What I Did This Summer: A Twist of Fate Changed Jacob Novotny’s Career Goals

Posted Aug 31, 2022

Jacob Novotny
Jacob Novotny

Name: Jacob Novotny
Majors: Actuarial Science, Mathematics
Minors: Data Science, Finance
Class Year: Junior
Hometown: Mount Vernon, OH

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to intern full-time at Grange Insurance remotely. As an actuarial science major, I applied in the pricing department, where actuaries mainly work. (For those that are unfamiliar with what an actuary is, they traditionally use statistics and modeling to predict future financial trends in an insurance company.) When interview day came, I was surprised to discover there were actually two interviews I would participate in back-to-back — the first for pricing and the second for the personal lines product department.

I had never heard of the product department, and I didn’t apply for the position originally but ended up getting selected for that role. Little did I know getting placed in product would change my career outlook and goals in life entirely. 

I worked with a team of product analysts who each supported a product manager. Each product manager is basically a small business owner, in charge of how Grange Insurance performs in the two to three states they each oversaw. I really enjoyed my time in the product department and loved the focus on (as my manager explained it) looking at data and letting that data tell a story.

I looked at metrics like how affordable Grange is compared to competitors, what type of new business are we writing, how are competitors reacting to market trends and much more. I was responsible for multiple ad hoc projects, assisting analysts in projects that, because of their lower priority, had not gotten done.

I had the opportunity to work on some higher priority projects as well. One day a request for a data pull came in from Grange’s CFO for a meeting the next day and the analyst who would have normally been responsible for that state was having technical issues, so I took on the assignment. Being able to contribute in this way was extremely fulfilling and I felt I was a valued member of the team.

My experience at Grange changed what I wanted to do as a career. When I first started at Otterbein, my goal was to be a fully credentialed actuary. Being an actuary is a great career path, and during my time at Grange I was able to shadow and interview many different actuaries. However, I realized over the summer that my skills/interests lie more in the product department, as there is more engagement with other departments and product essentially serves as a liaison between actuarial, sales, marketing, claims etc.

My actuarial science classes at Otterbein are still incredibly relevant because product interacts and engages actuarial on a daily basis. Having a firm understanding of the methodologies and practices of actuaries will greatly help any product associate function at a higher level and be more efficient. That is why actuarial science is, in my opinion, the best degree to pursue if you want to go into any type of insurance-related analyst role.

An example of someone with an actuarial background now working in product is Alex Moorehead, an Otterbein alumnus who got his bachelor’s degree in actuarial science at Otterbein, served as vice president of the Otterbein Actuarial Science Club, and is now a product manager at Grange. The fact he works in this role was incredibly encouraging to me, and it was great connecting with him and hearing about his experiences over the summer.

Another benefit of the internship this summer was the connections I was able to make. In my first week, my manager sent me a list of 33 names and encouraged me to reach out to each of them and set up a one-on-one meeting for a half hour to learn more about what they do. To assist me in this, my manager provided their job titles and something each associate could speak about. The interns also had a half hour block with each of Grange’s executives where they would address us, share their experiences and some things they are excited about, and answer our questions.

I would highly recommend any students at Otterbein make full use of their summers and pursue an internship position. I am already looking forward to next summer, when I can get back into the workforce and intern again. Thank you to my professors, Dr. Huang and Dr. Pei, who equipped me with the technical knowledge to pursue a position like this. Thank you to all my coworkers and especially my manager at Grange Insurance for your support in this opportunity.