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Dark vs. light mode? Wich is better?

Google Search is finally officially proposing the dark mode on desktop. Dark or light, which one is better for you?

As an actuary, many hours are spent staring at a screen. Dark mode is in vogue and the tech world is embracing it with open arms. This night mode would have as many benefits as Kombucha on our health! But can this dark theme soothe our chakras during a coding crisis? Can it help us reduce our concealer bill? Let us try to answer those existential questions!

Tap into the dark side of the force to sleep better

Dark mode reduces the emission of the famous harmful Blue light emitted by screens, which is pointed out as responsible for our eyestrain. “Exposure to blue light from screens strongly stimulates receptors in the retina, effectively sending a ‘daytime’ signal to the body clock that delays falling asleep and induces phase delay. Even extremely minimal light signals have an impact, via the suppression of the secretion of melatonin (a hormone that helps regulate our wake-sleep cycles)”, explains the Institute of Sleep and Vigilance.

It is therefore recommended for anyone working in dimly lit environments, or anyone who scrolls endlessly through their newsfeed at night, to activate the dark mode to take care of their eyes.

Gifs animes Dark vador, images animees Star wars

What about energy?

According to YouTube, with a brightness at 100%, the dark mode would consume 60% less energy. So going dark should reduce your energy consumption! How ? The most significant reduction in battery usage is in OLED and AMOLED display panels. In OLED displays every pixel is individually lit. So when the background is bright, most of the display pixels are turned on, which consumes a lot of battery power.

 

Tomorrow, I’m wearing all black

Not completely… According to a study, our memorization capacities are weakened on a black background. It’s easier to read, pick up and capture information on a white page. Black text on a white background is best, since the color properties and light are best suited for the human eye. That’s because white reflects every wavelength in the color spectrum.

Kim Kardashian defends her 2021 Met Gala look - the vie

 

So what should I do ?

As often, there is no ideal solution. Dark mode has its advantages and will be preferred if you are working in a dimly lit room to allow your eyes to rest. If you need to save battery power then switch to black as well.

On the contrary, when you are working during the day in a well-lit room or need to be focused on, then keep the bright mode on!

Now it’s up to you to switch as often as you need.

SPOILER ALERT : LinkedIn is also rolling out dark mode globally.

 

How to activate Dark mode on Google Search ?

You can make the change by going to Settings > Search Settings > Appearance. There, you’ll be able to choose light, dark, or device default, which will automatically follow your computer’s mode.

 

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Best of fictional actuaries

While Christmas and end of year celebrations are getting closer we present to you several fictional actuaries. In case you want something else than the Grinch or Kevin Mc Allister’s misfortunes to end the year joyfully.

In fiction works, the actuary still suffers from its clichés, as we explained last October. He/she will often be introduced as someone quite dull and boring who is very organized with a daily routine set in stone. The disruptive factor will change the character’s life forever, for the better, of course. Here is our selection (we promise you, it’s spoilers-free)

 

Actuaries in movies:

Mr. Schmidt, played by Jack Nicholson, a recently retired actuary, gets a little bored and decides to sponsor Ndugu, a Tanzanian child, for twenty-two dollars a month. While Mr Schmidt writes  his diary to Ndugu, he goes to meet his daughter, who is about to get married.

Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates have both been nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes for Best Actor and Best Actress in Leading Roles.

Note that the film is freely adapted from Louis Begley’s book, also titled Mr Schmidt, and yet in the book, Mr. Schmidt is a lawyer.

 

Along came Polly ( 2004) by John Hamburg

In Along Came Polly, Reuben Feffer, played by Ben Stiller, works as a Risk Assessment Expert for an insurance company and it appears that he is either an actuary or an underwriter. Reuben spends his time controlling and minimizing risks, and his life is well controlled, until love catches up with him.

 

Boyhood (2014), by Richard Linklater

This film, quite exceptional by the length of the shooting, which took place over twelve years, is centered on the life of the Evans family, and follows more particularly Mason, the son, from six to eighteen years. The father of the family, played by Ethan Hawke, mentions passing his actuarial exams.

