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04.09.2023

Actuarial Mentoring Programme

Introduction

In the dynamic world of actuarial science, professional growth and development are paramount for success. Recognising this need, Moving Ahead, in partnership with the IFoA, set up the Actuarial Mentoring Programme (AMP). It offers a unique opportunity for aspiring and established actuaries to connect, learn, and excel in their careers. Moving Ahead recognised the need for greater representation in the actuarial field. This mentoring programme seeks to bridge the gap between individuals from underrepresented backgrounds and their opportunities for success. By pairing mentees from diverse backgrounds with mentors who can provide guidance and support, the programme aims to break down barriers and promote equal access to professional growth.

This interview-style article provides an insightful overview of the AMP, its objectives, and the invaluable benefits it offers to both mentors and mentees. We have sat down with colleagues from APR who have taken part in the programme to find out how the AMP fosters inclusive participation, builds diverse networks, and empowers individuals to thrive in the ever-evolving actuarial profession. Their experiences shed light on the AMP’s effectiveness and highlights the opportunities it provides for professional growth and development.

This article is based on conversations with:

What is the AMP and how does it work?

Mujtaba: The AMP aims to promote individuals from less advantaged backgrounds, particularly focusing on women and ethnic minorities, and helping them to develop in the actuarial profession. The programme starts with a kick-off event, a large call where all participants join. It includes guest speakers, breakout group activities, and introductions.

When the kick-off event is complete, mentees are assigned a mentor and provided their contact details via email. The programme then involves a series of Zoom calls or events (workshops) with guest speakers. Mentees have regular meetings with their assigned mentors. It is suggested that these happen frequently throughout the year. My mentor and I decided between us to go for every six weeks.

The AMP offers various resources to support participants, such as book recommendations, articles, and additional materials. Mentors provide guidance and suggest specific tasks or actions to help mentees progress in their professional development.

Caroline: The workshops covered various topics like confidence and diversity. What surprised me the most was the breakout sessions during these workshops, which allowed me to interact with individuals from different companies and gain different perspectives. Attending these sessions and engaging in discussions with others proved to be invaluable.

How does the mentoring dynamic work?

Mujtaba: Mentees are carefully matched with mentors based on their profiles and the AMP’s experience with the hope of finding the best fit. My particular matching worked out well as we both had some common interests despite our different backgrounds, such as impacting and helping others. Mentors provide guidance and support to mentees throughout the programme, helping them in their professional development. The programme is seen as beneficial, but a key aspect influencing the degree of benefit is down to the level of engagement and proactivity from the mentee.

Chris: I participated in the mentoring programme last year as a mentor and I was pleasantly surprised by the matching process. I have had a unique career trajectory, and the programme successfully matched me with a mentee who was facing similar dilemmas that I had, and I know that my experience enriched our conversations and helped my mentee assess how best to move forward. This relatability allowed for meaningful conversations and guidance.

Imelda: I was paired with a mentor who happened to be at a company whose office was very close to our own, within a 10-minute walk in fact. We have met for coffee and discussed various topics related to the actuarial profession and my future plans. The meetings with my mentor have been flexible and dependent on both our availability.

What were your reasons for joining the AMP-D&I program?

Caroline: One of the main reasons I joined the programme was to gain guidance on my long-term career goals. I was approaching the time to think about fellowship exams and wanted to explore the different career paths available once I became fully qualified. I realised that while student roles might be similar, there are diverse opportunities for long-term career growth, and I needed help in figuring out which path I wanted to pursue. Additionally, as a working parent, I was struggling to find the right balance between work and family after maternity leave, so I was seeking guidance in that area as well.

How has the AMP impacted you?

Imelda: The programme has had a positive impact on me, particularly in terms of improving my confidence and providing an outsider’s perspective on APR and career progression in the actuarial profession. I have found the mentorship and conversations to be valuable, and I hope to maintain contact with my mentor moving forward.

Initially, I struggled with answering certain questions about my career direction, as it is a difficult decision to make. However, the programme has helped me think more deeply about these questions, even if I haven’t arrived at definitive answers yet. It has been a valuable process of self-reflection and consideration.

Mujtaba: My mentor emphasised the importance of articulating one’s value-add statement and measuring accomplishments in the workplace. If you are working on something with no demonstrable way to show improvement – then why are you doing it? Mentees learn to focus on both technical accuracy and effective communication skills.

(In light of his dedication to the AMP, we are delighted to share that Mujtaba has been recognised as Most Committed Mentee of the Year.)

Caroline: The programme matched me with a mentor who had extensive experience in advocating for working parents’ rights and reintegrating into the workforce after maternity leave. She had made significant improvements to her company’s policies and flexible working patterns upon her return. This alignment proved valuable as she provided me with guidance and insights on managing work-life balance as a parent.

What did you take away from the experience of being a mentor?

Chris: My mentee was contemplating a future outside of the actuarial profession.  I encouraged them to follow their heart when contemplating future options. I provided an alternative perspective that they might not have received from others in the profession. Our conversations were passionate and focused on helping my mentee in this critical phase of their career.

While I supported and guided my mentee, it was also a cathartic experience for me. By discussing my own experiences and reflecting on the past decisions that I had faced, I was able to unpack and understand them in a comfortable way. It felt therapeutic to share my journey and see how it had led to positive changes in my life. The mentoring relationship was mutually beneficial, allowing both of us to grow and benefit from the connection.

Ross: I recognised the value of the AMP and feel that there would be a real benefit from more of my APR colleagues participating in this or an alternative mentoring programme in future. Being a mentor helped me to consider different perspectives more consciously and to think about how I can share my knowledge and experience in a constructive way.  One of the main techniques I tried to use for this was coaching. This involved trying to ask thought-provoking questions rather than providing direct answers or solutions to my mentee. This approach allowed my mentee to develop their own problem-solving skills, gain confidence, and foster independent thinking. Having time to practice coaching was useful and something that can be applied across most aspects of life!

Looking forward

Ross: As well as building the relationship (and hopefully helping!) my mentee with the various issues we discussed, the AMP provided me with a dedicated space to think and reflect on diversity and inclusion matters. It allowed me to engage in conversations, consider the experiences of others, and factor diversity and inclusion into my decision-making processes. I believe that this heightened awareness extended beyond the mentoring sessions and has positively impacted my approach to work.

Imelda: I definitely see myself carrying forward the insights and lessons I have gained from the AMP. It has provided me with a different perspective, improved my confidence, and expanded my understanding of career opportunities outside of APR. I believe these learnings will be valuable as I continue to navigate my professional journey.

Chris: I would encourage anyone considering the AMP to be open to the experience and willing to invest their time and energy. The success of the programme relies on the connection between mentor and mentee, so it’s important to approach it with authenticity and genuine interest. While there may be some initial apprehension or concerns, don’t let that deter you. The AMP can provide valuable insights, support, and guidance that can positively impact your personal and professional growth.

Conclusion

The AMP has emerged as a significant initiative, promoting diversity and inclusivity within our industry. By connecting aspiring and established actuaries from underrepresented backgrounds, the programme bridges gaps and offers valuable guidance and support. The coaching techniques used empower mentees to develop skills and gain confidence, while mentors share relatable experiences, providing new perspectives. Participants carry forward these valuable insights, shaping their personal and professional journeys, and contributing to a more inclusive actuarial profession.

Dean Woodward

August 2023

Thank you to Chris Bryce, Ross Gordon, Imelda Barnes, Mujtaba Syed and Caroline Blackley for finding the time to speak about the AMP.