Newsletter 8


Be sure to check out my other article on actuarial efficiency from this week where I walk through rewriting the Academy's Interest Rate Generator in Julia to squeeze out three orders of magnitude in performance increases.

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Thanks everyone who sent me links and recommendations this week. If you stumble across something interesting, send it my way! You can send any recommendations to


Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell - You should buy this book right now. As of this post, the Kindle edition on Amazon was 90% off. This will go on my short list of management books that everyone should read. It covers most nuggets I've gotten out of other books more succinctly and in a cohesive story – grit, empathy, transparency, candor, hiring, firing, meetings, autonomy, passion, coaching, etc. This book has it all. Buy it. Read it. Talk about it. I'm planning on rereading it again over the holidays.

Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age - I enjoyed this book. Written by two senior leaders at Microsoft, the books provides an overview of the promises and perils of technology today and in the future. The authors are candid about Microsoft's historical mistakes, and the lessons they've learned. It offers perspectives that echo my own thoughts on the role technology plays in our life, and how impactful it will be for admirable and nefarious causes.


Some extraordinary episodes from this week:

Better Presentations with Jon Schwabish - Storytelling With Data - There's a lot of valuable advice in here about presentations and using visualizations.

Marc Andreessen: “Was Netscape an Overnight Success?” - Starting Greatness - I love hearing about the beginnings of startups and what the founders would and wouldn't do over again – especially when that founder is Marc Andreessen.

Lessons of Greatness: Living in the Future - Starting Greatness -

William Gibson, the cyberpunk novelist has said “The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.” This perfectly describes a key lesson of greatness from Marc’s Netscape experience.

Lessons Learned Growing Successful Marketplaces w/ Mike Duboe, Lenny Rachitsky, & Dan Hockenmaier - Greymatter -

“How do you build a company that works out and makes all your stakeholders happy and doesn’t just focus on growth at all costs? So at Airbnb, I think there’s always this spectrum of focus… so there’s a metric your driving like bookings…but there’s all these other [pairing metrics] that matter. Are people having a good time? Are communities happy? Are hosts satisfied or our people creating good memories?” — Lenny Rachitsky, Former Growth Lead at Airbnb

The Cure for Hate - Your Undivided Attention - Fascinating discussion with a former white supremacist on how ideologues target individuals and what we can do to stop it.

Ben Savage - All Things Fintech Investing - Invest Like the Best - A conversation discussing the prospects and future of the financial services industry. Valuable insights.

The Art of Asking For (And Getting) Help - HBR Ideacast - Asking for help can be difficult. Wayne Baker, professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, highlights some of his research what the best strategies are.

Convoy (with CEO Dan Lewis) - Acquired - I'd only read about Convoy in passing. Again, I always enjoy talks with founders. David and Ben are well researched and ask great questions to figure out what makes Convoy tick and the problems its trying to solve.

The Biggest Success Story You Haven't Heard with Bill Gates - Masters of Scale - I will read and listen to anything published by Bill. His transition to philanthropist and work with Melinda at the Gates Foundation is a benefit to the world and how he's made it successful can be applied to for-profit and non-profit organizations alike.


You Suck at Excel with Joel Spolsky - I come back to this video about once a year. Anyone working in Excel can learn something from it.

Design Patterns vs Anti pattern in APL by Aaron W Hsu at FnConf17 - I never know what's going on in APL code, but I can appreciate its brevity and the different mindset it requires from traditional object-oriented or functional programming.


What I've learned over 10 years on Stack Overflow - I've visited Stack Overflow almost daily during my working career. It's a valuable resource and has made many upon many individuals more productive.

Software Is About Developing Knowledge More Than Writing Code - Couldn't agree more.

  • Don’t silo people based on their skillset
  • Embrace cross-functional teams
  • Explain alternatives and choose the best solution together

Don’t Shy Away or Risk Cowardly Management - This reminds me of Radical Candor by Kim Scott. Technical and “Midwest Nice” managers can fall into the trap of “ruinous empathy” that is a disservice to everyone involved. Be candid, and show that you care.

Algorithmic bias detection and mitigation: Best practices and policies to reduce consumer harms - There are a lot of references in here to dig your teeth into. This is an important topic for everyone. Bias is real whether you believe it or not. We need to take steps to reduce and prevent abuses through best practices, regulation, education, and codes of conduct.

Unintended Consequences of Geographic Targeting - Case in point, this article is a perfect example of the problem with ignoring the implicit biases that occur in systemic issues in society.

Literature Review: Artificial Intelligence and Its Use in Actuarial Work - I was disappointed in the lack of rigor in this literature review. It should have been a red flag when the research methodology can be summed up as “we searched google”. I wonder if it was so superficial because artificial intelligence is an ambiguous buzzword that means nothing.

To be a good software engineer, become a French skeptic - Ask “why”. Good advice for anyone.

An Owner's Manual - Warren Buffett - You'd never know this was written by Buffett in 1996. He's been consistent in his messaging to investors for decades. He does it in an honest, candid, and genuine way that every executive should strive to do.

Automated Finance Apps Are Eating Deposits - Interesting article discussing how apps are changing the value chain in personal finance.

A Recovery Squandered - This is well worth the time to dig through. A lot of information packed into the pages on the state of the US in 2019. It's a gloomy picture, but the authors discuss how we can make progress and go forward.

Keynes was wrong. Gen Z will have it worse. - A look at the predictions made by Keynes and the developments that have gotten society and the economic system to where we are today and what is potentially to come.

IPO Portfolios and a Benchmark - A good example of financial analysis using R and the Tidyverse.

R 3.6.2 is out, and a preview of R 4.0.0 - Twenty years of R and the language keeps progressing and evolving. Exciting to see.

Writing Proprietary R Packages - R Packages are the best way to share code. I'd like to see more enterprises outside of the tech industry adopt the tooling and culture needed to drive adoption.

Practical Tidy Evaluation - A little more in depth on using Tidy Evaluation in your function and package design.

APL and J - There's a lot to learn from different perspectives in all aspects of business and that includes how you write code. APL and J are fascinating programming languages.

Who was the Buddha? - Just for fun. I always like reading these types of articles.

That's it for this week. Again, if you have anything you want to share or have any comments, shoot me an email at