 

Zootopia (2016), by Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Rich Moore

In Zootopia, all animals live in harmony, the felines cohabit with the gazelles, and live in an organized society. At the beginning of the film, pupils of an elementary school play a show in which they explain their evolution, and especially their future possibilities. A little jaguar states the possibility of becoming an actuary! (Note that since the profession is not wo well-known in other parts of the world, in French, for instance, the child mentions the possibility of becoming an accountant.)

Fight Club (1999) by David Fincher

Fight Club needs no introduction, since it is one of the classic of David Fincher’s filmography. Everything has already been said about this film, and the narrator, played by Edward Norton, is often portrayed as an actuary: however, on closer examination in both original version and French version, he is actually “a factory recall technician for defective cars,” although he does mention analyzing risks and using statistics, which must have led to some confusions.

 

Actuaries in movies can also be found in : Groundhog Day, Tron, Hellboy or in the horror movies Saw VI or It : chapter 2.

 

Actuaries in books :

Foundation series, Isaac Asimov, published between 1951 and 1993

This science fiction classic, which is no longer to be presented, is a series of seven books. Asimov’s goal “was to write a historical novel of the future”. Difficult to summarize seven books in a few lines, but in a very (very) distant future, the world, composed of several worlds and galaxies, follows the predictions of a certain Hari Seldon, a mathematician, who had predicted the future through mathematics and probabilities, and is elevated to the rank of messiah (excuse us for this very schematic summary, which will surely bother the purists).

We advise you especially “Prelude to Foundation”, the 1st volume in the order of history, but not in the order of publication (like another certain saga…). Prelude to Foundation tells the story of Hari Seldon, a sort of actuary even though it is never strictly mentionned. Fascinating.

If reading is not your thing, be patient,  Apple TV has announced a tv series based on the Foundation series to be aired in 2022.

 

Batman

The Actuary is one of the villains of the DC comic book series. Hired by the Penguin to help him plan and predict his crimes and manage his finances. However, he is stopped by Batman and sent to prison. He is portrayed as a rather boring person who spends all his time doing math, once again, in clichés.

 

 

Top digital tools for homeworking employees

2020 definitely surprised us in many ways, and mandatory homeworking is one of them. While some of us have the luxury of owning a proper home office, others have had to put their resourcefulness to practice to find a way to create a desk (we know the struggle of working on the dining room table/living room couch).

Whatever your situation and struggle are, we’ve got you covered with these super useful tools that will help you get through this period.

via GIPHY

 

Noise-cancelling software

Getting tired of muting yourself all the time? If you have kids/dogs/neighbors/a loud coffee machine or a partner who’s also homeworking, this tool may be your savior. Noise cancelling software enable you to mute background noise in any communication app. By focusing on your voice only, this kind of software allows you not to worry anymore about the dogs barking, keyboard clicks, traffic or construction noise.
There are a lot of options on the market, however the most popular ones are the following

  • Krisp mutes background noise in any communication app
  • Solicall Pro improves audio quality when making calls from a PC/laptop
  • myNoise creates beautiful noises to mask the noises you don’t want to hear
  • Adobe Audition removes background noise from your audio files
  • You can also invest in noise cancelling headphones for an even better experience!

 

Background options

An oldie, but a goodie. People might overlook the background options that are available on most communication apps, but that would be a shame because they can come in very handy. Here’s how to change your background in Teams and in Zoom.

You can either blur your background, put your favorite vacation picture (you’re allowed to dream), or even get creative – like this man :

This dude made a custom Zoom background for his next meeting where he brings myself a cup of tea (by Jaws19show) from r/nextfuckinglevel

 

Internet Connection Speed Stabilizer

Another problem that you might come across in your 2020 journey is unstable internet. This is particularly annoying when you’re on a call and the video or sound just keeps freezing. There are tools that help you deal with this kind of problem! For example, Ping offers this service for free.

 

Don’t forget tools you may already have…

Widespread software like Microsoft Teams offer great opportunities for collaborative work (Planner allows you to assign tasks and follow their completion, Wiki enables you to share good practices within your organization…)  that you should check out if you are not already using them!

 

Want some more ?

