My Mentoring Experience
January 25, 2023
By: Carlos Arocha, FSA
I proudly serve at The Actuarial Foundation as a Diversity Scholarship Mentor. I have been interested in the work that The Actuarial Foundation has been carrying out in attracting young students to the actuarial profession, a profession that it is still so small and so little known by the public at large. My interest stemmed from my innate flair for teaching. I have taught many courses throughout my career, and currently I teach undergraduate Financial Mathematics—which is really a preparation course for the SOA FM exam—at Universidad Anáhuac, Mexico City. The other course that I have been engaged in since 2015 is a summer course called “Integrated Projects”, taught in a summer semester at the graduate level, at Columbia University. But I am not an academic. My primary activity is as an actuarial consultant.
When I think of it, there are some similarities between teaching and consulting: in both cases, you use your knowledge and experience in a subject to educate a client—or a student. A second motivation to my mentoring is my love of math. Math develops the ability to think, and this is my opening message to my students and mentees alike. Paul Halmos, a legendary Hungarian-born American mathematician would say: “In order to learn math you have to do math.” I take this dictum to support the point that passing actuarial exams requires solving a large number of problems. The theoretical aspects of our body of knowledge are fundamental, but actuaries are ultimately problem solvers. I explain to my mentees how I use what I learned from the SOA examination process in my job.
Through my mentoring, I have had the opportunity to advise students from diverse backgrounds. I established a good rapport with a student who emigrated from Senegal who struggles with English, so we spoke in French (though I must admit that my her French was much better than mine!) I have also mentored Hispanic students, where I establish a natural connection as I am a Mexican-born actuary living in Switzerland.
All in all, mentoring is a great activity: it puts things in perspective. It allows me to give back some of what I have received from the numerous mentors that I have found in my professional development.