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I'm Mustapha Ahmed

Global Management Associate

Tokio Marine Holdings, Inc.

Biology Pre-Medicine

Grand Canyon University


English, Hausa

I'm Mustapha Ahmed

Global Management Associate

Tokio Marine Holdings, Inc.

Biology Pre-Medicine

Grand Canyon University


English, Hausa


Discover more about this company including job opportunities and company information on JPort Match!


Discover more about this company including job opportunities and company information on JPort Match!

About Mustapha Ahmed

Hello, my name is Mustapha Ahmed. I was born in New York City, and raised in Ghana, West Africa. I moved to the United States when I was 17 years old to Phoenix, Arizona, to finish off my last year of high school. I studied Biology pre-med at Grand Canyon University, but I had always wanted to work in the actuarial field. 

Upon graduating, I joined a Tokio Marine Group company called PURE in their customer service department. Right after joining, I started studying actuarial science and taking actuarial exams and I was able to move to PURE’s risk management team after a year. Here, I had the opportunity to interact directly with Tokio Marine Holdings and some of their talent acquisition team. 

In September 2022, I joined Tokio Marine Holdings under the Management Associate Program (MAP), which is a rotational training program for the global talent pool to acquire disciplines that aren’t specific to one country. Since the program is supposed to train the global talent pool, we’re trained in different group companies which can also be in different locations. I have completed my first two rotations in Philadelphia and St. Louis, Missouri, and I am currently in London for my third rotation.

What did you do during college?

Moving to another country for university

Before starting university I already made a 7,000-mile move. I came with a mindset of wanting to do something more. When school started, I realized that the difference between school in the United States and in Ghana is that you're on your own and you have to figure things out for yourself. In the US, nobody is pushing you to come to class if you don't want to. But my parents had sacrificed a lot for me to move to the United States, and I wanted to make the most of this opportunity. I needed to develop a high level of self-discipline in order to achieve my current success.

I remember in my first year, it felt like what I was learning was easy and it caused me to be less motivated to study as hard as I should have. But after my second year, something switched within me and I realized that it was more about the effort that I put in than just the rank that I scored. Instead of settling for an A-, I made sure I did my best rather than just trying to compete with people around me. In the end, I think that was the big thing that changed during my college life. If you do something, make sure to do it the best you can.

If you put in effort, it will show.

I remember saying this very often to myself, especially in the early days, that if you put in effort, it will pay off. During the interview for my first job at PURE, I felt like I didn't have a lot to offer as a biology student, in a company where they would usually hire economics students. But I just went to the interview, showed that I was very passionate about the job and I put in a lot of effort to prepare which I think showed. 

If you do something, it might not be the best, but if you put in the effort, your boss or your teacher would know you can learn. They’ll see that you tried hard, and will know that even if you didn’t get it this time, they can direct you to the right path to help you figure it out. That’s the difference between natural talent and hard work. 

That’s one thing I love about Japanese anime. It’s always about a character who started with no natural talent or skills, but over time they showed up, put in the work over and over again and eventually made it to the top.

Switching paths from biology-pre-med to actuarial

After four years in university, I was struggling to find my way to where I wanted to go. Initially, I studied biology for financial reasons rather than a desire to help others as a doctor. After graduating, I took a job in an insurance company in the customer service team with the plan of saving up money to go to medical school after a few years. However, while working at the insurance company, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to pursue a career in medicine.

When I joined the insurance company, I began studying actuarial science so I could have an easier way to save up the money. However, as I started studying for it, I was able to talk to different actuaries, experienced being in an insurance company and learnt just what insurance actually is, I started getting more and more passionate.

I started my career in insurance in January 2020. Two months later, I was working from home permanently due to COVID-19. Before I had to work from home due to Corona, I used to spend 2 hours commuting to and from work, so I decided to use those 2 hours every day to study calculus utilizing YouTube after I started working from home.. To measure the results of my studies, I took my first actuarial exam with the goal to pass all 10 exams required to be a fully certified actuary. I still have a lot of work to do, but my goal now is to pass my 7th actuarial exam scheduled in 3 weeks.

All I want to say is that, at least in the United States, the bachelor’s degree you get doesn’t really matter as much as the effort you put in. If I had started applying for actuarial jobs right off the bat with my biology degree, it might not have worked, but I could get into customer service and then transfer internally into the role I wanted. You just need to get your foot in the door.

What career advice would you recommend for job hunters?

Gain skills now to help your future career and Know how to keep your motivation

It's hard to know what skills you need since it’s dependent on what you're going into. But there are online forums and LinkedIn to help you find that information. For example, when I first started studying for the actuarial exam, I added almost every actuary I could find on LinkedIn in the Phoenix area to build connections with people I could ask questions about the exams. I also wanted people who I could tell I was going to sit for the exam so that I felt like I was being held accountable. I’d tell almost everyone what my goal was, so that the next time they saw me, they would remember what I said and ask me, “Hey, did you take the exam?” Putting myself out there was a way to motivate me to keep going. 

I think pursuing higher education or trying to become more qualified never hurts. There’s a lot of general insurance and educational certificates you can get. I would recommend CPCU, Certified Property & Casualty Underwriter. If anyone is interested in going into insurance, regardless of the discipline, start taking this certifications before you get the job. Even if you’re not done with the certification, during the interview, tell the recruiter how many exams you have left until attaining CPCU. It’s always better to have something tangible to show that you’ve been trying.

What are the beneficial skills needed for working in Japan?

Always try to get better and look at the bigger picture.

