A Numbers Guy with a Heart for People
While at Holy Family, Joe Salz ’12 was an honor student, a member of the State title winning baseball team, a musician, a campus minister, and a teammate on the Math League team. And he was just getting started! Read on to find out what Joe says led him to his current career and how participating in multiple activities helps him succeed even today.
Current Employer: Deloitte Consulting
College: University of St. Thomas
Major: Bachelor of Science at University of St. Thomas, major in Actuarial Science, minor in Mathematical Statistics, Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA), Member of the American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA)
Middle School: St. Joseph C-Stem School in Waconia
HF: How did you become interested in actuarial science?
JS: I was a junior in high school and had an interest in math, but I was unsure about being an engineer. While deciding between a math-oriented career path and a people-oriented path (like business), I heard about actuarial science and how it combined both math and business. One of my friends (Steven Guillemette ’11) mentioned that his dad, Scott, was an actuary, and after meeting with him, I was sold.
HF: What do you consider to be your greatest personal and professional accomplishments?
JS: My greatest personal accomplishment was being asked to lead our Catholic Men’s Leadership group my senior year of college. It is humbling to know that other members of our group looked up to me and trusted me as a leader.
Professionally, my greatest accomplishment is passing my first actuarial exam. I remember being intimidated by how difficult the exams were (pass rate of 40-50%, depending on the exam), so passing really instilled confidence in me to continue pursuing an actuarial career.
HF: What do you enjoy most about your current position?
JS: Employers value actuarial expertise and encourage their employees to progress through the actuarial exam process; at many companies, you are able to continue your education while on the job (not to mention incentives for passing exams as well!). As a recent college graduate, being able to learn on the job while simultaneously progressing in my career is what I enjoy most about my current career position.
HF: Did your experiences at Holy Family help you to overcome obstacles you’ve faced in college or now as an actuary?
JS: Balancing exam studies and a full-time job is definitely the most challenging part of my current position. As a consultant, working hours can vary widely in any given week, so adhering to a strict study schedule can be very difficult and requires solid time management skills.
I believe Holy Family prepared me for my current career because I was able to participate in many activities such as baseball and Jazz Band while also taking Advanced Placement courses. There were numerous times when these activities overlapped, and it required time management to stay on top of it all.
HF: STEAM careers sometimes incorporate one or more elements of science, engineering, technology, art, and math. Clearly your career involves math, but do you see elements of others in it?
JS: In almost every situation I experience at my job, we are required to combine math, science, technology, and – believe it or not – art into our projects and solutions for clients. A topical example is helping a state government find new ways to lower healthcare costs in its Medicare and Medicaid population. Clients rely on our creativity and technical expertise to come up with practical and effective answers to their problems.
HF: In what ways, if any, did a Holy Family course and/or teacher impact on your career choice?
JS: Mr. Kannel is one of the smartest teachers I’ve ever had, including collegiate professors. His love for math and ability to explain things clearly helped establish a solid foundation crucial to my understanding of advanced topics such as multi-variable calculus and probability.
Mrs. Livermore was my AP Calc teacher and taught me how to really learn the material. She gave homework assignments each week that weren’t graded, but instead were for us students to practice the material learned on our own. This in turn helped me develop the discipline to put in adequate study time despite not getting a grade, and was the basis for developing study plans for future actuarial exams.
As a high school student interested mostly in math, I never felt that English was a strength of mine; however, after having Mr. Unverzagt for Honors American Literature and AP English, I realized how fun writing can be, and saw how much better my persuasive papers became right before my eyes. Mr. Unverzagt was able to take something that was somewhat unknown to me and many other students and explain it in a process that was logical and easy to understand. Further, he knew how to challenge his students while keeping the class engaging and fun.
HF: What advice would you give to younger alumni or current Holy Family students who aspire to follow a similar career path?
JS: The actuarial field is getting more and more competitive, and we see students continue to attack exams earlier and earlier when we attend job fairs. If you are a high school student interested in actuarial science, take advantage of the math classes that Holy Family offers to help put you in the best position for progressing through college.
HF: What do you enjoy doing with your free time?
JS: I spend my free time playing in a band with some friends from college (including Danny Gilles ’13 and Dan Klauer ‘10). In fact, not all actuaries are nerds – my boss and I hosted a “Battle of the Bands” between his band and my band this past summer. It was awesome!
I also teach confirmation at Our Lady of Grace in Edina once a week, where I lead a group of 7th graders. It is a great chance to practice my faith while being immersed in the real world.
HF: What would you say to a student considering Holy Family?
JS: Holy Family gives students the opportunity to both refine their current interests, and to explore new ones. If you enjoy playing sports but want to try out a music class, go for it! Holy Family’s class sizes give access to not only a wide breadth of activities, but also to a faculty that is there to help you. I owe a lot to my teachers and coaches at Holy Family, who helped shape me into who I am today.