From Student to Mentor

From Student to Mentor

Pinnacle Blog May 17, 2021 Posted in: Blog Posts, News

There’s little that speaks to the success of a program more than when it makes a full and complete circle. The Pinnacle University (Pinnacle U) program is a special, professional skills development program. It provides students with a unique opportunity to conduct research with actuarial professionals and present in front of a panel of experts, providing mentorship to future actuaries and supporting industry growth.

Nicole McArdle, associate actuary, has come full circle in the Pinnacle U program. Nicole once participated in Pinnacle U as a student. Later, Nicole joined Pinnacle and became involved with Pinnacle U as an analyst working alongside new students. This year, Nicole graduated into the role of mentor, providing an even higher level of guidance for the Pinnacle U students on her team. We asked Nicole about her experiences on both sides of the Pinnacle U program.  

Pinnacle Blog: How long have you been with Pinnacle?

Nicole McArdle: I’ve been with Pinnacle for five years now.

PB: How did you first become involved with the Pinnacle U program?

NM: I first became involved with the program during my sophomore year at Illinois State University (ISU), looking for opportunities to become more involved and bolster my resume for internships or job offers after graduation. When the director of the actuarial program at ISU told me about Pinnacle U and suggested participating, I was immediately intrigued at the possibility. I knew that working with actuarial professionals, developing my speaking skills and presenting on a topic of actuarial interest would be incredibly valuable to my education and my career. After submitting my resume, I was thrilled to be selected to participate.

PB: Could you expand on the process of preparing the presentation, and on presentation day itself? 

NM: After being notified of my selection, I was paired with an actuarial analyst from Pinnacle, who reached out to me to begin the process. With his guidance, I selected the topic of driverless cars – quite a relevant topic in today’s world. 

My Pinnacle partner helped direct me in my research, and we communicated throughout the next month or two to develop the presentation and form compelling talking points. We ultimately gave our 25-minute presentation to an audience of approximately 20 individuals. I remember the adrenaline running through me, as it was my first experience presenting to professional actuaries. I have a vivid memory of shaking Art Randolph’s hand afterward and feeling a strong sense of accomplishment. 

PB: How did presenting at Pinnacle U as a student help you grow professionally? 

NM: The presentation helped me grow tremendously. I had given presentations in front of classmates before, but giving one in front of industry professionals felt much more authentic. The skills that I learned regarding preparation, research and public speaking were outside the realm of skills a student could acquire in the classroom or simply from a textbook.

That experience was my first introduction to working with the actuarial and insurance industries – a unique opportunity to distinguish myself from my peers. I was able to refer to it in my resume and in interviews; I even found that when I went to career fairs, it was a topic of interest for the people I met.

PB: Tell me about the transition from ISU student to becoming a mentor at Pinnacle U.

NM: After my presentation, Pinnacle awarded me a scholarship, sponsored through ISU’s actuarial program. During my senior year, I attended a career fair and made contact with the professionals at Pinnacle’s booth, and ultimately was offered a job. I was thrilled to work for a firm I knew and respected.

After I began my career at Pinnacle, I became involved with Pinnacle U again – this time as an analyst myself. I was paired with students during three different Pinnacle U series and was able to assist them with their own presentations.

This past March at Pinnacle U, as I am now a senior actuarial analyst, I was able to take on more of a mentor role. I provided guidance and gave feedback to two Pinnacle actuarial analysts and their student, joining the meetings, helping them with a timely topic selection and assisting with presentation and peer review logistics.

PB: What do you personally find most valuable about Pinnacle U? 

NM: I love the process of selecting a topic. It’s a special opportunity to be involved in research that personally interests me – something not always possible in the classroom or the office. 

I also love the benefits it provides to everyone involved. As a student, I obtained such valuable experience from participating, and as an analyst, I appreciated being able to give back to the program and offer that experience to the students. I have presented with students over the past few years on some fascinating topics: a modified B-F (Bornhuetter-Ferguson) method, Actuaries Climate Index, and even Lemonade and peer-to-peer insurance. I find it so beneficial that even though these topics are personally enjoyable, they are also relevant and worthwhile topics in the industry. Several times after presentations, Pinnacle consultants have contacted me to glean more details about the research, so it’s clear that these presentations are engendering thought and conversation even among seasoned professionals. 

Pinnacle is unique in the emphasis it places on relationships with the universities, and on educating and growing the industry. I’m proud to be a part of the program, and look forward to seeing how we are able to expand it in the future.

Read more about Pinnacle U 2021’s virtual format here.

Nicole McArdle is an associate actuary with Pinnacle Actuarial Resources in the Chicago, Illinois office. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in actuarial science from Illinois State University and has experience in assignments involving loss reserving, loss cost projections and group captives. She is actively pursuing membership in the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) through the examination process.

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