The Right Direction

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Katia Naccarato has never shied away from exploring an unfamiliar path, hitting a dead end, and trying a different one. Before she enrolled in the Master of Actuarial Science (MActSc) program at the Faculty of Mathematics, she was laser-focused on pursuing a career in medicine. Her current trajectory looks nothing like she expected, but she’s confident that she’s heading in the right direction.

As an undergraduate student at Ryerson University, Naccarato studied medical physics in a bid to combine her passion for math with a career path in medicine. Partway through her degree, she added a business certificate in accounting and finance to gain a practical financial education in preparation for owning her own medical practice one day. By her third year, she realized that her passion for physics and math eclipsed any interest in biology and chemistry. “I finally admitted to myself that all I wanted to do was math,” she shared. “It always came naturally to me. Growing up, I would always joke that the perfect job for me would be doing math homework.” 

When she learned more about the actuarial profession during career development coaching, something clicked for Naccarato. “Actuarial science seemed like the perfect mix of math and business,” she recognized. During the application process, she connected with a human resources professional who recruited candidates for actuarial roles in insurance companies. “She told me how highly regarded the Waterloo actuarial science program was within the profession,” remembered Naccarato. “When I received my acceptance, I didn’t even bother applying to any other programs. Waterloo was my first choice.”  

Upon enrolling, Naccarato became the first recipient of a new scholarship for MActSc students, the Mary R. Hardy Graduate Award in Actuarial Science, in recognition of her extensive volunteer experience. As an undergraduate student, she served as a volunteer research assistant to kidney and liver transplant researchers for the duration of two academic years. Previously, she helped run programming for residents at a senior care facility and volunteered at an orthodontist’s office, where she learned how to sterilize equipment and assist with simple procedures.  

“I was so grateful to have received scholarship funding so that I can fully focus on my studies,” Naccarato reflected. Even though she didn’t end up pursuing a career in medicine, her volunteer experience imparted research and communications skills that enhanced her ability to keep up with the fast-paced MActSc program.

“The program has been incredibly challenging so far, but it’s the kind of challenge that involves applying math in more ways than I could have imagined,” she affirmed. “I’m coming away with something new every day.” Halfway through the program, Naccarato is still learning about different professional environments where she can apply her actuarial skills after graduation. “I’m not exactly sure where I’m going to end up,” she admitted, but between courses, networking opportunities, and the Waterloo reputation, she’s not concerned. “I’m in good shape for the future.”