Where Are They Now? University of Akron Risk Management and Insurance Graduate Ashley Gao

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If you are in college or getting ready to head to college, you probably know what it’s like to be  completely unsure about your career options. Choosing a career is a big decision! When Ashley Gao decided to pursue a degree from the University of Akron, she didn’t know what she wanted to go into and had never even considered working in the insurance industry. After discussing her interests with Dr. Jill Bisco, head of the Risk Management and Insurance program, Ashley was directed to the diverse field of insurance. She graduated with a degree in Actuarial Science and a minor in Risk Management and now has a job working as an assistant actuary at Western & Southern. Ashley Gao

About Ashley

Ashley grew up in a suburb of Akron in Northeast Ohio. Ashley wanted to stay close to home when she went to college so she could continue to help her parents at their family owned restaurant, and so she chose the University of Akron. She did not go into college with the intention of studying insurance, and in fact did not know what she wanted to pursue. She emailed several professors asking for guidance and Dr. Bisco was the first to respond. Ashley said what struck her about Dr. Bisco is that she didn’t try to “sell” her on majoring in Risk Management and Insurance. “She really listened to my ambitions and passions,” and Ashley says this conversation led Dr. Bisco to suggest that Ashley pursue Actuarial Science.

How did you get your job at Western & Southern?

As a student, Ashley wanted to connect more with people her age who were also going into Actuarial Science. She connected with a student at Ohio Northern University who had passed the actuarial exam and gone on to work at Western & Southern in 2017. Ashley had thought that she would stay closer to home after graduation, but was impressed with Western & Southern and wanted to see what kind of opportunities they offered, so she applied despite the distance. She got the job there, and even though she got two other job offers closer to Akron, she made the move to Cincinnati to join the Western & Southern team!

What is it like working in insurance?

As an assistant actuary, Ashley works in the Annuity Products department, working on pricing, maintenance, and support of annuities. At Western & Southern, young employees in the actuary department are on a two-year rotational schedule, meaning after two years, Ashley will be transferred to another of the company’s six actuarial departments, to see how actuaries play a role in other areas of insurance. Ashley said that the most surprising part about working in insurance is how the insurance industry is involved in just about every part of our lives, which lends to job stability. Because insurance is involved in so much more than we realize, there will always be a need for it, and the industry is made to withstand a lot of disruption.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in insurance?

Finally, Ashley leaves this advice for anyone considering the insurance field: “Embrace the opportunities that insurance can bring and throw out preconceived ideas of insurance. If you feel lost, reach out to someone in insurance. Throughout my time in college, I met many people in the industry. Most of them, like myself, didn’t dream about working in insurance. Honestly, how many kids do? However, with a little bit of curiosity, we all fell into insurance and most have stayed to have very fulfilling careers.”

You can learn more about the University of Akron’s Risk Management and Insurance program by visiting UA’s website. If you would like to learn more about the variety of careers within the insurance industry, check out our career paths today, and take our career survey to find out which path might be right for you!


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