Taking calculated risks in your career whilst still studying for professional actuarial exams

Solai Valliappan
9 min readMar 29, 2023

This is an adaptation of a talk I first presented at the Young Actuaries Conference on the 29 May 2018 in Sydney.

If you’re more visual you can watch this plenary session and panel Q&A on Knowledge Sharing via this YouTube link and if you’d prefer just the audio you can listen here.

(Left to Right): Meng Yuan, Mark Henderson, Solai Valliappan and Bill Konstantinidis at the Young Actuaries Conference, 29 May 2018 held in Sydney

Today I’m going to talk about my story and the three areas I found useful in how I’ve moved directionally in my career so you can find some ideas and adjust them accordingly for your next steps in your career.

Slide 1: A question in the early stages of my career of whether to wait to explore other things professionally post qualification

I graduated from UNSW with a Bachelor of Commerce (my majors were Actuarial Studies and Finance) and started my career as a graduate at Zurich. I spent a couple of years in pricing and a couple of years in reserving. At the same time I was sitting exams and I was building my character by failing and subsequently passing exams.

The exams were quite consuming to my headspace. I developed this pattern, habit and vortex of intensely studying for 3 months, the rhetoric I’d often think was “I’ll postpone it to after the exam or when I qualify”. And then reality set in — qualifying was not going to be as straight forward as I thought. So it led me to this really big question — Why should Iwait until I qualify to try something different?

Slide 2: Some risk taking examples I took early in my career

The next steps were how to think about it, and what exactly I would like to do. Here are just 3 examples — I’ve categorised them in order from feeling nervous to paralysing fear. In hindsight, they weren’t that bad, but at the time they were a really big deal for me!

  1. Volunteering for the Actuaries Magazine. I thought it would be a really good way to stay across current issues and trends in the industry and maco environment. My experience as an analyst at the time was a lot of number crunching, and I’d get a little involved in the writing of the half yearly pricing review or the annual ILVR…

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Solai Valliappan

Tech investor with an actuarial background interested in technology, startups, investing and data driven insights to influence system change.