An Actuary with an Action Plan: A Conversation with Sarayyah Baksh, FCAS, ACIA

For my President’s Message columns, I will be talking to distinguished actuaries who embody the new Envisioned Future for the CAS. Videos of these interviews will be available as Web Exclusives on the Actuarial Review website and the CAS YouTube channel.

Sarayyah Baksh is an actuary without borders. She grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, went to college in Canada, and her career has spanned the Canadian, Latin American and European markets. She’s currently living in Paris, a personal dream of mine.

Her impressive career is not an accident as Baksh is also an actuary with a plan, represented in the acronym SPAN.

S is for skills.

You should know your technical skills inside out, backward and forward. As for soft skills, Baksh says it’s important to know how to work on a team, how to interview and, especially, how to communicate. Baksh has come a long way from her first internship interview, where she didn’t prepare and went in thinking “I’m going to show them how great I am; they are going to love me; and I’ll make a joke or two.” Baksh keeps her presentation skills honed with speaking engagements, most recently for the nonprofit Actuaires du Monde (formerly Actuaries without Borders) and for actuarial science clubs at the Trinidadian and Jamaican campuses of the University of West Indies, available on YouTube at bit.ly/SBaksh_UWI. Although she enjoys presenting, it doesn’t come without its challenges — she gets butterflies leading up to speaking engagements and makes sure to rehearse multiple times — but once she gets started and finishes, the sense of accomplishment is fantastic.

P is for professionalism and persona.

When you are early in your career, think about what kind of person you want to be in a professional setting. Do you have a role model? For Sarayyah, her mom was her role model, with a successful corporate career and sharp entrepreneurial skills — and this advice is not just for actuaries starting out. I remember when I took my first leadership role at work. I asked myself, “What kind of leader do I want to be?”

A is for action plan.

Baksh advises actuaries to think deliberately about their career paths and to re-evaluate those plans every couple of years to make sure that it is still what they want. Ask yourself where you want to go and what are the steps you’re taking to get there. Sarayyah Baksh has been very deliberate about her career, and she hasn’t been afraid of taking risks.

N is for networking.

Share your action plan with your network and they might be able to help you. Baksh wanted a job that could hone her Spanish language skills. By sharing this with her network, she landed her job in Miami. That job would have never been available to her if she had kept her wish to herself.

I love Baksh’s approach to her life and career. It’s thoughtful, open and clearly gets results. I appreciate that Baksh has shared a very actionable path forward for actuaries to think about their career.

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About Jessica Leong

Jessica Leong, FCAS, is president-elect of the CAS. She is a lead data scientist at Zurich North America.

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