Andrea CookBS Mathematics
Central Michigan University, 2003
Employee Benefits Consultant
Even though retirement is a long way off for me, I am especially interested in preparing for the golden years. My interest spiked when I became an Employee Benefits Consultant for Plante & Moran, PLLC four years ago.
I earned a degree in mathematics at Central Michigan University. I really didn't have a dream job to work towards, but I loved learning math and was doing well in my advanced courses.
With graduation quickly approaching, I interviewed with Plante & Moran to be an Employee Benefits Consultant. Though I was not sure exactly what I'd be doing, I understood that other consultants in the group also graduated with math degrees and were successful at their jobs. I also knew that consulting would be a way that I could use my technical math skills, but also develop great relationships with clients and have opportunities to communicate complex ideas to various audiences. By nature, I am an extrovert who loves working with others towards a common goal. It did not seem to me that many career paths in mathematics would suit this characteristic of my personality-but consulting would be different.
As an Employee Benefits Consultant, I work with different kinds of retirement plans and welfare plans. I use my mathematics background for actuarial computations, analysis, and underwriting calculations. My math courses taught me structured logical thinking patterns which have made me an organized person and have developed my problem solving and creativity skills. In my career, I need to be an organized thinker to juggle the many client projects I may be working on simultaneously, but also to be able to read through and interpret the complex rules and regulations set forth by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Part of my job is to perform nondiscrimination testing on retirement plans to ensure the plan is meeting the strict guidelines of the DOL and IRS. As a consultant, I also provide alternative plan designs to accommodate the demographic nature of the client and pass testing.
One of the most helpful experiences of my college career was to get involved in the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU). With the guidance of my advisor, I was able to work on research in the area of graph theory for a summer while in college. This experience really pushed me to think creatively and use a variety of resources to reach my goals for the project. I had the opportunity to present my results to other students as well as audiences who had limited background in math. From government officials to my own family members, I learned to tailor my presentation to meet the experience level of my audience.
This experience has been invaluable in my career as I work with clients who have different backgrounds in finance, human resources, or other business areas. Some of my clients need detailed explanations of our calculations whereas others prefer to hear results only.
I feel that my degree in mathematics, as well as the opportunity to participate in a research experience, has been integral in my career as an Employee Benefits Consultant. There is not one particular course that has brought me to my career today, but studying the many facets of mathematics has certainly given me the tools to be a successful professional.