Who? Didier Quintius (1997)
What? currently working on his Master's in Actuarial Science & Mathematical Finance
First job: admin at a transport company
Favourite spot at the UvA: there's a room with turquoise curtains on the first floor of Building C on the Roeterseiland Campus. It's a peaceful, homey space where Didier likes to sit.
Essential: his laptop
‘I was born in Suriname and lived there until I was eighteen. When I started university, I moved to the Netherlands on my own. That was the plan all along: when I was little, it was obvious that I'd go off to university in the Netherlands someday. My parents wanted me to have the best education possible – because they themselves had studied in Wageningen, they knew first-hand how good Dutch degree programmes are. They were always really involved in my choice of studies, too. Leading up to that decision, we spent hours talking not only about which courses I like best, but also about which careers would be the best fit if, one day, I decide to come back to Suriname and help further the country's development.’
You need to be good with numbers and enjoy tackling complex issues.
‘Two of my parents’ friends had studied Actuarial Science and I started talking to them about that. What I found really interesting was how many conclusions can be drawn from data, which predictions you can then make and how crucial these are. I wanted to learn how to do that, too! Although I do spend a lot of time explaining to other people what the programme's about. In simple terms, it teaches you to be an actuary who calculates complex financial risks. That means questions like whether smokers should pay more for health insurance, or how many claims an insurance company can expect to see in the year ahead – and based on that number, how high they should set their premium. In order to predict these things, you have to simultaneously take a wide range of societal trends into account, everything from the ageing population to inflation. So you have to be good with numbers and really enjoy tackling complex issues.’
‘This degree can take you in a lot of different directions. Actuaries can work for consultancy firms, for financial institutions such as insurance companies and pension funds, or for the government. They provide insight, advice and solutions for all kinds of financial risks. But I'm not ready to limit my career options to a pension fund or insurance company just yet. I want to learn how data analysis can be applied outside the world of finance. Data analysts are needed in more fields than just the financial sector. Maybe I'll pursue a second Master's to improve my programming skills. I'm young, so there's still plenty of time to pick a direction.’
‘I used to think that you chose one degree programme for the rest of your life, but I no longer feel that way’
‘This degree programme requires a great deal of self-discipline. That's because it has relatively few teaching hours compared to other studies. So if you want to pass your exams, you have to really dive into the material on your own in order to understand it. In the second year of the programme, I noticed that my motivation was suffering because I didn't see enough connection to real-world practice; it was too theoretical for me. And so I attended a conference on the current issues that pose challenges to actuaries today. I need that sort of thing, to be reminded of why I'm pursuing this degree in the first place. I also found an added connection to practice in my part-time job as a business analyst for the clothing company America Today. As a way to gain more practical experience, I started testing out analyses. It turned out to be more difficult than expected, but it's teaching me a great deal. For my next job, I'm going to look for a place where I can work with experienced data analysts in a team setting.’
‘Something that often keeps me awake at night is wondering where I'm going to live later on. I have doubts about going back to Suriname. While it's true that my family is there, that's mostly the older generation. The younger relatives have moved away and I don't know how soon they plan on returning. What's more, I'd have fewer career opportunities there, and it's important to me to find work I truly enjoy. Because I chose this degree programme, it's especially important to seize every opportunity. And those might even be outside the Netherlands or Suriname. All the developments taking place with regard to Big Data will only serve to increase worldwide demand for actuaries in the coming years.’
‘For me, one thing that characterises UvA students is that they often have a whole other world going on outside their lives at the university. When I meet students from other cities or other universities, it sometimes feels like all their activities take place in their home city and involve one specific group of friends. They have either a society of some kind or their classmates, and that's who they hang out with. In Amsterdam, people seem to be much freer about such things. Many of my friends don't have roommates; they live alone. Each of them belongs to a bunch of different “cliques”, everything from work friends to out-of-town groups. I find that diversity really appealing.’
Everywhere I look, I see that hard work makes all things possible
‘This programme has really shifted my perspective: I realise now, more than ever, how many possibilities I have in life. I know that if I work hard enough, I can achieve anything I want. I didn't yet grasp that concept when I was 18 years old and fresh out of secondary school. Back then, I had heard that going to university means lots of freedom – but at the same time, I thought once you graduated, you had to pick a job and do that the rest of your life. I no longer think that: everywhere I look, I see that hard work makes all things possible.’