Digging into the Data

Audrey Heilman Headshot

Data science is a growing field, but many of us don’t understand what it means or how major companies and smaller businesses are using it to consider the future.

In this Q&A, we talk with Aubrey Heilman ’14, who graduated with degrees in actuarial science and economics. She is a senior data scientist for The Hartford, a Fortune 500 investment and insurance company.

What is data science, and how is it being used?

Data science involves reviewing and cleaning raw data from internal and external data sources, analyzing the data and looking for trends, building a model to capture these trends, and validating the model to make sure it performs as expected.

Data science goes by many names (predictive analytics, predictive modeling, etc.) and is a fast-growing area in all types of companies, including insurance companies. Data science is what is used by the tech giants (think Amazon, Google, Facebook) to analyze your data to figure out what your likes and dislikes are.

We are trying to bring this same kind of power to The Hartford, except we are interested in how risky you are. Data science is an exciting area to work in because it combines in-depth technical skills with a high-level understanding of the business.

How has LVC prepared you for a career in your field? 

LVC has a great Actuarial Science Program. It gave me the theoretical background to get my first job as an actuary. The exam-specific classes and the dedicated professors taught me how to study for and pass the exams. The difficult classes taught me to think under pressure and be comfortable speaking in front of my peers. Now, as I’ve transitioned from actuarial to data science, these skills continue to help me at a high level—leading meetings, building presentations, and working with people across the organization.

What are some of your favorite memories from The Valley?

I spent a lot of time studying in the math library [William H. Lodge Mathematical Sciences Center], but my favorite memories involve hanging out in the commuter lounge and having fun with the other commuters.  

Who is your favorite professor and why? 

Dr. Patrick Brewer [associate professor of mathematical sciences; director of Actuarial Science and Computer & Data Science programs] is my favorite professor because he really pushes his students to do their best and he really cares about his students. He’s smart and fun to talk to. Also, he used to force me to go to the board and do problems that I didn’t know how to do. I hated it at the time, but now appreciate how it makes it easier to lead meetings in the real world.