|Catastrophe risk modeller|
|Risk Management Solutions (RMS)|
|Science and research|
|Large business (250+ employees)|
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A day in the life of a Catastrophe risk modeller in the United Kingdom
You may feel overwhelmed by the big life change from being a student to starting a new job or a business, but take a minute and think about how exciting this change might be.
Briefly describe the organisation you work for
I work for a company called Risk Management Solutions (see rms.com). RMS is the leading provider of risk analytics for the (re)insurance industry. We develop a range of models to assess the risk of catastrophic events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, pandemics, etc.
What do you do?
I am part of the Model Development organisation at RMS and I focus on responses to events in real time. When a catastrophic event happens, my team reconstructs the parameters of the disaster using our models and we assess the damage and the losses that have been caused or are likely to happen if we are working with forecast information. When disasters are not happening, I am working on streamlining our procedures and developing ways to respond to new perils and regions.
Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?
Following my degree at York, I did a PhD at Cambridge focusing on remote sensing of tropical forest landscapes. During my PhD, I was introduced to the Valuing Nature network (valuing-nature.net) which made me think about the power of financial and insurance markets in influencing environmental decisions. I did a data science placement with an insure-tech startup (floodflash.co) that uses IoT technology and leverages insurance markets to make business in high flood risk areas more resilient to environmental risks. Insurance companies industries are increasingly concerned with the risk (and the opportunities!) that climate change will bring and environmental risk is already taken very seriously. I think being part of the analytical ecosystem that influences how environmental risk is managed is very exciting. That brought me to RMS, where I can do work similar to what a post-doc would do, but without the need to dedicate time to writing grant applications and having the pressure to publish in academic journals.
Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?
I definitely wanted to follow the academic career path even before I started a degree in York but I quickly realised this is not something I would enjoy doing during my PhD. I enjoy research, teaching, and oddly enough - admin, but while Academia is great, some of the most exciting developments (in environmental risk analytics but also in other fields such as computer science) happen in Industry.
Describe your most memorable day at work
While I enjoy working on a difficult problem on myself like most scientists, the most memorable days at work for me are during big events (e.g. a typhoon making landfall in Japan) when my team (7 people) need to work very closely together under heavy time pressure. It is amazing to see how everyone pulls together in the same direction, how we can access specialist knowledge from the rest of the organisation to deliver a timely analysis of what is happening. This is when I can see the most immediate impact of my work whereas other project may take months to show their value.
Are there any challenges associated with your job?
Catastrophic events often happen without a warning and as such I have to quickly switch between the more relaxed mode of product development and more fast-pace mode of event response, which may involve early mornings and late nights for major events. However, RMS is very good at making sure we are compensated for the extra time we work during events by enabling us to take time off when things are quiet.
What’s your work environment and culture like?
RMS is fairly informal company that has some somewhat start-up feel despite being a few decades old. Many of my coworkers come from Academia, so the feel is very similar to being part of a research group. However, I find the environment in RMS makes it easier to leave your work in the office, and therefore there is a better work-life balance as opposed to a PhD where you always feel there is one more things to try/do/write/read/check, etc.
What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?
I was a course rep for my Biology cohort, which was very valuable to help me understand how large organisations such as the University work and how to gather, summarise and present student feedback so that I can make a difference. What helped a lot is the way York is always striving to be better even if this is associated with change. I found that other organisations find change much more painful to implement. I also had the opportunity to do a summer internship with a research group in Singapore, which was a great experience in planning fieldwork abroad semi-independently and developing collaborations. I was also fortunate to be able to volunteer with some of the research being carried in the Biology Department, which I think was instrumental in helping me develop as a researcher.
What would you like to do next with your career?
The best advice I've been given (apart from not to listen to advice) is not to plan too much far into the future. I recently started this job and I am happy with where I am currently. When I feel there is not more I can learn or to contribute in my current position, I am sure there will be a new exciting opportunity waiting around the corner.
What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?
You may feel overwhelmed by the big life change from being a student to starting a new job or a business, but take a minute and think about how exciting this change might be! It is okay to try a few things before you find your place, it is okay to do something that is not strictly in the remit of your degree. Think about what you are passionate about, where you can be useful, where you can learn more. Know your value, know your skills and you will do just fine. You may not end up where you intended to go, but you will be in the place where you need to be, and that's exciting! Also, the career service in York is outstanding, so if you need some professional advice, make sure to speak with them or one of the alumni on here.
What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?
Further study, PhDs, scientific careers outside academia, data science, (re)insurance, stochastic modelling, environmental risk
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