Kenya only has a handful of qualified actuaries country-wide and my next interviewee is among the few women actuaries in Kenya. She is a recipient of the prestigious Young Insurance Achievers Award, a recognition for her outstanding contribution to the insurance sector through mentoring young talent. At 33, she is currently the Head of Actuarial at Resolution Insurance. She rose to this plum post last year having set up the department from scratch three years earlier.
Meet the exceptional woman, Margaret Achieng’ Oyugi; Talented, brilliant and definitely conquering the world… one number at a time.
C: What do you consider as your greatest achievement to date?
M: My greatest achievement to date (without taking away from the other achievements received) would be the Young Insurance Achievers Award which I received in July 2017 at the annual Insurance Awards. The top 40 under 40 recognition comes very close…very closeJ. Why the Young Insurance Achievers Award is very close to my heart is because it is the first award I received from the insurance industry recognizing my passion to shed light on areas where insurance companies have been struggling to find solutions. The award recognized my continuous effort in proposing futuristic solutions not only to the Kenyan insurance sector but to all insurance companies world-wide.Also this was the first time the award category was introduced and it came with a lot of excitement from very brilliant minds in the insurance industry making it extremely competitive. I felt extremely humbled and very privileged to be the first recipient of this award and this has since compelled me to think about upholding this award by doing more…not just for the insurance industry but for the financial sector at large.
C: What has your career path been like as you have navigated through your chosen field leading up to your current role/position?
M: I have over 8years work experience in the Kenyan insurance industry. I have worked in Actuarial departments of several insurance companies as well as worked closely on several valuation and audit projects with leading actuarial consultancy firms including PWC, Alexander Forbes, Actuarial services (Actserv), Deloitte and EY. I am currently the Head of Actuarial at Resolution Insurance Group where I lead a team of 6 Actuarial technicians across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Previously I worked with Jubilee Insurance Company, Octagon Africa Ltd and Blossom Insurance brokerage Company.
As you can see my journey started way further from my choice of career – Actuarial. Back when I graduated there were very few companies with actuarial departments. It was impossible to even get unpaid internship to get training on the job. I ended up in a small insurance brokerage company doing everything including cooking tea, washing dishes, following up on claims…but don’t get me wrong it was so much fun working there. What I dint know at the time was that all these skills were to going to be very essential (including cooking tea J ) Haha!
This is partly where I got my passion for mentoring young actuarial graduates through training and internship because I wished someone had done this for me back then. As head of actuarial, I have never employed someone through poaching, I believe in training and creating new talent. I get very happy seeing my employees moving to better and bigger positions in other companies and growing their professions even further.
Throughout my career journey I have been at the forefront of futuristic solutions; Giving numerous talks and presentations at international conferences held locally in Kenya, in South Africa, Washington DC, West Africa (Togo) and Uganda on various insurance topics. I have also been called upon severally to speak in insurance industry forums addressing health matters in East Africa.
Academically, I hold a BSc in Actuarial Science degree from Makerere University and I am a member of both the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, UK and The Actuarial Society of Kenya. I am also a CFA level 2 candidate.
C: What advice would you offer to young people on figuring out the balance between work, family life and social life?
M: Well…I am not sure if there is a time I have felt confident that I have totally figured out how to balance books, work, family and social life J (Notice I added books as number one lol) I think the whole essence of life is about prioritizing.
There have been periods where my focus was purely on books and other areas suffered…this was a very long period considering I am an actuary and the series of exams suck up so many years of your life (it’s not even funny) But in the last 2 years my focus has been on family and with that I put a conscious stop to education; which led to me getting married in July of this year to someone I met way back in campus over 10years ago!
My advice would be that young people need to ensure they are in control of their journey. The truth is, everything that stands a chance to increase value to your life will unbalance the time you have currently allocated for family, work and social life in ways that will cause you to re-evaluate your priorities. The trick then is to know your timelines, when to do what and keep re-evaluating these decisions from time to time.
C: What is your greatest piece of advice to the young upwardly mobile individual?
M: There may be people who have more talent and are more brilliant than you (and that’s perfectly ok) but there is no excuse for anyone to work harder than you. I know I am an actuary and so most times people think I am who I am because I am bright…well, no, I wasn’t considered bright till literally the other day in high school. In my entire primary education I was below average, infact in lower primary I was ranging as one of the last student in my class. I just made a decision to work harder than I was doing before. My secret weapon has always been to put in more effort..
My other piece of advice to young people is to focus more on possibilities and not on limitations. They have to recognize that their life will be defined by opportunities (even the ones they miss) and so if they always focus on why they can’t do something they will miss a lot of possibilities.
C: What is the greatest lesson/ nugget that you have picked up in life?
M: I am a very big believer in the fact that life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage which makes me able to dream big with all my goals in life. However my greatest lesson especially for this year is that if things seem under control then I am not moving fast enough. This has definitely cost me a lot of migraines and sleepless nights as well, Haha!
And since I just got married this year, my greatest lesson in marriage (so far) is that every next level of life will demand a different you. What makes you successful in one area of your life may not necessarily be the requirements for success in the next level of your life. I have also since embarked on a journey to learn the wisdom of compromise lol..its always better to bend than to break and this is easier said than done I can assure you. J
But throughout all this, consistency is a big deal for me. Remaining a pacesetter is something I am committed to but consistency is harder for days when no one is clapping for you or cheering you on!This means my faith in God is continuously renewed with every big challenge I face and I have had to learn how to cheer myself up in those days that no else sees the sweat and tears; I have learnt how to take care of both my physical and mental health. At the end of the day I don’t believe success is about piling up the money. I believe to be successful I will have to be rich in faith, health, ideas, as well as happiness, and have successful relationships with family and friends…a little money wouldn’t hurt too. J
“Be clear on who you are and what you’re serving with your life. Then, get ready for the world to relentlessly test you on how much you really mean it.” Shari Ballard, President of Multichannel Retail, Best Buy
This week, I will be posting a second interview on Friday. The year is drawing to an end, and I am here to give you that last needed kick to close your year phenomenally and supersede your targets. So join me on Friday where I will introduce you to another trailblazer in Kenya.