an interview with Erin Leeann Watson, ’11
Since graduating from Beloit in 2011 with a degree in Political Science, Erin Leeann Watson has never stopped putting the liberal arts into practice. The last six years have seen her pursuing two graduate degrees (Fordham University, MBA, 2013; University of Chicago, M.S in Biomedical Informatics, anticipated in 2019), becoming a professional consultant with Mercer, and developing a long running podcast.
In this interview with her former writing professor, Megan Muthupandiyan, she talks about the highlights of working as a health benefits consultant, offers suggestions to current Beloit students on how to make the most of their education, and provides perspective on how to prepare for professional lives marked by a lifetime of learning.
Excerpts of Erin’s interview are transcribed below.
Can you tell us a little about what brought you to Beloit College, way back in the day?
Yeah, way back in 2007. Beloit had a really good foreign studies program, so I wanted to take advantage of that. I would just say that the campus was beautiful, and I just got a good vibe from the school. I think it was one of the best decisions that I made as a 17 year old.
So . . . being from Chicago, what made you first look at Fordham for graduate school?
I always wanted to live in New York City, so that was pretty much the main reason. and to be honest with you, I was trying to get into the consulting industry with a political science degree, and it just wasn’t working for me. So, I was like, ‘well, I need to go to business school to get my foot in the door,’ and that actually worked! I applied to Fordham University’s Masters Program in General Business, and thirty days after I graduated I was hired at a Manhattan consulting firm. It was the best decision of my life.
I recommend that everyone live in New York City for at least six to twelve years of their life before they leave this planet!
And what interested you in consulting?
I like helping people . . . I like problem solving. I like the variety of it — you’re not necessarily stuck to one subject. It’s a fairly social industry, I would say — you have to have decent people skills, so that attracted me to it as well, but yeah — it is a great field to be in.
When you were here, did you take any entrepreneur classes at CELEB?
I didn’t, I didn’t. Strictly political science, and what else? I think I took a couple of legal studies classes, which was interesting — they help you think, but no, no entrepreneurial classes. Looking back, I should have.
So, you’re back in Chicago now, after a couple years in New York. . . what does a day of work normally look like for you?
What the audience should probably know is I work in health benefits consulting, so companies hire us to help structure their health and wellness plans to make their populations healthier and to see what sort of deductible plans work for their populations, which is obviously based on finances.
So a bunch of meetings with internal leads . . . a lot of communicating with vendors, putting together decs, researching compliance issues with the Affordable Care Act — which, we’ll see what happens with that, but–that’s pretty much my day.
And so, a lot of it, then, is going with the decs, doing presentations, and competitive bidding?
Yes, you do presentations to the client, engage in competitive bidding, all of that stuff is fun–you learn a lot. If I was to give any career advice I would say, ‘Pick a job or career where you continuously learn.’ You don’t want to get bored. Boredom is the worst thing in the world.
And now you’re at the University of Chicago? Pursuing Health Informatics?
Yes, Health Informatics. It’s a broad term — a lot of people are like, “what the hell is health informatics?” I would describe it as information science for health. You learn how to program, you learn the ins and outs of management information systems, and you learn a bit about bioinformatics, which is pretty much the biology of informatics. You deal with genomic data — all that stuff. It’s interesting. Working and going to school part time keeps me busy, but I love it.