Statistics

It all started two years ago.

I had just earned my master’s degree in mathematics, and I was still figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I spent three solid months studying for the first actuarial exam. Even though I passed the exam, I wasn’t really sure that the actuary path is what I wanted. I soon became sidetracked by Target (and eventually started working for my current company), so I dropped studying for the second exam.

Throughout college and graduate school, I shied away from studying applied math. I didn’t do applied math. I was a purist. It wasn’t until I studied for the first actuarial exam (on probability) that I discovered how interesting applied math could be.

Since then, I’ve noticed statistics (the discrete application of probability) arise in all sorts of situations, conversations, and problems. Nearly every industry has some need for statistics, so there definitely seems to be a demand for statisticians.

So this is the path, for now. I actually took the day off from work today to check out a local university to see if I can take certain undergraduate courses through their concurrent enrollment program. The classes seem to be (beyond) full, but there’s a chance I could get in if I go to the first day of classes and get approval from the course instructors. If I can take undergraduate prerequisites now, I should be able to apply to graduate school for admission in Fall 2010.

My decision to pursue this statistics path/idea was tentatively made less than a week ago, so I’m still wrapping my head around everything. I keep having pangs of fear and hesitation (like “I can’t believe I’m going back to school,” “what the heck am I doing,” and “do I even have what it takes to get a degree in statistics”), but the few friends I’ve told so far are supportive, which helps a lot.

The first day of classes is this Friday, so I’d have to take another day off from work (two days in one week). If everything goes well, I’m not sure if I can keep my job; I’d basically have to take off three days a week. Breaking the news to my boss and big boss will be difficult but ultimately necessary.

Possible Internship

Work has been really stressful all week. Every week feels more stressful than the last. I sometimes wonder if all jobs are meant to be this stressful. I get the impression that my friend/boss wants me to think that if I can’t master my sales job then I can’t master any (meaningful) job. It makes sense when he says it in his own way (a sign of a salesman), but I don’t know how much it’s true.

Meanwhile, my friend in the actuary field asked me today (by email) if I would be open to an actuarial internship in Portland. Not wanting to limit my opportunities, I said I wasn’t against it. Apparently, my friend has been talking about me to a manager at his company, and this manager seems interested in possibly taking me on as an intern in their Portland branch (my friend is in Seattle). Of course, if I do a good job, I would be hired to a salaried position.

My friend said he’d know more in a couple weeks. Wouldn’t it be great if I got an internship at his company? I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I really hope something comes out of this opportunity!

Less Anxious Friday

This week went a lot better than I thought it would. First, my friend/boss was away on business for a couple days. Not feeling like he’s constantly watching over me relieved a lot of stress. Even after he returned, I haven’t been as anxious as I used to be. I’ve become more comfortable with my responsibilities, and I finally feel like I know what I’m doing (for the most part). I do still get a little anxious in the mornings, but it usually passes by lunchtime.

In other news, my friend in actuary said his company might be hiring in the next couple months, so he told me to send him my resume. It feels a little weird for me to be looking for a job while I’m still new at my current job, but I suppose I should be looking into opportunities whenever they come. After all, you can’t plan when life throws opportunities at you, right?

The biggest advice my friend in actuary gave me was to take the second exam in November rather than waiting until next year. With how much time and energy my job takes right now, I’m not sure if I will be prepared to take the exam by then (it’s early in the month this year). Even if I pass the exam, it will have been a year since I passed the first exam; I wonder how that looks to employers.

Anyway. I have more immediate things to deal with. I’m taking a weekend trip up to the Bay Area with my brother. Actually, he’s going to stay up there for most of the week, but I’m flying back on Sunday so I don’t miss any work. It should be fun, but I’m getting tired just thinking about it. Maybe I should plan my weekends to be less tiring than the work week.

An Excellent Brain

I’m getting really close to quitting my job at Target. My move to the price change team doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon, and my current position isn’t conducive to properly studying for the actuarial exams. I come home late and tired, so all I want to do at night is relax.

It seems risky, though, to quit (especially during the current economic situation) in the hopes that I pass the second exam in November. The second exam isn’t even a guarantee of getting a job, either. I may not even get an actuarial job until after I pass the third exam, which would be in May of next year at the earliest.

