About Meet The Role Models

Meet The Role Models is a technology community series which highlights the stories of The Ada Lovelace Initiative role models;  the female technology professionals who are committed to promoting technology careers to pupils nationwide. In this series, we feature interviews with a diverse range of technology professionals, with a variety of roles from over 75 companies in Ireland.

The success of the Ada Lovelace Initiative depends on the participation of role models & since September 2015, The Ada Lovelace Initiative role models have reached over 2000 pupils nationwide. In Meet The Role Models, we offer you the opportunity to get to know the role models who make these visits possible.

In our last instalment of Meet The Role Models, we had the opportunity to speak to Jennifer Daly who works at Ellucian as a Product Owner.

Meet Lauren O’ Meara

Today’s interview is the ninth instalment of Meet The Role Models and we would like to introduce you now to Lauren O’ Meara who works as an Actuary with Aviva currently.

At the beginning of every role model visit – A.L.I. role models say to the pupils – some of you believe a career in technology simply isn’t an option for you. I am here to suggest otherwise. Lauren volunteered to take part in The Ada Lovelace Initiative as she believed that the message of The Ada Lovelace Initiative about technology careers can also be used to help to promote the broader range of roles available in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) too – and we agreed with Lauren.

For this reason, Lauren was passionate about sharing her career story as an Actuary & recently visited the Transition Year pupils at The Institute of Education on Leeson Street in Dublin City.

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Hi Lauren! How would you describe your current role as an Actuary?

At the moment I am working on a short term contract for Aviva. New insurance regulations have been introduced across the EU and I am working on a project to roll these changes out across the company. These new regulations have huge implications across the company and require changes to systems, processes, IT, calculations, etc. There are a lot of teams involved including actuaries, accountants, project managers, IT specialists, etc.

What attracted you to this type of work in the beginning of your career?

I always liked Maths at school and had always considered a career that would be fairly analytical.  I was also aware that there were a lot of job opportunities out there which was reassuring. Another huge factor for me was the fact that the skills are fairly transferrable internationally and I knew the job would give me opportunities to travel if I wanted to. I have definitely taken advantage of this and have worked in Ireland, the UK and the US to date.

What would you say is the best part of your work?

The job is varied and always provides a challenge. I’ve had the opportunity to work across a variety of projects with a variety of people.

Most larger companies ensure their actuaries change roles every couple of years to get exposure to new projects, skills and experience and these opportunity can be invaluable. I’ve worked in areas which are quite technical and analytical (i.e. the types of roles that people assume actuaries do all the time!) but I’ve also worked in roles which have had a more strategic or marketing focus.

What would you say is a common misconception about your role type?

Linked to what I mentioned above about the technical and analytical aspects of the work, I think most people assume actuaries sit at their desks all day on a spreadsheet, not communicating with anyone. This is not the case! Some of the roles I’ve had have been very interactive and whilst there has always been some technical or analytical side to the role, I’ve also had exposure to more strategic higher level projects which gave me the opportunity to develop other skills too.

For example: In the past I worked in an area which was involved with the pricing and development of new investment and insurance products. That type of role didn’t just focus on the numbers behind the products. It was important to work closely with people across the company including Marketing, Sales, Legal, IT, etc, to ensure all aspects that might affect the success of a product were considered.

What motivated you to get involved with The Ada Lovelace Initiative?

I got involved for a number of reasons. Firstly, I think it can be very difficult to make career decisions back in school when you have little or no professional work experience. There seems to be more opportunities to seek career advice once you’re at college or in the workplace but not as many at secondary school and that can often be the point when you need the advice the most.

Anytime I’ve needed career advice myself in the past, I’ve always found the best thing to do is to speak to as many people as possible and to ask specific questions about what exactly people do day-to-day in their careers. I thought the The Ada Lovelace Initiative would give students that opportunity and because of that I was happy to get involved.

I also got involved because I believe the message of the Ada Lovelace initiative applies much more widely than technology and applies to a wide range of roles in the STEM sector. I thought my role and experience might offer a different perspective.

How would you describe your school visit for A.L.I. – My Story?

I really enjoyed the visit and was very impressed by the questions the students were asking. It can be difficult explaining to people what an actuary does so I tried to break it down in simple terms. I didn’t want to get into the very technical specifics of my role or the various actuarial roles that exist so I tried to focus on the concept of insurance and how an insurance company and actuaries might work out the price that customers would pay for their insurance and what factors they would consider.

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The students were very on the ball and some of the questions asked by the students were quite detailed and I was impressed how quickly they were grasping the concept!

I also talked about my professional journey to date and (not surprisingly) I got a lot of questions about my time and job in New York! I got a lot of questions about visas and the process of finding a job over there. I welcomed these questions as even though it might not be the most important factor when making career decisions, it’s still important to consider these things if travel is important to you and if you want a career that is flexible and transferrable to other countries.

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Did you feel differently before and after your visit?

I was a bit worried about getting the students to understand and be engaged in the discussion and about pitching the presentation at the right level. However, based on the questions they asked and the responses I got, they didn’t seem to be too lost!

Now that you have completed your school visit, would you have any tips for other role models?

Just keep it simple. Pick a few examples that the students might be able to relate to and ask questions that might get the students engaged.  For example – “Has anyone considered this as a career?“, “Does anyone know what an actuary is“, etc. I’d also advise any potential role models to be prepared for more general questions like how to get a visa for the US, how many points you got in your Leaving Cert, how much you earn(!), etc.

Who is your own role model, and why?

I’ve always really admired Mary Robinson. I think it’s significant that a small country like Ireland had a female president back in 1990 when so many bigger countries still can’t say that. But more importantly she did so much more with her position as president than just be the key figure head for Ireland. She is a very strong advocate for human rights and used her position to highlight humanitarian issues.

She’s courageous and not afraid to stand up for what she believes and did so even back when the issues she fought for were seen as controversial. In the business world I admire Norah Casey and always enjoy hearing her speak. Despite being a very successful lady she always seems very down-to-earth and approachable.

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We would like to thank Lauren O’ Meara for sharing her story for Meet The Role Models and also for visiting the pupils of The Institute of Education! If you would like to learn more about The Ada Lovelace Initiative, please visit our A.L.I page. We are looking for role models from every county, if you would like more information about visiting a school on our waiting list or your old school, please fill out our form here and we will be in touch shortly.

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