Iman Fakheri is a senior at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. Iman is majoring in actuarial science and will graduate in the fall of 2020. Iman is a recent inductee into the Maryland Beta Chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, a national honorary mathematics society. We spoke with Iman in May 2020.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
I really enjoy critical-thinking games like chess. I like being able to predict what other people are doing and taking advantage of that.
What has your experience at Morgan State University been like?
My experience at Morgan State University has been going very well. What I enjoy most about the university is the diversity of people. In my regular day-to-day life, I wouldn’t be able to experience this kind of diversity, and to me, it’s very interesting to meet people from all different backgrounds at school.
What I enjoy most about Morgan State Unviersity is the diversity of people.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose Morgan State University?
Aside from Morgan State University, I was also considering Towson University. Towson and Morgan State both have strong actuarial programs and are both located near where I live. I’m married and have kids, so I was looking for a school close to home. Ultimately, I decided to go to Morgan State because it has an actuarial science degree, rather than just an actuarial concentration.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
I like math, statistics, and statistical methods of making predictions, so it seemed like it was the best fit for me because actuarial science combines it all into one. I had a friend who was an actuary, and he explained the whole process. It sounded very interesting, so I decided to do a little more research, and that’s where it landed me.
Why should other students consider a focus in actuarial science?
As an actuary, you get to work in different parts of the company. As you take more tests, you move higher up and into different areas. By the time you’ve finished the whole process, you’ve worked in many areas of the company, and you can choose whether you want to pursue other opportunities within the company or stay where you are if you’re happy. For someone who likes math and statistics, it’s a great option because they can fine-tune and go into the career path that they like and stay there, or they can keep going and getting higher and higher in their career. Also, actuaries are one of the top-paid professions, so it’s a win-win.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
The program at Morgan State University is very unique. Ever since I was a freshman, it has been growing and getting better. We have a professional development class that every single actuarial science major has to take, which takes place every Wednesday night for an hour and a half to two hours. The class prepares you for the career that you’re going into, discusses internships, and offers workshops in Excel and other software. Recently, we started getting Coaching Actuaries, which is a very big plus. In actuarial science, one of the main things you need to do is pass the actuarial exams, and Coaching Actuaries helps us prepare for those tests.
We also have three clubs for actuarial science students. We have a club for IABA, which is the International Association of Black Actuaries, the Math Club, and also a chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, which is a national mathematics society. We also have a very close relationship with our advisor. You can email her anytime you want to, and she is very responsive, telling you exactly what you need for actuarial science, from resumes to finding internships to finding full-time jobs. Also, we have specific classes that help prepare you for exams P, FM, and IFM. We’re very blessed to have all these resources at our disposal.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
I’ve enjoyed many of my statistics classes, but I think my favorite statistics class would be with Dr. Aron Reznik, where he taught regression analysis. I thought the class was very interesting. It helps you learn predictive models and how to try to guess what’s going to happen in the future, which is very helpful in my career and is something that really interests me.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you had known ahead of time?
It’s hard to juggle school and studying for the actuarial exams. For each exam, you need about 300 hours of study to be able to take it. It’s challenging to find the time. If I had known about it earlier, like during my freshman year, I would have started studying for it then because I had less coursework and would have been able to study more. Now I’m taking more difficult classes, which will help me with the exams but I still need a lot of time outside of class to be able to fully prepare for the exams.
What are the latest developments or trends in insurance?
One of the most interesting developments is the digitization of insurance and the use of AI. You’re able to have more data because of the digital age, and you can customize the plans of every single insurance offering on a personal level, rather than categorizing everybody in a certain group and causing everyone in that group to suffer because of people’s deficiencies in other areas. By having so much more data available to us and having built-in AI that’s able to recognize people’s habits better, we’re able to come out with better insurance that is tailored to your personal needs, rather than making you pay for insurance for things that you’re not even going to use. It revolutionizes the whole industry, making it a better fit for every person, and increasing satisfaction for everybody as well.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
I’m hoping to take two of the actuarial exams before I graduate, which will prepare me to be hired in an insurance-related career. Typically, once you’re hired, the company gives you time to study for tests. I aspire to be an FSA, so I will take every single exam. You’re not considered an actuary until you finish all the exams. I’m considering going into the property side of the insurance industry, but I enjoy the casualty and health side too. They’re all interesting.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
Don’t give up. It’s hard to look at the test and think, “I have to study 300 hours for one test, and if I fail, then I have to continue studying and wait another two months to take it again.” It’s very normal for people in our field to fail the tests. I know someone who failed the first test, the P exam, six times. But even though they failed it six times, on the seventh time they passed, and within a year or two they took all the other tests and passed every single one of them. You should always keep going no matter what.
» If you liked Iman’s interview, check out our other actuarial science student interviews.