Nobel prize

Leap Day 2008, February 29th that year to be exact, is the 3rd memorable day in my life so far.

My wedding day is number 1. The day I turned 52 ranks 2nd. The day I turned fifty ranks 4th. Growing up, I learned that things come in threes and sevens. This memory is about my third most memorable day.

On February 29th of 2008 I was out of work. Being in between jobs then, I had “lots of time” which is what people think. Hunting for work and landing on your feet, to do it right, is a focused overtime sixty-hour a week job. Why? Because in a job search done right, you reinvent yourself.  A job transition puts you into the school of hard knocks and quiet tiers (pun intended) on a full-time basis. When you’re between jobs people think you have time to spare, so I got volunteered to be Treasurer of the Casualty Actuaries of the Northwest (CANW). I had accepted that role in the fall of 2007 because it gave me a “natural” way to go about networking. Really, I’m more of a shy introvert which is a necessary trait to be a mathematician.

Anyway, on that leap day of 2008 the CANW was hosting one of its two annual meetings at the Seattle Athletic Club. So I had to attend. At big seminars, such as that day was, I enjoy sitting in a corner and listening to presentations, soaking in the content, and then returning home to apply a new idea or four to a mathematical model. This day something forced me to be different. I HAD TO MEET THE SPEAKER because I had written him his remuneration check for the keynote speech he gave that day. First, I met him right after his speech, but all I did was to give him my business card. His talk was about how he shared part of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Vice President Al Gore so thrilled me that all i mumbled about were the new ideas he’d opened my eyes to see. My networking energy was a bit spent, but I couldn’t head home, for I had forgotten to give him his remuneration check. I had to stay for happy hour

So I stayed late after the conference and followed the crowd to the bar.  He was a popular speaker so many people crowded around Dr. Mills. That popularity made him hard to get to. BUT I HAD TO MEET HIM to give him his check, so I hovered and hovered. When I finally met him, all I could tell him was “You changed my life.” That was my instinctive introduction. And those words became true, for I got excited to learn about new ways of measuring things in the world, that it broke me out of my mold.

To that point my work career was largely as a back-room actuary. That meant crunching and packaging gobs of numbers at every kind of property & casualty (P&C) insurance company. The rate reports and reserve analysis and database construction I did helped run companies that sold every kind of P&C insurance. Getting back to Leap Day 2008, Dr. Mills had said we need actuaries’ skills to help with the work of measuring climate. Being in between jobs at that point my thoughts took a more global turn. I HAD TO STEER MY CAREER TO PLACES TACKLING GLOBAL CHALLENGES. And a decad later now I can honestly say I did. My career switched from a casualty focus to focus more on properties. First, I found a company in Green Bay, Wisconsin that insured homes in most states of the USA. Then I became chief actuary of CoreLogic at their satellite office in Madison, WI. CoreLogic has property data on most every home and business. I got Dr. Mills to recommend me to the chair of the Actuaries Climate Index committee and so I joined it. Work with that international actuarial committee deepened global hazard knowledge. That tiny gift led to speaking to several audiences of national leaders in 2014 and to speaking all across the USA in the next few years. Last year also found me speaking in two foreign country, first in London and then in Jakarta, Indonesia. I wish my visit to London was a trip across the Atlantic “pond”, but it wasn’t. Nonetheless, I enjoyed speaking at the annual Actuarial Research Conference which was host by Western University in London, Ontario.

So Leap Day 2008 was the third best day of my life because of how I got the holy boldness to reinvent myself. Marrying my college sweet heart tops that day because as grand as my 2008 leap-day lesson in boldness has been, it doesn’t hold a candle to the life lessons I’ve learned from my spouse and better half,  Trudi, my Jersey Gal and Velvet Hammer.