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3 Personal Road Maps to Inspire Your Career Change

Whether you’re exploring a new passion or you’re seeking new challenges, successfully navigating a career change requires a tremendous amount of effort and belief. Not sure how to start? Keep reading for three inspiring career change stories that just might be the motivation you need to plan your own route to success.

Carmen Gracey

Current Role: VP, Underwriting Axis Specialty

Prior Role: AVP Finance Platinum Re (2008)

When I left University I planned on working through the ranks at KPMG to eventually become Partner one day. I was approached after a few years to work at ACE Tempest Re on their accounting team. A year later I moved to Platinum where I was responsible for their consolidation, SEC Reporting and other finance/accounting duties. While there I learned more about “these people called Underwriters” and thought it sounded like a good mix of client interaction and numbers/desk work. In 2008 I decided to set up a meeting with our group CEO and told him I wanted to move into Underwriting. He was instrumental in making the move happen and within no time at all I was on the Underwriting team working on Financial Lines, Surety and other Specialty programs in order to get my “feet wet” so to speak.

Once I moved, I immediately began working on my ARe and CPCU as I knew my CPA, while valuable, wasn’t going to help show on paper that I knew anything about reinsurance. The courses helped to give me the foundation I missed out on by not starting as an Underwriting Assistant or Cat Modeler.

The learning curve was steep when I moved from the Financial Lines/Specialty products to Property Cat but managed to dig in and get the grasp of things before long. Joining the Bermuda Under 40’s tour to London and then joining WiRe proved invaluable – the networking and exposure I got from those two decisions really helped solidify my decision to move away from the back office and into the Underwriting role. The rest is history, as they say.

While my career change was an important one for me, both roles were in a financial services organization and probably not as drastic as moving from Nursing to Underwriting for example.

Melanie Lopes

Current Role: Underwriter Assistant

Prior Role: Catastrophe Analyst

I graduated from university with an Honors Business Administration degree and, like many other young graduates, no set career path. I worked at the National Sports Centre for two years before deciding to join the (re)insurance world. Upon accepting a job at Allied World in 2015, I began studying for my ARe in order to gain a better understanding of the industry and to improve in my role as a Catastrophe Analyst.

In 2017, an opening in the Specialty Reinsurance team caused me to reconsider my whole timeline. Although I had always viewed underwriting as the next logical step, I had not planned for the transition to happen quite so soon. After some evaluation, I knew this opportunity was not one that I could pass up. I successfully presented myself for the Underwriter Assistant position by stressing my catastrophe modeling background and good analytical skills. Despite the steep learning curve, the change has been a welcomed one. Making the switch to underwriting was certainly a step out of my comfort zone, but thanks to the support (and patience!) of my team members, I have learned more in the last year than I could have imagined. With just one CPCU exam left, I am looking forward to finding out what lies ahead in my new career path.

Amy Peniston

Current Role: Assistant Underwriter

Prior Role: Freelance Writer/Web Developer

After graduating from college with a degree in biomedical engineering, I returned to Bermuda and switched gears, taking on a variety of writing work for local and international travel publications. On the side, I enrolled in online courses to develop my programming skills, with the goal of applying my love for technology to design for the web. I spent over 3 years as a client-facing freelance web developer, tackling a wide range of projects that challenged my creativity and ability to teach myself new skills.

In 2017, I decided it was time for a change. A job advert for a junior-level catastrophe modelling position caught my eye and I sent in my application (without much hope, I might add!). I was extremely excited to be called for an interview, during which I showcased my well-rounded skillset, my competence with programming and, most importantly, my eagerness to learn. I cannot stress this point enough: a career change requires a tremendous amount of learning. By highlighting my online coursework and commitment to mastering new technologies as a freelancer, I demonstrated my ability to pick up any and all required skills. I got the job and have continued to expand my knowledge in pursuit of the ARe and CPCU designations. Most recently, I transitioned from risk and analytics to the specialty reinsurance team and I look forward to growing into my new role as assistant underwriter.

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