Meet Alina Shahid
Why did you pursue an internship with Willis Towers Watson? Meet Alina Shahid
Studying an Actuarial Science degree, I always knew I wanted to get experience in the actuarial world, specifically consultancy. I was eager to learn more about how the technical mathematical problems we learned at university apply to economic trends in the real world, in order to provide client-oriented solutions. Willis Towers Watson is industry-known for being an actuarial consulting specialist, so it was always on the top of my list of firms I wanted to learn more about. After attending a ‘Discover’ event at Willis Towers Watson, I fell in love. Every colleague I spoke to was very welcoming and helpful and I came away with so much guidance and insight in just one day, that I knew doing an internship here meant I would learn so much. Additionally, the project-based work at Willis Towers Watson was especially attractive to me because of the opportunity to gain experience in different areas of actuarial work and get a wider scope of experience than other roles elsewhere. The friendly atmosphere and culture here have helped me make my final decision that this is the company with which I would love to start my career.
What was your experience of the application process?
My experience of the application process was fairly straightforward. There were a series of online tests and then a video interview before an assessment centre. Willis Towers Watson was my first experience of an assessment centre, but everything was thoroughly explained, and Emma from the GB Early Careers team was helpful and calming therefore the day ran smoothly. I got my offer the very next day, so for me there was no anxious waiting around, the full process was really quick.
What were your thoughts/apprehensions about completing a virtual internship? Did they change once you joined the program?
I was extremely nervous before the internship and was worried about how I was going to manage to do everything without having someone physically close by to help. However, before the internship started Yvonne – who oversaw organising the internship – was in regular contact, providing me with information on what to expect and asking if I needed anything. Once the internship began and I started my project work, my project manager would message me daily to ask how I was getting on and if I needed any help. I also have chats twice a week with my line manager to catch up but really, we speak most days to talk about my progress and any challenges I am facing. As part of the internship programme, I also have been paired up with a buddy, Maggie, who is a recent graduate and is part of the Reserving team I am on. We have daily chats where she helps me with my projects, tells me about what projects she’s working on and gives me advice on how to get the most out of my internship.
What training and development opportunities have you enjoyed as a result of the internship?
I have learnt so many new things! Doing an Actuarial Science Degree provided me with a basic understanding, however, everyone I have meet at Willis Towers Watson starts from the beginning and explains everything thoroughly. We’ve also had training sessions on the specific sectors within Willis Towers Watson, the different software each department uses and current ‘hot topics’ within the insurance industry. Before my internship, I had no coding experience at all, and my Excel skills were at a beginner level. However, I’m starting to learn how to use new software such as Radar, Igloo and ResQ FR. Additionally, when I have had the opportunity to work on Excel, my project manager has made the time to screen-share with me, to show me different functions and tricks to get my work done more efficiently. Throughout all the software trainings we have been given, the specialists are happy to reach out to us and are quick to help whenever we have any questions. During my internship, everybody has been so willing to go out of their way to schedule a call so they can walk you through everything properly.
Is there anything about the internship that you found really challenging? What support did you have to overcome those challenges?
As I was given two projects straight away (along with training and onboarding) I was slightly overwhelmed at first. However, my line manager was brilliant! He really helped me organise my time and in just three weeks my time management and organisational skills had improved significantly. Also, my project managers were really understanding, we worked together towards deadlines and there was no expectation of having to stay late to complete work. The initial training was a steep learning curve but there were always colleagues available to message and ask for help and guidance.
Do you think you gained anything extra/different from having your internship online? What were some of the benefits of not being physically in the office?
I think it has encouraged me to push myself out of my comfort zone and learn new skills, apply what I already knew to new situations and solve problems using different techniques. It also helped me to take one step further and email new people from different teams in order to meet more people and learn about the variety of projects they are working on in different sectors which has improved my virtual networking skills immensely.
How would you describe the culture at Willis Towers Watson?
Welcoming. Helpful. And Supportive. Everybody has been so willing to go out of their way to introduce themselves and offer assistance and guidance. At Willis Towers Watson a lot of colleagues are true specialists in their field and are always willing to share their expertise, something which has been an invaluable experience to me.
Were you able to build your network with your internship peers and Willis Towers Watson colleagues, even though you weren’t physically together? What things were in place/did you proactively do to achieve this?
Yes definitely! Throughout the internship we have had multiple networking sessions scheduled with a wide variety of people, from all different levels (from recent graduates to partners) so we could get a real variety of perspectives. Getting guidance, insight and tips from senior partners and information on the routes they took in order to be successful actuaries has been very inspiring.
We have also had opportunities to speak with colleagues in different areas from our own, so although my internship is in general insurance, I have spoken to people within life insurance for example. Additionally, we were asked what areas of work we were interested in and have then received the contact details of experts in that field to set up virtual ‘coffee chats’ with.
Not one person has ever turned down the opportunity to talk and give insight into what they do. One of the most interesting things about my experience was that so many colleagues have walked in very similar paths in terms of their career and studying for the actuarial exams and therefore provided great advice and tips on how to be successful.
What is your hope for your career in the future?
I am hoping to secure a space on the graduate programme at Willis Towers Watson as the study package and support they provide is exceptional and it is a goal of mine to complete all the examinations in order to become a qualified actuary. The breadth of experience provided at Willis Towers Watson should hopefully put me in a good position to face challenges and take more responsibility on various client projects in the future.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give someone considering an internship at Willis Towers Watson?
I would tell them go for it! It may seem scary and nerve wracking to start with but honestly, I had no experience when I started but I ended up learning so much whilst on my programme. Everybody at Willis Towers Watson has been so welcoming and helpful: the culture is like a big family.
I would recommend talking to as many actuaries as possible, participating in virtual networking events, maybe even asking your university if there are any actuarial alumni you could get in contact with and ask about their experiences.
Additionally, make sure to do thorough research – research the role as well as the company and its values. Research the industry well, especially how insurance providers operate and the ‘hot topics’. Also know the specifics of the company you are applying to, so you can tailor your application.
Come with an open mind, be yourself and be ready to experience new challenges.