Even if I have no future at Target, doesn’t having the job have some amount of value? Doesn’t the job demonstrate the ability deal with difficult people and work in a team environment? My dad seems to think that none of the skills I’m using/gaining at Target are useful or transferable to the actuary field because actuary uses professional skills and retail is non-professional, but I disagree.

Basically, I don’t know if it’s a good move to quit my job to focus on studying. I think that my job at Target has its redeeming qualities, and I don’t know if I’m willing to be unemployed for a year before my career has a chance of starting.

Most of this post stems from a conversation I had with my dad tonight. We were discussing what jobs I could do, and he always came back to the actuary field as the best option. The pay is good, I can use my background, and I don’t need additional schooling. I’m a little skeptical in my abilities to pass the exams, but my dad said he has faith that I can do it. I have “an excellent brain.” I just have to use it.

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The Starbucks-Gym Combination

My last three days off from work were busy with friends. It was a great change of pace from my normal boring weekends. I really must hang out with my friends more often. Unfortunately, I didn’t have plans with anyone today.

I made a point not to visit Target today. Instead, I went to Starbucks for a couple hours and read one of the texts for the actuarial exams. My usual Starbucks was being renovated, so I had to find another Starbucks in the nearby area. It wasn’t hard.

Afterwards, I went to the gym for the first time since sometime in February (at least I think it was February; I haven’t mentioned going to gym on this blog since early January). I forgot how relaxing the gym is. I did a medium workout to gauge how my body and muscles have changed over the last few months. I was afraid that a lot of my weight loss was from muscle loss, but I still seem to be able to do everything that I could do from when I went to the gym regularly.

I’ve lost about twenty pounds since I started working at Target. I’m five or six pounds less than my “ideal weight,” which I thought was impossible to reach six months ago! Many of my friends have commented on how skinny I am. One of them is jealous that I weigh less than him. Whenever I go out to eat with him, he tries to buy me dessert!

The actual number of pounds I weigh is mostly just a number, not an indication of my health. I already know I’m healthy (knock on wood). Even still, I don’t want to gain weight from gaining muscle. Now that I’m skinny, I don’t want my weight to go back up, even if it’s in a good way (I know, I’m crazy).

Anyway, going to the gym was fun, except that my iPod nano was out of battery from lack of use. I used to listen to my nano every day, but I rarely use it now because I don’t listen to it at work. The battery can’t even hold a charge as long anymore. My (2nd generation blue) nano was a birthday present from six of my graduate school friends in 2006, so it has a lot of sentimental value.

The Starbucks-gym combination was what I did for the three months before working at Target, and it’s how I passed the first actuarial exam. Maybe it’s time to go back to what works.

Five Day Weekend

After a lot of confusing mixing around of schedules and requesting time off, I have the next five days off from work. I didn’t plan on having a five day weekend, but I’m not really going to complain.

My dad is really worried that I’m never going to find a “real” job. He keeps telling me that days off aren’t for goofing off and that my mom and he won’t be around to support me forever. He stresses how he thinks the actuary field is the right career for me, and he asks why I’m so against it. I hate how my dad always brings up the actuary field as if I’m not thinking about my future at all.

I’m not against the actuary field, per se. I’m just trying to keep my options open by not only looking into actuary jobs. I suppose, though, that not focusing my efforts toward one career path is the same as having no goal at all.

I really have to figure out what the heck I’m doing.

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My Current Plan

My friend didn’t show up for our tutoring session, so I didn’t do any tutoring today. I remember making a plan last week to do it, but I guess she forgot or something. Oh well. At least thinking that I had to tutor today got me out of the house earlier.

Instead of tutoring, I ended up spending a few hours at Borders (our original meeting place) reading one of the textbooks for the actuarial exams. Since the next actuarial exam is many months away, I won’t study my hardest right now; I know how I study. If I study a lot now, I’ll get discouraged and lose momentum too early. My current plan is to read through and preview the material for a couple months first. That way, when it’s time to properly study, I’ll have a foundation already built from which to work more efficiently.

I’m also thinking about learning a computer programming language. Computer skills are becoming increasingly important in most professions, including the actuary field (from what my friend in actuary says). I learned how to use LaTeX back in college, but no one cares about that except mathematicians. I’m hoping to pick up a book on SQL and master it during the next few months before my studying intensifies.

After Borders, I went to Target to let the executives know that I’m accepting the price change position. A couple weeks from now, they’ll start scheduling me 6am shifts!

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