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From maths degree to qualifying as an Actuary and starting a business

Harjeet Cheema

The skills learned have helped me perform at levels that would not have been possible without the experience at Brunel - the guidance and challenge from the professors really has made an impact

Harjeet, Alumni

CEO, Harrisons Group

Financial Mathematics BSc - 2002

From UK

Tell us about your career journey since you graduated…

After graduating I went on qualify as an Actuary in 2008, specialising in Capital Management and Reporting - this also covered Change Management on a consulting basis. Currently, I have set up a new company helping businesses bridge the gap between technical actuaries and decision makers. I am also involved in the family business of property development and management as well as pro bono projects covering the Prince’s Trust Mentor programme and charity based work.

What does an average day at work involve for you?

Slightly clichéd, but there are genuinely no average days. For instance, yesterday (January 2019) consisted of developing a new tool for actuaries, writing a blog submission, and drafting an outline model for the pricing of assets. Today we will be catching up with the planners for a new project. Some days you are happy to finish early and others seem to have not enough hours in the day.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

There have been a few: Graduating from Brunel. Qualifying as an Actuary. Delivering large transformation projects in various companies. Being in a position to be able to semi-retire and start up my own consulting company. Bringing the skills learned in the career to help take the family businesses forward. Starting and developing my own blog.

Would you say Brunel helped you to get where you are today?

Yes, most definitely, with a special mention to my dissertation tutor, Dr Simon Shaw. The skills learned have helped me perform at levels that would not have been possible without the experience at Brunel. This covers both technical and non-technical soft skills. The guidance and challenge from the professors really has made a material impact to my value added.

Why did you choose to study at Brunel and why would you recommend Brunel to others?

Reasons for choosing Brunel: It offered Financial Maths at BSc level. The reputation of the Maths and Engineering departments. The availability of placement courses at Brunel was very attractive. The proximity to central London without being in London itself was also a boon.

What is your best memory of studying here?

Some of the memories: Friends - it’s always the people on the journey that make the difference. The late-night cramming before the exams - always fond in retrospect - however, not recommended! Talking to people from different backgrounds. Living away from home for the first time. The social side of Brunel was always good.

If you could give one piece of advice to new students, what would that be?

Not necessarily one piece of advice: Seize all the opportunities to learn and develop. Talk to people and professors outside your subject. Become a knowledge sponge. The time at Brunel is not just about graduating - it is just as important to remain open to learning along the way. Yes, aim for the first class honours, but, at the same time do not forget to have fun along the way.

What would be your top tip or advice for new graduates as they begin their career journey?

Try things outside your comfort zone - you may surprise yourself. Think long term when making decisions - the working landscape is changing ever more rapidly, so be open to that change. Be flexible - the road to success is not always a short one, it can be bumpy. Give it your all - no matter how trivial a piece of work may appear, give it your all. You never know where it may lead.