January 2014

Letter To The Editor

I wanted to say how much I enjoyed Dave Kester's article, “Meatloaf and Spreadsheets,” in the July issue of the Technology Section newsletter. I would note that this letter is my own opinion and not necessarily the view of my employer.

I totally agree with the message about the importance of using the right technology tool. And the story about the meatloaf slices was entertaining. It reminded me of the fact that my kitchen has not only bent forks, but also a few bent knives. Over the years I have finally learned that it is important to put the food item (such as meatloaf) on a tray and freeze the slices individually before stacking them with parchment or waxed paper between slices, then putting them into the freezer container and returning them to the freezer. The application of this lesson is that, even if you use the right tool, it is also very important to plan ahead. Over the years I have seen numerous actuarial students, and even credentialed actuaries, starting a spreadsheet without fully understanding the structure that will be needed in the finished product.

Even a few minutes spent with pencil and paper before creating the spreadsheet can save a lot of time and headaches in the long run. Identifying the input and designing the presentation of the results will make the process of building an actual spreadsheet go a lot faster.

Here’s to better-designed spreadsheets, and flatware that isn’t bent.

Carol A. Marler, MAAA, FSA
Associate Actuary
Employers Reassurance Corporation