Kelly Hereid had never heard of reinsurance companies when she got recruited by one while attending a scientific conference. A quick Google search brought some clarification, and in the years since, Kelly has become an expert in the field of catastrophe modeling. This type of modeling was developed mostly in the private sector, driven by the need of reinsurance and insurance companies to quantify the financial risk from natural disasters such as tropical cyclones or earthquakes.
In her current role as head of a research and development team at Liberty Mutual, Kelly needs to understand both the science of natural hazards as well as the business side, and she needs to be able to translate between the scientific community and the business community. Bridging this gap has become even more essential as the reinsurance industry is starting to think about how extreme weather events will impact their bottom lines with global climate change:
"We have an office of sustainability that thinks about transition risk and climate strategy, and how we incorporate this massively changing world of climate risk into our business. And so that's actually an area that I spend a lot of time in now as well. […] And I talk a lot. Seriously, I do a lot of talks about climate change, catastrophes, and how we can incorporate them into the business. Because I want every single slice of our business to be educated and be able to speak coherently about how climate can affect their business."
Before the conference that marked the beginning of her career in the private sector, Kelly had done a PhD in paleoclimate, dating dead corals and trying to learn something about the water conditions they had lived in. Coming from a family without any connections to the academic world, going to grad school was not an obvious choice for her at all, even though she had always been interested in science and wanted to become an entomologist as a child (but dropped that plan for fear of getting stung by bees). Luckily though it was obvious for one of her professors:
"So one of my absolute favorite professors came up to me in my senior year [...]. And he was like, "Kelly, what are you doing next year?" And I'm like, "Well, I don't know. I haven't really thought about it." And he's like, "You are going to grad school." And he was the kinda person that you just... When they say a statement like that, you just don't argue with it. So I started going to grad school."
When you hear Kelly talk, you won’t find it hard to imagine that she can be as convincing and effective in communicating as that professor has been – it’s a rare and much needed superpower for getting science and industry to collaborate.
The interview with Kelly Hereid was recorded in October 2021.
Kelly's personal website, and here she is on Twitter: @KellyHereid
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