It’s not very often that as a young girl in high school, when you’re asked, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’, your answer is a chief financial officer.
Nikki Wallis' heart has been set on numbers, data, and finance for as long as she can remember, but when searching for a degree, found it challenging to discover a program that would allow her to focus predominately on her advanced mathematics, analytical and problem-solving skills. After discovering Bond’s Bachelor of Actuarial Science, Nikki’s decision to pursue a degree specialising in economics and data science was solidified.
In 2021, Nikki completed her degree ready to hit the ground running, and dove straight into a full-time position as a data and analytics consultant at EY. In our final instalment of Women in Actuarial Science, we spoke with Nikki about what makes her career choice so special, and received some valuable advice for future Bondies considering a similar pathway.
What are the highlights of your job?
I absolutely love my job – there isn’t a time where I dread having to wake up and go to work in the morning. The people are incredible and are no longer just the people I work with, but are people I consider my friends. I attribute this to the social events that EY hosts, and the meet-ups that my engagement team organise. The physical office environment is also so welcoming and warm; I would liken it to Bond’s libraries. We all have work to do, but we always make time to socialise, grab a coffee, go for a walk, and chat about life. It's a joy to spend months working on specific features of an app or whatever task it may be, and upon its completion, see the impact that our work has made on our clients. It is such a great feeling.
Are there any specific skills or traits that you think would suit a career in actuarial science?
I think two of the most important traits you need for a career in actuarial science are determination and drive. There will be times where you may hit a wall or reach a point where you simply can’t move forward. It’s easy to give up at these points and say it is too hard, but the best students are the ones who use that struggle to feed their ambition to work harder and ask better questions to refine their understanding. Everything is possible if you put the time and effort in.
What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in actuarial science?
I would advise students who are aspiring to a career in actuarial science to put the work in at university and take on every opportunity available. The stronger the foundation you lay during your learning phase at university, the more likely you are to succeed with flying colours in the future. This not only involves having a strong grasp of theoretical concepts, but also pertains to developing a healthy mindset that will allow you to absorb new information in the workforce.
Bond actuarial science alumni are harnessing their skills in mathematics and finance to reach new limits in the professional world, working for globally recognised accounting firms, leading businesses, government organisations and more. Continue exploring our Women in Actuarial Science series below.
What sparked your interest in actuarial science?
When I was in high school, I was one of the few students who loved mathematics and I knew I wanted to pursue a career with a business focus, but more specifically, focusing on numbers. Before I was aware of actuarial science, I told all of my friends and family that I was going to be a chief financial officer (CFO) one day. Fast-forward a few years to when I was at the stage of deciding on which university to go to, I was looking through the business degrees offered at Bond. I came across the Bachelor of Actuarial Science and was intrigued! It was as if someone had read my mind and offered me exactly what I was looking for by combining a commerce degree with an applied mathematics approach. I attended Bond’s Open Day that same year and was even more convinced this was the degree for me.
Why did you decide to attend Bond?
One of the key reasons I decided to study at Bond University was because of the small class sizes and the personalised approach to learning. I really loved the idea of being able to form connections with each professor and have them get to know me, unlike much larger universities. Being able to live on the Gold Coast and study an actuarial science degree accredited by the Actuaries Institute, alongside a strong student community, was very appealing. The professional industry connections and opportunities Bond provides to their students was also something I was drawn to.
What is a highlight from your time at Bond?
Where do I start?! If I had to narrow it down to one aspect of my time at Bond, I would have to say the friendships I made. It may sound like a cliché answer, but until you've experienced it, it’s difficult to understand. The dynamic at Bond is so unique and welcoming. There was never a day where I didn’t talk to a new person, as well as see the same familiar and lovely faces. Not to mention, the weekly Don’s parties for students were also iconic – who doesn’t love having themed parties every week? Anyhow, going back to friendships, I made some of my closest friends at Bond, and cherish so many memories from my time there. I would not hesitate to relive it all over again.
How did Bond prepare you for your future career?
Bond did such an incredible job at ensuring I was equipped for the real world. All of my classmates and I embraced the countless industry events that provided ample networking opportunities. One of the most memorable projects I was involved in was the capstone project, which was a part of my Big Data major. We had a real client and an entire semester to produce a data visualisation plan to demonstrate how the effects of sea levels rising, as a result of global warming, would impact the sites on the Australian World Heritage List. This was such an eye-opening, practical experience and gave me a taste of what having a corporate job would be like.
Tell us a bit about your career path to date.
In May 2021, I commenced my position at EY as a data and analytics consultant. The longest project I have been involved with spanned a year, and involved managing and sustaining two major applications with over 1,500 users each, as well as coordinating reports and dashboards created by our various teams. My position was crucial in managing stakeholders’ expectations and ensuring we could maintain users’ trust in our applications by resolving all issues promptly and effectively. This role saw me interact with all of our different streams, and gave me the opportunity to dip my toes into various tasks and skills, which was extremely beneficial in exploring my career opportunities.
What does a day in your life at EY look like?
My role at EY changes depending on the project that I am working on. It can range from business analytics and liaising with key stakeholders to conceptualising and creating solutions for business technical requirements, to data analytics, which inherently involves more number crunching and involvement with backend data tables, software bugs and more.
As of late, a typical workday begins with a short team meeting, where we discuss what we achieved the previous day, what we will be working on that day, and if there are any blockers or urgent issues that we need to address. After this, my attention usually diverts to impromptu calls about tasks that I am working on. Some days consist of formal meetings with our entire team, where we discuss what each team has achieved during the week, while other days are filled with conferences where we present our recent achievements to our stakeholders, or seek approval on smaller pieces of work. To top it off, my team love to socialise (especially when it involves food), so it’s very likely my day will include a spontaneous lunch adventure or after-work drinks.