Here’s a good selection of the best apps suggested by Clockify

STAY PRODUCTIVE
STAY CALM
STAY HEALTHY
  • Forest — for focused work
  • StayFocusd— for staying away from time-wasting websites
  • World Time Buddy — for easily syncing collaborative work across time zones
  • Spark— for managing emails
  • Todoist or Wunderlist — for tracking your to-dos
  • Timer+ — run multiple timer
  • FixMe.IT— for remote desktop control
  • Serene — A tool that cuts out distractions, helps you stay focused and complete tasks faster.

 

  • Coffitivity— for a crowded cafe atmosphere
  • EōN— for an enjoyable music experience during work time
  • Pocket Yoga— for yoga breaks during work time
  • Zen— for relaxing (and colorful) break time
  • iA Writer— for a distraction-free experience when writing
  • Simplish— a to-do list productivity tool based on positive psychology
  • Focus@Will— for boosting productivity through music

 

  • Seven — for home workouts
  • Plant Nanny— for making sure you stay hydrated
  • Aloe Bud— for making sure you take care of yourself

 

And if all of this does not suffice, you can always listen to waves sounds on Spotify and picture your next holiday or surf on Zevillage.net, an online media conceived to rethink and transform homeworking.

Do you have any tips and tricks that help you deal with homeworking? Don’t hesitate to share them in the comment section 😊

How to stand out as an actuary: our top 3 most in-demand skills

In a continually changing and fast-paced environment, upskilling and reskilling the workforce has become standard practice in the insurance and banking industry. However, while the idea of training a new employee to close a technical skill gap does not appear to be a problem, companies have become more and more inflexible on their requirements when it comes to soft skills. As a headhunting firm specialising in actuarial profiles, that’s a challenge we have to face on a daily basis: companies are now more and more looking for a personality with a set of technical skills, not the other way around.

 

The challenge

Let’s put the classical cliché of the introverted actuary aside and focus on some facts. In the Influential Actuary, a book published in 2010, the author interviewed four American influential actuaries who shared their views on the key competencies to set yourself apart as an actuary. At the time, Laura Hay, one of the interviewees, was already pointing out the introverted nature of the actuarial training as a thing that holds actuaries back. “It’s a lot of self-study. I think preparing for exams is a lonely process in which you sit by yourself, you take them, and then you tell a few people that you passed, but it’s not a sharing experience. What you’re doing in a working environment is almost the opposite of your entire technical training.[1]

Although things may have evolved in the United States and other markets where actuarial training courses are increasingly aimed at training business-oriented actuaries, this statement is still particularly true regarding the Belgian market. Given the high level of technical requirements to become an Actuary in Belgium, and due to the fact that there is a limit to the number of courses that make up a university programme, universities have unfortunately little room for manoeuvre to integrate courses focused on soft skills development. On the other hand, the Institute of Actuaries in Belgium (IABE) encourages the development of soft skills by including CPD points in its continuous learning program. In order to place a greater emphasis on its importance, the IABE could make it compulsory as does the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (FOA) in the UK.

However, we must say that actuaries’ profiles have diversified over the years, by force of circumstance: on the one hand, thanks to universities’ bridging programmes allowing more business oriented students with less technical backgrounds head toward actuarial science masters, and on the other, because of the insurance companies’ structure becoming more transversally networked and flat, leaving actuaries’ no choice than to adapt.

“Actuaries’ technical knowledge is increasingly becoming an asset in non-technical departments.”

Things aren’t as bad as they may sound, but the demand for actuaries with strong soft skills is growing at a fast pace and working on them should not be an option anymore.

Actuaries are nowadays more and more expected to take up on less traditional missions and contribute to other areas of the business. Alexandre Jacobs, our Managing Director, says that actuaries’ technical knowledge is increasingly becoming an asset in non-technical departments. As this may seem to be a big challenge in terms of soft skills, remember that’s it’s above all creating strong career opportunities for those who are willing to take them. Are you in ?

