Why do buses come in threes?

Jules Gribble, Lesley Traverso and Caroline Stevenson offer an insight into their concurrent session at the 20/20 All-Actuaries Virtual Summit, ‘Are Actuaries Still Relevant?’

Seemingly unconnected or random events and actions often have logical explanations hidden below the surface. Life does not happen in a vacuum, there are causes and consequences for most things. Often connections with past events or choices started a chain of events leading to the ‘lucky break’ you just recognised today. These chains may have been started or recognised by you or by someone else (for example the manager who gives you a promotion). There is a reason why the saying ‘you make your own luck’ is often quoted. 

The book “Why do buses come in threes?” gives logical explanations to seemingly random events.  It explains why it is often quicker to catch the second bus (the first one gets very full and stops for longer allowing the second one to overtake), rather than the first.  The third is emptiest and so catches up quickly to the first two, but still remains last.

Similarly, career progression often doesn’t take the most obvious path. We interact with a complex professional world and its view on our talents and skills may differ from our own internal view. Many spectacular success stories, while they may be rationalised after the event, often can be traced back to seemingly random and serendipitous events or encounters with others. Many great things have emerged from ‘failed’ experiments or learning from unexpected outcomes. Alexander Fleming discovered the benefits of penicillin by a lab contamination accident.

The courage to take ‘half chances’ and listen to unexpected opportunities can be the key to success. The courage to potentially fail but undoubtedly learn from that experience is the foundation of success. 

An effective Continuing Professional Development (CPD) program which provides guidance to support you in developing skills that help you along your career ‘bus journey’ can support you to take advantage of unexpected or unplanned opportunities. A CPD process that is flexible and driven by you provides a great way to pursue your intellectual curiosity and expose yourself to new ideas and new pathways that you may only recognise in hindsight.

The crux of this is that we influence our future careers through our actions today, even if the impact those actions may have in the future is unclear. The consequences of COVID-19 show that the world can change dramatically and very quickly, and we all need to be willing and able to adapt and change along with it. Your structured pathway leading to your dream job may no longer exist (nor may the job). Focusing on an immediate extra $10,000 a year for that change of job rather than looking more broadly at what you can learn by doing it and how those learnings will enhance your future skills and opportunities may be self-defeating in the long run. We all know of seemingly very talented people who do not seem to achieve what they and others might have hoped for. Frustratingly, this is often not due to a lack of technical skill but may be due to a lack of skills in other areas.

Effectively managing your CPD enables you to catch the more effective ‘second bus’. Historically, CPD has been a compliance exercise that is something that is done as an ‘extra’, and may not have been entirely relevant for you, and not really get you where you want to go. But if you determine what learnings are important and of interest to you, what you need to do to be more effective in your job, and/or what new skills you need to move to a new area or discipline, then you are in control and improve your chances of reaching your objectives. Additionally, a constructive working environment integrated with an effective CPD program can maximise the value of your learning and personal development opportunities. 

What if virtually everything that you learn is recognised as contributing to your CPD? 

This includes the time you sit down with a colleague and tackle and solve a problem together, the training plan you and your employer put together and you carry out, and the learning from watching a podcast to help you write more effective reports or learn more about what your non-actuarial colleagues do. This may sound like the first bus which is going to get very full, very quickly! So, you need to get off at the next stop. Sit down. Reflect. Review. Analyse. Am I going the right way? Is what I did before working for me? As the driver of your own CPD bus, (or the conductor of someone else’s) you can plot your path on the CPD map and then reap the benefits of following it. Managing your own learning and being open to new and different learning opportunities is key to leveraging your skills into the future. 

The CPD committee is developing a vision for CPD in the future for the Institute. We are building on learnings from other actuarial and professional bodies in Australia and overseas. We are following established trails and seeking to take the best, for our profession, from their experiences. This is leading toward some changes, but the world is changing around us and we need to capitalise on that or be left behind. 

We are working on an approach which will ensure every member of the profession has access to a CPD process that is simple, flexible, and adaptable. No matter what area members work in, the integration of workplace learning with their CPD means CPD is valuable and relevant for everyone. The process is interactive, familiar, and responsive.

Our vision, our measure of success is when members say ‘I now see CPD as an integral part of my life, rather than a chore’. 

We encourage you to attend the session ‘Are actuaries still relevant?’ on Thursday 27 August at 11:45 AEST as part of the 20/20 All-Actuaries Virtual Summit to find out more about the CPD Review, ask questions, and participate in the discussion. 

The CPD Committee has also established a specific page on the Institute website which will provide background material and give you an opportunity to provide feedback and be part of this exciting journey. Please email cpdreview@actuaries.asn.au with your views.

CPD: Actuaries Institute Members can claim two CPD points for every hour of reading articles on Actuaries Digital.