Share Your Story – Jessica Kildow

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This DEI edition of Share your Story features Jessica Kildow (FSA, MAAA), member of the Network of Actuarial Women and Allies (NAWA).

 

Marilyn: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

 

Jessica: I am based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I actually grew up here and spent most of my childhood in the area. I attended University of Wisconsin in Madison, where I studied actuarial science, then I moved back here after a short stint in Chicago.

 

I currently work at Milliman in a non-traditional actuarial role, focused on improving the cost and quality of healthcare in the US through alternative payment models. I’ve been really fortunate to end up in this job. I love it. I love the people I work with. I love the work that I do. It’s been a really good career path for me so far there.

 

Outside of work, I like to hike, ski, and spend time with my dog, Moose.

 

Marilyn: What type of dog is he?

 

Jessica: A super mutt, I adopted him during COVID.

 

Marilyn: You mentioned that you were at UW Madison for the actuarial science program. But when did you first find out about actuarial science?

 

Jessica: It was in high school. Actually, somebody from the Madison program came to our AP Stats class to present on the field for people who are probably good candidates to be an actuary.

 

To be honest, at the time, I thought, ‘No, I’m going to be a doctor.’

 

And then four days into Chemistry 101, I thought, ‘Nope, can’t be a doctor. This is terrible.’

At that point I was pretty confused about what I wanted to do.

But then, I met a waitress who was an actuary, just by coincidence. And because I had heard about it in high school, I thought I should maybe consider it.

 

Marilyn: Yeah, that’s awesome. Seems it just lined up for you. So, expanding further and as a segway into NAWA; What has your experience been, being a woman within the actuarial field?

 

Jessica: It’s been really positive. To be honest, I’ve just gotten really lucky with the support I’ve had.

 

Milliman is a great and supportive place to work, and I’ve been very lucky to have really strong mentors and advocates my whole career. My boss and my coworkers have very strongly encouraged working hard but also maintaining a balance and understanding that there are things outside of work that may take priority sometimes. To this point, I have never felt that being a woman in this industry impacted my career or opportunities.

 

Looking forward, the one area where I’ve struggled is the idea of creating a family. When it comes to children and raising a family, there’s just naturally a burden that women carry that men don’t. I am nervous that it will be difficult to balance family and work.

That said, I feel very fortunate that I’m living in an era where we’ve come so far on support for working moms. I appreciate that historically, it’s been much more challenging for women who want to pursue both a family and a career.

 

Personally, I have great role models at work and at NAWA; seeing working moms who balance everything well and achieve success both inside and outside the workplace has shown me that it’s possible. I aspire to be an example like that for others one day.

 

Marilyn: Definitely. And I think you bring up a good point, it’s nice that we are in an era where work life balance is more valued.

 

Aisha: Yeah, so I want to talk more about NAWA and what made you join.

 

Jessica: After I finished my exams at the end of 2020, I felt I should fill some of my free time with volunteering to give back either within the industry or just to the world generally. So, I started looking for volunteer opportunities and NAWA just popped up on my radar through a co-worker.

 

Since then, it’s an amazing experience. NAWA’s mission aligns with my values. I want to help people be successful in their career, and I want to help women understand that this is an option for them. And like I mentioned earlier, I want to be an example for women who are maybe unsure about whether they can be successful as an actuary.

 

Since I joined NAWA, I’ve met many really incredible people. That’s a large part of the reason I continue to volunteer there. It’s a great community, and a fantastic opportunity to network. I’ve been really impressed with the women and men who are volunteering with NAWA. Sometimes it can be a little intimidating, you know, working with people who have been so successful. I’ve really enjoyed learning from them and expanding my own professional growth through my volunteering with NAWA.

 

Aisha: That’s great to hear that you’ve grown with NAWA. What is your role within NAWA? Can you tell us about the committee that you’re a part of?

 

Jessica: Absolutely. I’m currently Associate Vice Presidents of our Partnerships Committee. Our committee’s main role is to maintain relationships with a variety of organizations, largely serving as the primary point of contact for NAWA to communicate with other organizations.

 

We have partnerships with over 25 other organizations, including strategic partnerships with the major actuarial bodies like the SOA, CAS, AAA, CIA, and others.

 

Before I was the AVP of that committee, I led the partnership between NAWA and the SOA.

 

Aisha: What are some takeaways you’re hoping the actuarial community learns from NAWA?

 

Jessica: One is that diversity and opportunity is not automatic. We’re not going to achieve complete diversity without intentional effort, it doesn’t just happen. In particular, we continue to see a much lower rate of women becoming actuaries than men, I want to say it’s around 36% at the moment, so there is work to do on that front. The distribution is even less ideal when we look at minority groups. So, diversity, equity, and inclusion does have to be a continued effort.

 

That said, those efforts can be very rewarding, and they don’t have to be a burden for individuals or organizations. As I mentioned, my experience with NAWA has helped me grow both personally and professionally.

 

I think organizations will also see some return on any investment they make in diversity. In particular, the women I work with at NAWA and at Milliman are so incredible. Organizations that focus efforts on promoting their involvement and encouraging them to stay involved in the field will see benefit from retaining those impressive people.

 

Aisha: And I think you’ve touched on this a little but how have you evolved since first joining NAWA?

 

Jessica: I have learned a lot of skills and broadened my perspective a lot within the organization.

Exams are very reclusive, so this was my first experience being involved in the actuarial industry outside of Milliman.

 

NAWA has given me more exposure to other types of work, different ways of approaching problems, and new organizational skills. It’s really broadened my horizons and taught me a lot that I wouldn’t learn from just working within my own company.

 

 

Aisha: Great. On a personal note, what are some of your favorite memories since joining NAWA and is there a story that comes to mind that you would want to share?

 

Jessica: One story that comes to mind is a Women’s History Month panel that I planned for March 2023. This was well outside my comfort zone. I’m not an event planner at all. Planning an event and collaborating with people I didn’t know very well to set up a webinar that had over 100 attendees was really challenging for me. It forced me to get out of my comfort zone and learn a new set of skills. It ended up being a really rewarding experience. Everybody in NAWA was supportive and helpful on anything I needed. It forced me to meet and interact with people that I wouldn’t otherwise know, including some people who are really impactful in the industry.

 

It was a really cool experience, and the panel ended up being successful. We had a ton of attendees, the content was very meaningful and impactful. It was nice to see that there is an end product that I can be proud of.

 

Aisha: Is there anything else you’d like to share that we haven’t touched on? Or just anything in general?

 

Jessica: Yeah, I just encourage all actuaries, especially those who have completed their exams, to consider adding consistent volunteering to their weekly routine.

 

I realize it can be challenging for people to make time for it. We all have busy schedules and demanding jobs, but volunteering is rewarding on both a personal and professional level.

 

I encourage everyone to find a cause that they’re passionate about, educate themselves & learn more about that cause, and then try and consistently volunteer towards those efforts.

 

Even a small amount of time can go a long way overtime. Personally, I found that volunteering can be more gratifying than donating because I’m able to like see changes in real time and learn from them.

 

In my opinion, giving back is an important part of every actuary’s career.

 

Article written & edited by Marilyn Simpson; transcribed by Aisha Ali.
Be sure to keep your eye out for our next Share your Story series topic where we continue to explore the topic of DEI, featuring some very special guests!

Interested in volunteering for NAWA? Sign- up on their website.