“What would really be amazing, is an Actuary who …”

We heard this sentence countless times. Here’s the top 3 soft skills that give our clients a hard time in their research (and that’s what we’re here for;-))

1. 🎤 An Actuary who can communicate is gold: with colleagues from the same team, with the management, with other less technical departments and with internal and/or external clients, requiring the ability to explain (complex) actuarial topics in an understandable way, and sometimes even with a more commercial approach. Ability to present and speak in public is also very appreciated by our clients. Really, we are talking about communication all the way up, and maybe this is what makes our clients’ research that difficult, because that actually requires a whole lot of personal qualities : clarity and concision, organisation, open mindedness, respect, diplomacy, persuasion, ability to listen, and so on. Actuaries as a whole are often perceived as poor communicators (we have read some 50-page long publications on the subject). However, reality is more nuanced than that, as there has been a great evolution in recent years and we are seeing more and more actuaries taking on responsibilities in positions where communication skills are essential. In any case, we reassure you: it takes some work but everyone can become a great communicator!

2. 🤸🏻‍♂️ An Actuary with broad creative business savvy. Actuaries are expected to be able to have a broad-based knowledge of the business, outside their realm of expertise, which means understanding the purpose of other departments (whether they are technical or less technical). Only then will actuaries truly be able to grasp the whole of a problem or situation and develop creative, implementable solutions. The actuary with business acumen perceives quickly the essence of business situations, and acts accordingly.[2]Leading actuaries have often worked within many different departments: technical departments, operational departments, risk management departments, … Having experience in both consulting and insurance companies also lead actuaries to build strong business acumen. This kind of experience inevitably strengthens soft skills and the ability to step back to have a 360° view of the business.

3. 👨🏻‍🔧 An Actuary who is able to adapt. The world is changing and it’s changing fast, especially in the insurance industry where there is still so much to do in terms of digital transformation. Actuaries are expected to play a role in this transformation, meaning that they have to be able to keep pace, be flexible and adapt in order to meet the changes that the actuarial profession is undergoing. “Remember the day when an actuary could get a practicing certificate and then rest assured that their future career was lined out until retirement? Those days are gone […] We need to have the ability to adapt to the needs of the changing business environment and apply our skills and knowledge in new domains and ways”[3] says Mark Farell, a Fellow of the FOA and founder of ProActuary.com blog. In this context, there is no room for passivity: proactivity and curiosity go hand in hand with an actuary’s ability to adapt. The good news? The ability to adapt often goes with broad career perspectives. Employers who ask for adaptability are in general very willing to invest in their employees and to develop their potentials. So it’s a win-win situation!

 

The perfect combination

The perfect combination of both strong technical and soft skills is of course our clients’ initial goal. In Belgium in particular, in addition to that combination, the knowledge of several languages and especially French, Dutch and English is also very valued.

Clients favouring soft skills over technical skills exist. It’s not that soft skills became more important than technical skills, it’s that they got just as important in a sector that initially was an only hard skills world. Of course, depending on the nature of the position, its seniority and level of responsibility, clients will put more emphasis on one or on the other. For instance: one of our clients had several very strong candidates from a technical point of view, and yet the company chose a fresh out of school candidate. In this case, the client favoured soft skills and potential over acquired technical skills. Such a choice was motivated by the fact that the candidate had the attitude that the client was looking for and that was a perfect fit for the team. In addition, he came with a strong set of technical skills and an ability to quickly learn actuarial related topics thanks to his highly advanced technical training.

So, what now?

Of course, actuarial training institutions in Belgium should inevitably place some focus on the development of soft skills. But all the responsibility is not up to them: as individuals, each and every one is responsible for his or her own professional development. Remember: take initiative! For instance, getting involved in activities outside of school or work, such as getting involved in a scouting movement or taking theatre classes, is one way among others to improve your set of soft skills.

This makes even more sense in a Covid-19 context where companies had to adapt their way of working in a rush, and maybe you realised to what extend soft skills of each and one of you are key in a constantly evolving and unpredictable world. The way you managed to keep the business going and evolving, while keeping in touch with your team, your superiors, and the business, already says a lot about you.

There are so many ways to address the subject and there are many steps you can take to work on your soft skills: we should definitely look into it in another article. Meanwhile, keep in mind that you have so much to offer to the business as a whole, it’s time to raise your game!

Written by Sophie Kusmierek, Analyst at Asquare Partners

 

 

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