events and activities based on interests and needs in each of our offices.
I joined the team because I value culture and community in every facet of my life, work included. I now lead the team’s national networking and practice connectivity efforts. These are efforts to connect each actuarial community of practice to each other, as well as the broader Deloitte communities to which A&IS belongs.
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Copyright © 2020 by the Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Illinois.