David Alexander has had a varied 35 year international career so far. During that time he has managed Life, Pensions, Health and General Insurance, and Reinsurance portfolios, underpinned by his actuarial background. His functional roles spread across technical, management, governance, non-executive director, and business development roles - sometimes in combination! Geographically, David has covered all parts of Asia, including as CEO of the Hong Kong branch of a global reinsurer, and the United Kingdom, where he is now a consultant and advisor. These are David’s reflections on the skills, experience and behaviours that helped him on his career journey:
“Interested in a varied career? My career story may be able to give you a helping hand.
Looking back, my father gave me some advice at a relatively young age that I should get myself a trade or profession as the basis of my career. It was only much later that I saw what a good investment that was. I happened to become an actuary, but you may be an engineer, a surveyor, lawyer, doctor etc etc. It doesn’t really matter, but he was right that having a profession brings with it an ethical foundation and some professional support as well the technical knowledge you gain through examinations and continuing professional development.
Any profession brings advantages in securing work and gaining the respect of your colleagues. It also brings responsibilities towards the public interest, your profession and of course your client(s). A highly regarded profession brings opportunities. However, whilst that qualification gives you a springboard for your career, you still have to deliver in your work life in order to continue making progress.
Opportunities also bring change, and that means stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. You need to be motivated to take on the challenge and have some strategies to give yourself the best chance of success. The reward is potentially a series of engaging roles and development opportunities. These in turn lead to more substantial jobs and challenges. How far you expand your horizons and how substantial the roles you aim for is really up to you.
Let me tell you about some of the opportunities I was fortunate enough to come across and brave enough to have a go at and how I was able to be successful at them. Read more for my reflections...
Errol Gray is a coach for managers and leaders, with extensive experience of helping people move from where they find themselves to where they want to be. Over his career he has been a minister, a corporate executive, and now a leadership coach. Here are Errol’s reflections, demonstrating his own development journey:
“My professional journey is characterised by a deep relationship that has followed its course like a thread. The thread not only joins the events of my working life like beads on a string, but it also tracks the highs and lows of my effectiveness. This is because the quality of my work is directly related to the quality of this relationship; when the relationship is healthy, my work is good and when it’s not, my work suffers.
The relationship I’m talking about, the thread that connects all the events and has a direct bearing on the impact of my work even today, is the one I have with what I know.
What I know
What I know is the most important aspect on my journey. It either nourishes it or starves it. Sometimes I am so impressed with it and at others depressingly dismayed by it. Sometimes it’s full, at other times my knowledge is empty. The knowledge I speak of is the knowledge necessary for coaching and related disciplines.
I’ve learnt the hard way that this relationship, like any other, must develop and mature. My best way of doing this is not as you may think – acquiring ever more knowledge. I’ve tried this. Like Botox, it may change the way you appear but may do nothing for how you feel about yourself. Acquisition, as with many physical things, does not equate to maturity.
Lee Faulkner is a non-traditional actuary, born in Britain, who has lived and worked in a wide range of other countries including Spain, Mexico, Argentina, and now Hong Kong. He describes himself as ‘Latin, Asian and British’ and knows all about being an expat! As you’ll see below, Lee has a delightful sense of humour, is strongly mission-driven, and isn’t afraid of pushing beyond his comfort zone (and encouraging all of us to do the same). He’s been an English language teacher during his career too, and has started a business ‘taking on the big boys’. Here are Lee’s reflections:
“Age - the Stuff of Excuses
I’m approaching 60 so, according to the world I’ve grown up in, I should now be thinking about winding down my career and focusing on best-buy slippers and pipes. But that feels wrong - if a life well-lived means anything it has to be sharing what you’ve learned and using your experience to help out those around you. I can’t wind down - every year I find still more ways of ratcheting up; yes, I need the cash (and yes - all those warnings about not contributing enough to a pension scheme have come home to roost!) but more importantly I have an overwhelming feeling of “not having finished”. There’s more to do. I don’t have kids, so I won’t have a biological legacy, but I have a brain and a mouth that I’m not afraid to use so they’ll be the tools of my legacy instead.
I don’t think I could ever rest until I see professionals doing what I’ve always thought we should do - using our skills to help those that really need us, not the companies that pay us. We’ve been hiding ourselves away for too long, and now’s the time for a professional coming out!