Member Spotlight: Ellen Kleinstuber
Meet CCA Member: Ellen Kleinstuber
Spend a little bit of time with Ellen Kleinstuber, CCA’s current president, and you’ll notice she has a contagious smile, and you’ll quickly get a sense for her dedication to and passion for the CCA – the organization she calls her professional home. She is a humble and compassionate leader who is tenacious, logical and laser focused on priorities. She is looking forward to serving you during the coming year. Take a minute to learn more about Ellen.
I loved math and thought that might be a career area of study for me, but I didn’t know what to do with it besides being a teacher, which was definitely not appealing to me. As a junior in high school our teachers took several of us to a STEM career day at a local college. As I heard about how actuarial science combines applied math with economics, finance, and computer science I was hooked – it sounded like the perfect career for me. After that, I got lucky and happened into being a consulting actuary, which is to say I got one job offer coming out of college and I took it!
This one is easy – the feeling of being part of something truly special. I’m a member of three other actuarial organizations (SOA, Academy, and ASEA), each of which is an important piece of my professional support system. With CCA, however, there’s just something different. When I come to CCA events, it feels like coming home to friends and family. Some of those are professional relationships that I get the opportunity to nurture at shared events like the Annual Meeting, and others are personal friendships that have developed over the years with other CCA members and our wonderful staff.
I don’t think I’m a very surprising person, so I cheated and asked my husband for ideas. He thinks people would be surprised that one of my favorite genres of music is 90s grunge rock. It often ends up blasting on my car radio when I’m driving.
To be more precise, my main love in the grunge rock genre is York County, PA’s native sons +Live+, who are one of the best live concert bands ever. (I should know, I’ve seen them 10 times.) If you want to understand the rhythm that runs through my soul listen to Throwing Copper and The Distance to Here.
It depends on what I’m in the mood for. If I want fiction, I go with Nicholas Sparks. (I read the Notebook and A Walk to Remember and was hooked.) I’m also a big fan of Erich Segal’s novels, particularly The Class.
For non-fiction, I mostly read books on leadership and personal growth. If you’d like to hear more about which ones have inspired me the most, check out my monthly President’s Spotlight messages over the coming year.
I’ve been fortunate to have several that stand out and impacted me in different ways. Perhaps the most significant of them was the one who taught me the value of having a mentor. Until that point in my career, I’d had managers, supervisors, and coaches. I’d gotten some recognition for my actuarial and consulting skills and was up for promotion to AVP. I was passed over in a year when everyone thought I was a slam dunk. Devastated (and frankly embarrassed despite the words of support from colleagues), I was encouraged to talk to my office leader. He helped me understand that it’s not always enough to be smart and good at what you do. You also need to have people who are willing to go to bat for you – and when you find them, continue proving to them they were right to do so. He helped me learn how to engage with and garner support from the other senior leaders in our office and convert them advocates.
He also helped prepare me for the expectations that would be placed on me as a newly minted officer so I could excel in that role. He believed in me and was willing to invest his time in me. Ever since, I walk through my career hoping that I am able to pay it forward to others as thanks for what he did to position me for continued success.
Earning the trust of the nominating committee that recommended me to be President.
Just about anything that involves interacting with CCA staff. This is a team of talented, creative, and dedicated professionals who love what they do and the members they support. It really doesn’t matter what it is we’re working on. When the staff is involved, they find a way to make it a great experience.
I got my Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with concentrations in Actuarial Science and Statistics from Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, PA.
I think Maya Angelou sums up my view of success in the best way I have heard, and certainly better than I could say it myself – “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” These three elements bundled together are so important for achieving true success.
If you don’t love yourself, you risk compromising what is important to you out of fear or concern for how others will view or perceive you.
Life is too short, and we spend too much time at work, to not like the work you are doing. There’s always going to be things we don’t enjoy about whatever job we’re in. It’s about finding something you can do with your talent where the good far outweighs the bad.
The last part, “liking how you do it”, is what really resonated with me about this quote. To me, it speaks to having a supportive environment where you can be creative and position those around you to find their own success without it jeopardizing your own.
As I’m writing this, I remember a quote I saw from Dave Ramsey earlier today – “God feeds the birds, but he doesn’t throw the worms into the nest. Rise and shine, hustle and grind.”
It’s an interesting time for people just starting their career. As many companies move toward increased utilization of remote work, it can be easy to get overlooked. When you’re remote, it’s not like the “higher ups” walk past your desk everyday and offer you organic opportunities for interaction. Busy managers and leaders, no matter how dedicated they are to the development of their team, busy managers and leaders give their attention to those who seek it out in a positive, productive manner. It’s not your manager or practice leader’s job to make sure you learn and advance – it’s yours. They can teach you. You have to commit to learning.
As I watched the news coverage of the COVID pandemic and heard so many people butchering math and statistics, I thought to myself “they need an actuary in there to give them the straight, unbiased analysis and explain in plain language how math works”. There are so many areas outside of the actuarial profession that could benefit from the work of actuaries – the way we think, the way we analyze data, and the way we synthesize information to identify actionable insights. The work being done with big data and predictive analytics is just in its infancy, with significant potential for a widening array of applications in numerous fields.
I think actuaries should also have more opportunities for C-suite positions beyond Chief Actuary and Chief Risk Officer. We bring a perspective on risk that will benefit other C-suite roles like COO and CEO.
As a consulting actuary, my goal is to use my actuarial, business, and management training to help my clients manage the financial risks facing their employee benefit plans, so that I position them for success.
I may be one of the few actuaries out there who can’t stand reverse polar notation. My calculator of choice is the HP 10B (not to be confused with the HP 10bII). I even managed to score one off a car salesman one time when, after hearing what I did for a living, he pulled a “fancy” calculator that he never used out of his desk drawer and asked if I wanted it. Yes, please!
Making sure that the zillions of things competing for attention are put in their proper perspective and priority. I’m still working on this one, every single day.
It’s really easy to get wrapped up in work – paid and volunteer – and lose sight of the time taken away from the people who are most important in my life and who also need my time and attention. This includes taking care of my physical, emotional, and mental health. Like a lot of people, the last couple years have been a new kind of challenge that none of us were prepared for. As a wife, mother, and leader, to be able to give my best to those around me, I have to remember to take time to care for myself and learn how to tell what it is I need on any given day to do that.
What’s free time? Oh yeah, the time I’m not hanging out in my home office!
I try to read regularly. I don’t watch nearly as much TV as I used to, but when I do am currently binge-watching ER by myself and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel with the hubby (don’t judge – it’s really hard for us to find something we both like). I also love to golf (not nearly frequently enough), travel, and visit local wineries and breweries.
Like others who have come before me, I’ll say that CCA is my professional home. CCA has provided a supportive environment where I was given the opportunity to become a better public speaker, learn project management and leadership skills, and form lifelong friendships with other volunteers and some of the wonderful staff that supports us.
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