something that happened in my life – job change – september 2012

a throwback to the second of the three blog entries that launched the blog, if my job were my lover.



readers of my blog know that i generally take a “life is the relentless and proactive pursuit of happiness maximization” school of thought. the corollary applying to the job search is that “traditional” (asian? parental?) metrics for job desirability (status, wealth, success, power) are only relevant insomuch as they will be able to provide you with personal happiness.

i personally know that many of those things don’t really mean as much to me as, say, being able to enjoy my time off work and being in a fulfilling relationship. which… as i write it, seems a little empty. but as a 26 year old, seems to be much more important to me than a job that pays significantly more, sets me up to become a CEO, etc.

two hypotheticals:

1) would you be willing to pursue a job that would lead to a significant benefit to your community if it meant that you wouldn’t be able to pursue a personal life? more specifically, if i could tell you that you could discover the cure for AIDS, but it meant that you would have to live your life forever alone, would you do it?

i am always surprised by people who are willing to decrease/sacrifice their chances of personal happiness/having a family and do something that requires such an inordinate amount of their energy/effort/time just for personal ambition. examples: anyone who does ibanking/med school. carrie from homeland who has the incredibly heartbreaking realization that she will live life alone. angeles thinking about dropping everything and moving to africa for the next couple years. obviously people in med school, etc, can still find love, but it strikes me as being so much harder.  i can’t imagine anyone wanting to be president.

with the tongue and cheek “30 is gay death” saying or the idea of “leftover women” aka the phenomenon in many asian countries where many females above 30 aren’t desirable anymore because males of all ages only date 20-30yo girls, shouldn’t that be the top priority in your 20’s? on the flipside, i think there’s a stat where a majority of your income growth occurs before you’re 30. choices/priorities. having it all. etc. is it selfish/shortsighted that not being in the bay area is a dealbreaker? not to say that there are numerous actuary jobs in sf, but i feel really lucky that there are enough that i can justify staying here without my mom getting on my back.

2) would you be willing to pursue a job that would significantly benefit your family financially but would require you to be separated from your family? more specifically, if you could sign up to work on a cruise ship, and it meant that you could give your family 50% more income, but meant that you wouldn’t be able to see your family for a year, and you would to do something you detested and felt was below you, would you take it?

i never cease to be thankful for being born in the states, with the job market and the fact that i can still make a comfortable amount of income while still pursuing my own personal goals without having to make sacrifices. but, ugh, cruise ships really are more so about exploitation of labor rates than everything. (though sean always brings up a good point that labor is actually not a huge chunk of cruise ship costs vs capex/infrastructure.) i think cruise ship staff is notoriously unhappy (yet with huge smiles). i generally hear some heartbreaking story every time i get on a cruise about cruise ship labor, this time from our server, who said that “bad things happen behind the scenes, but you’re on vacation, so i won’t mention anything.” anyway, i sympathize with the plight of the cruise ship worker.


  • in san francisco
  • does not preclude me from having a social life
  • reasonable pay, reasonable increases for job growth
  • utilizes my strengths; something that i’m good at
  • generally low expectations for performance; low pressure
  • friends at work
  • short commute

ambition is overrated.

i remember i once was teaching a group of elementary school kids some elementary economic concepts for junior achievement and i was trying to get them to explain what they would want in a job. it was a bit of an ambitious thought question for the kids, but i think the dream job really satisfies the three major spheres: 1) something you’re good at, 2) something that society pays for, 3) something that you enjoy.


lack of job security. consulting for labor trusts are largely relationship/networking driven (not to mention old, white, and male). our senior consultant will retire in the medium future. the future of a significant block of our clients is dubious. additionally, we have one client where, if they terminated us (they are suing us), our boss has said he would have to fire one of the 4 analysts.  that was a fun day, sean can attest.

not actuarial/no relevant job skills. there was some “actuary work”, but even still, it was just employee benefits work with consultants. i was worried that i wasn’t learning anything and would have a tough time showing that i had developed experience commensurate with my time as an “actuary”.

not fun. the work wasn’t very fun. especially by the end, especially after the transfer, it felt more than a little soul crushing.


long commute. i would tell people about my 40 minute one way door to door commute to people who commuted to the south bay (1-2 hour commute) and they would laugh in my face. but increasing from a 5 minute commute!? i was really concerned, especially since i used to have a 45 minute commute from the haight back in my bain days and it was very draining.

the current commute is actually really nice, for a variety of reasons. the quality of the commute is incredibly high; BART is better than a bus, i’m on the reverse commute, which means 1) really frequent (and dependable) train schedules and 2) empty enough to still get seating 95% of the time. i can relax/decompress/watch tv on the train. the BONUS of the commute is that, with the shorter commute, i would just go home and intend to leave the house again to exercise, but would never make it. with the longer commute, i pack my workout clothes and have been a lot better about exercising, whew.

