I am a Medical Economics Consultant at UnitedHealthcare in Eden Prairie, MN. I support Medicaid for our Minnesota market. I have a few main responsibilities revolving around medical claims data like quarterly medical cost trend reviews, sizing financial impact of medical initiatives (think care management, specialty medicine, etc.), identifying sick or complex members that may need additional care management, and answering any other questions our health plan may have regarding our Medicaid members. I use SQL/SAS to pull data and Excel to put together deliverables for the most part. I love my job because of its open-endedness. I don’t really have hard-set deadlines so it’s up to me to make the most of my time in order to produce valuable information for my customers (MN Medicaid). This allows me great flexibility for when/where I work, which is awesome!! I can really let my creativity flow and follow what feels interesting to learn more about our members, how they utilize healthcare, and to suggest ways to make their lives a little easier.
Mathematics Major. No minors, however I focused elective credits on finance, accounting, and computer science.
What inspired you to become a mathematics major?
Throughout high school, math was always something that came fairly naturally to me. It’s challenging and rewarding, and I enjoy solving problems. I pretty much knew that I wanted to work in the business/finance sector, however I still chose a degree in mathematics because I wanted to stand out in that field. I was pretty much set on a math degree entering college. I appreciated the major because it required less credits than other similar paths which opened up a ton of possibilities to round out my business skills with electives and to pursue other interests of my own (film, music, etc). The math faculty were always so encouraging and enthusiastic, it was easy to continue signing up for more challenging courses deeper into the program! I was also inspired by my classmates – we became a very tight-knit group by the time we graduated. We spent a looooooot of time in the math department working on proofs!! They are some of the brightest and most resilient people I have had the pleasure of working with.
How do you use the mathematics major in your current career?
Even though I haven’t used group theory (the topic of my senior thesis), multivariable calc, or non-linear regression in my career, I leverage all sorts of skills honed in by my mathematics degree:
- Collaborative problem solving. MATHEMATICS IS A SOCIAL MAJOR!!! I cannot stress this enough. Without the ability to learn from my peers, bounce ideas around a room, and leverage individual strengths of a group working towards a common goal, I would not have finished my math degree. The ability to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your peers is such an important skill. Learn how to contribute while simultaneously understanding and appreciating the contributions of those around you. Remember - everyone is better than you at something!
- Writing. The second half of the mathematics degree is essentially a mini business writing degree. The goal of a mathematical proof is to define a problem and then walk through a solution in as few words as possible to eloquently lay out your argument. I use this same concept to deliver information to my customers. I do a ton of writing in my line of work to summarize data for my customers without much familiarity to numbers, so it’s easy to lose the attention of my audience if I’m not clear and short to the point. Proof writing was an excellent way to prepare myself for delivering results in a business setting and it’s a skill I take particular pride in.
- Fearlessness. If you can write a math capstone, you can handle anything thrown your way in a professional setting. Half the battle in a professional setting is being unafraid of embracing challenging problems and new information. Every time I started a new chapter in a math textbook, I always felt overwhelmed with new terms and concepts. I quickly became accustomed to this feeling and got better at digesting new information. Understand new definitions, ask questions for clarification where needed, and then break down a solution into achievable steps in order to produce a result. I developed a process throughout the major which helped me face new and challenging obstacles and be more confident in my problem solving abilities. The confidence to face challenging problems head-on has helped distinguish myself in my career.
What advice do you have for students considering a major in mathematics?
- Leverage the alumni network! It’s such an incredible resource with unlimited information. Ask questions from those who have already been there. It’s like using a time machine – you’re able to learn about what your life could be like in a year, 5 years, or 10 years!
- There are so many career opportunities for math majors. Mathematics is a very versatile degree that labels you not just as a ‘number cruncher’, but as a flexible, hardworking problem solver. Look further than just grad school, research, actuarial science, and statistics as career options and don’t be afraid to get creative! As to my first point, use the alumni network to see what’s out there.
- Give it a shot. You won’t know if you’ll like the major or not until you try, so take a math course and see what you think.
- Get to know your classmates. As I said before, it takes a collaborative effort to survive the math gauntlet - support each other and meet with classmates on a regular basis! One of the biggest benefits of being a part of a small program is the opportunity to take multiple classes with the same professors and students, so take the time to get to know your peers.
- Hang in there! It’s supposed to be difficult. Embrace the challenge, be unafraid to ask for help, and work hard. The sense of accomplishment at the end is incredibly rewarding. Funny story, I actually failed the first math course I ever took as a freshman (linear algebra). Thanks to the incredible math faculty, I was able to reorient myself and try again in the spring. The rest is history! I’m proud to be a mathematician.