Once you start your career, similar to when you’re preparing for the job, always try to get better and try to learn more about the bigger picture. For example, if you’re in the claims function of the company, how does this contribute to the entire purpose of insurance? Think, “if I’m submitting this work to my boss, what is the final thing it’s going to contribute to?” Once you understand how you fit into that puzzle, that’s a great way to grow in your career.

“When in Rome do what Romans do”

I heard this proverb a lot when I was growing up in Ghana, which essentially means “stepping back and trying to learn the culture you’re getting yourself into.” I know there’s this saying「外国人だから」(because you’re a foreigner), but it’s not an excuse for a foreigner to just do whatever they want. I think I should be held to the same standards as a Japanese person when in Japan. I will do my best to follow the rules, learn the culture, the norms because I think that’s how you can succeed in business. Having the skills to build relationships with your coworkers, colleagues, people in different departments is one way you grow. Down the line, you’ll be learning and growing the company together.

What does a Global Management Associate Do?

The Global Management Associate program is essentially an entry-level program to develop different skills through a two years program consisting of three to four short-term rotations in various disciplines. There are different tracks, namely the actuarial track, internal audit track, international business track and IT track. I’m in the actuarial track which allows me to rotate through different Tokio Marine group companies all over the world and be more well-rounded. In Actuarial, there are people who work on the pricing of future insurance products, predicting potential catastrophes, dealing with reinsurance work, and enterprise risk management, to name a few. MAP gives you a piece of everything.

In my day to day, I’m working on reinsurance pricing at a company that deals with a lot of commercial risks. This involves a lot of negotiations between underwriters of different companies to decide on a set price. Much of our work involves assisting them in using data to determine the correct price. We also create different tools to simplify the process of receiving information from another company, analyzing it quickly, and giving a price to see the actual risks involved. We primarily calculate how much something is going to cost based on a large quantity of data and create user-friendly tools for people who will be negotiating those contracts.

It’s really an amazing program since I was able to get experience in two very different kinds of actuarial disciplines. It's almost like being a dentist and being a doctor, getting the experience for both will have you quitting one of them. So being able to see what's done in two types of actuarial disciplines through a program like this has been very beneficial.

First days of the MAP

At the start of the MAP, I participated in a two-week training with five colleagues in my field. The first week was mainly to get to know my cohort (同期) who are also in the same program. We were all in the early stages of our career and coming from different parts of the world so building the camaraderie and trust was amazing to have for the following weeks. 

As we moved into the second week, we dove into the actual work, and the experience was intense. It was great that we had already built a strong connection during the first week, as it made working closely with my colleagues much easier. The foundation turned out to be invaluable as we worked together on important projects like presentations in front of senior management. 

It was clear from this orientation that at Tokio Marine, they don’t only prioritize the work but also the people, placing a high value on teamwork and relationships.

Challenges at the MAP program

I’m still studying for my actuarial exams and they get progressively harder. Also, as you move in your career, you get progressively busier. So, one challenge is keeping up with studying while putting in my full effort to work while also maintaining my social life. I’m also constantly rotating into a new discipline which means there's a whole bunch of new learnings. It's a challenge, but it's a challenge that makes you stronger.

Work Environment Tokio Marine Holdings, Inc.

Style switching 

Americans and Japanese people have different styles of working. For example, working with my Japanese colleagues, I noticed that decisions are made more collectively, and everyone usually contributes and agrees to the final decision. Whereas, for Americans, there might be a more top-down approach where one person takes the lead and everyone follows and runs with that idea.

To deal with these differences in working style, some of our bosses do something we call “style switching.” With our team being global and people with a lot of different cultures, you need to be aware of the environment you’re working in and switch your style appropriately. If you’re in a meeting with American executives, you would need to speak up more because if you don’t, you won’t get a chance to speak. Whereas if you're in a meeting with Japanese executives, there's a different way to approach getting your point across. It’s trial and error but if you’re putting in the effort in trying to learn, the other side will see that, appreciate it and teach you. Being genuine, asking questions and communicating with people will go a long way.

Flexibility and adaptability

Tokio Marine Group has grown to the point where there are branches in the US that might feel like an American company but from time to time may have someone come in from Japan. In that situation, it's 1 vs 1000 and style switching might be helpful for you. On the other hand, if I'm going to the Japanese company and I'm one of a thousand, style switching would be helpful because if you can integrate into that system quickly, then things can happen faster with less confusion. So, I think being flexible and adaptable is definitely the part of Tokio Marine culture.

Inclusivity and sustainability

I like the philosophy of how Tokio Marine Group is trying to become very global and it shows. It is a Japanese company but they are not requiring everyone to learn Japanese. Tokio Marine is also looking to become very prominent around the world and as a result, within the company you can also feel a want for them to be more inclusive.

The company also is very focused on sustainability. Ever since I've been here, there's been a big push towards reducing emissions and becoming carbon neutral. It's something that is actively being pursued across the group. I think the company really cares about society and is the complete opposite of what people might have as their standard idea of an insurance company.

What kind of person is a...

Good FIT

I think having a very good emotional intelligence makes you a good fit. Someone who can understand that plans may not always go the way you laid it out, and not let it get you down. Having an optimistic mindset and believing in the idea that we’re going to get the goal in the end, going day by day and step by step. I think if you are too rigid and against change, then it will be hard to work for a global company because it's all about change.

NOT a good FIT

I would say the ‘bad fit’ will be the exact opposite. For instance, if you’re stuck in your space and are not willing to come out of your shell to try new things. If you’re easily demoralized when things don’t go your way, I think that attitude will not get you too far here.

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