there are still drawbacks. transit costs equivalent to $1,500 pretax income annually. when i felt sick, i couldn’t go home and nap. much more difficult to make weekday events. cooking/chinese grocery shopping/same day haircuts are impossible.  i now have to bring rain gear when it’s raining. can’t put laundry in the dryer during work anymore.

only old coworkers. at my old job, the demographics were already a bit older, and it was difficult finding people to hang out with, etc. from hearsay, i knew that i would be the literally the youngest person at my new job, and i wasn’t sure i would be able to find anyone “cool” or social or non boring (stereotypically “actuarial”).

THERE ARE ACTUALLY SOME REALLY COOL PEOPLE AT MY NEW JOB. young, social, friendly, funny. way more single people. i am actually really excited about it. making friends or hanging out with them after work isn’t a huge priority, but i would certainly be open to doing so if i had more time/fewer social obligations.

the recruiter spun this as “plenty of upward growth opportunities”. don’t know whether or not it’s true, but certainly not an important criteria for me.

they still have a business casual dress code. my other offer was JEANS EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK!!!!! but eh. having to wear dress clothes is alright. helps that i don’t particularly care to look nice at work.


not detail oriented. i really think i can miss things or often overlook things accidentally, whoops.

bad work ethic. am i not built to concentrate for long periods of time? quite possible.

not good about taking ownership. i think this is partially due to the “do the bare minimum to get a good grade” training that i had the 8 years i was in higher education, but i generally have a hard time “developing mastery” of a subject or “taking ownership”.

not ambitious. see above.


i really like it!! reasons above notwithstanding, the work is a good blend of things that i find interesting, am good at, and transferable actuarial skills. it’s a supportive environment and laid back. my boss has caught me surfing a couple times, but he says it’s alright as long as i get all my work done. i can get in around 9 and leave around 5. and they actually are a lot more supportive with respect to pursuit of the actuarial career.  i also have an out-of-the-way desk, whew.


2012-08-06 12.45.11

saying goodbye ended up being quite difficult.  i think it’s weird though, that you feel maybe normally a 3/10 connection with someone, and when you say goodbye, it’s like a 8/10, and then a week later, it’s a 2/10.  emotional swings!

sean – i will dedicate a longer entry to him, but suffice to say that i think a lot of great things about him. i would say that his most impressive work-related quality is that he is mindblowing at smalltalk. like really great a building rapport and being “that guy” in the office who everyone liked. i was always impressed by his abilities to think on his feet and get other people, regardless of who they were, to laugh at his jokes.

natalie/emph – i would say that i was always incredibly impressed by her incredibly industrious work ethic and how genuinely, genuinely good natured and well intentioned she was toward everyone. i wish her the best for her family in colorado.

jose/fose – because he came into the job as a bro, and is trying to find himself imo. and growing as a person.

dan/XX – i really admire his attitude toward life, and being able to stay optimistic about his future and treating it with a dry sense of humor despite things not going his way in the past. he is really the closest thing i had to a mentor at my old job, and i really appreciate the way him lending me his ear and giving me really earnest and helpful advice, and for that, i am very thankful.

leslie/sammy/sam – for being sassy and funny and confident.

silke/silky – for being friendly and helpful with a smile when i needed it.

tina/dteena/angetina/STT – for being smart and beautiful at the same time. i don’t know, really friendly, nice person. always skirting the line of dressing inappropriately sexy at work.

lisa/mona – how she unabashedly OWNED her life and was proud of the way she carried her life even if people judged her for it. she likes what she likes and makes decisions based on that. so many people just defer to other people’s expectations of their life.


starting the new job, i was anxious.  meeting expectations, learning names, making smalltalk, ugh.

i am very impressed by the people on my team. i think respect for your coworkers/superiors counts for a lot.  while i think that their communication skills are sometimes not great, i think that they are incredibly knowledgeable from an actuarial, analytical, technical, and healthcare reform standpoint, and i am sure that i will learn a lot from them. it’s just such a breath of fresh air for people to actually comment on the way the model works and questioning assumptions and wondering about how certain things are modeled and offering substantive feedback instead of just focusing on the output. it’s great hearing people discussing things like “induced utilization” and “adverse selection” and other actuarial ideas that i really didn’t have exposure to at my prior job.

while there are a lot of friendly, young people at the office, i have to say that a couple people (colleen, vashti, jennie, kathy, and akash) really stand out. all young and social and friendly and down for drinks and i can always get a laugh out of them. i look forward to spending more time with them, and have already introduced kathy to a bunch of my friends. excited!!


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