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Be determined to succeed

Maths alumna Caitlin Stronach has been telling today's undergraduates to make the most of all the opportunities offered to them at University. She tells us about her time as a student, career as an actuary, and why she wants to help students.

Caitlin Stronach

Tell us about your time at Edinburgh and how it has helped your career.

There were two defining moments that helped to influence my career choice to become an actuary. Firstly, attending Dr Bruce Worton’s statistics course during my second year. This was the first time that I had really been exposed to this field of mathematics and Dr Worton made the subject engaging and interesting to learn. I knew at this point I wanted to follow a career which used these statistical methods that I had learned but that also continued to develop my knowledge and understanding.

The second realisation was that one of my key strengths was my communication skills. Being a maths student often required you to work as part of a team to solve problems, present your ideas and also challenge others’ ideas – from doing this, I knew I wanted to follow a career that would allow me to meet and interact with lots of different people.

You recently took part in a speed networking event, giving advice to undergraduate students. Why did you decide to volunteer for this?

The main reason why I have chosen to take part in these events is so that current students have the opportunity to meet graduates and ask questions, which I think is invaluable. Alumni events didn’t exist when I was a student so as much as possible, I’m keen to support the University in order to improve the student experience. I have a lot of fond memories from my time here so participating in these events is really enjoyable because it allows me to come back, speak to students and hear what their experience has been like.

Why is it so important that students hear from graduates who have gone on to have successful careers?

I think there is a tendency for students during their time at university to go around in their own “bubble” and I know from my own experience that it is often hard to see life past studying. It is important that students hear from graduates so that their eyes are open to what opportunities are available to them – both throughout their university career and following graduation. Speaking to graduates first hand is a great way to get advice and hear an honest account of the work that is required in order to achieve your goals. Unlike a lot of employer events, alumni events give students a forum to ask questions in a much more informal capacity.

What do you wish you’d known as a student?

Certainly at the start of my university career, I wish I had known that it was ok not to be the best. I often put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and in the beginning it was really hard to adapt to university life and this new way of studying. I realised quickly that I was never going to be top of my class academically but I made sure to make up for this by taking advantage of all the other opportunities that were on offer – the work experience, the summer projects, being part of a society. You just need to be determined to succeed!  

Your insights

If you are interested in offering advice and career support to current students, please contact CJ Cochran, Alumni Manager:

CJ Cochran

Alumni Manager, Schools & Colleges

  • Development and Alumni
  • Alumni Engagement

Contact details

Related links

Careers Service

School of Mathematics