An interview with Marc Salomon

Marc Salomon
14 mei 2018

What did you study?

Econometrics and Actuarial Sciences at the VU followed by a PhD from the Erasmus University (Rotterdam).

Why did you decide to study Econometrics?

A rather funny story actually. I have always been an admirer of busses, trains and subways but my parents did not allow me to study Transportation Sciences (‘Verkeerskunde’), since it was only higher education (HBO) and not available on university level. In the search for a new education I attended the information session of the bachelor Econometrics and Operations Research at the VU. The lecturer described how he developed the schedule for subway line 4 of the GVB using integer programing. I was immediately intrigued. Although schedule development was never covered in the bachelor degree, I still ended up having transportation-related work at the KLM and NS.

How did you perceive your education?

I found it to be very broad: I studied Econometrics, Operations Research, Mathematical Economics and applied these concepts to Business Administration and Economics related subjects. There was also attention to programming and data management. A less enjoyable part of the education was that there were only 12 students, of which all except one were very boring. With that one non-boring person I commonly traveled for the holidays. He always wanted to visit casinos. Later he pursued his PhD at MIT where he was mentored by a Nobel Prize winner and joined MIT’s Blackjack team which became famous because of their success and ended up getting banned from casinos because of their success. There is actually a movie based on this story. I learned a lot from him about Blackjack. His team trained many hours to get become as successful as they have.

What is your opinion about Econometrics now?

My opinion is that Econometrics nowadays is rather narrowly focused on econometrics and not very modern. I really enjoyed the combination of Econometrics, Operations Research and Mathematical Economics. When I studied Econometrics, students got to choose (a mix) of these 3 subjects. Current students perhaps have a more in-depth knowledge of econometrics, but less of related subjects. Another detail is that, in these modern times, programming and data management are essential to econometricians, but they usually lack advanced knowledge on these subjects. I also think recent techniques like artificial intelligence should be part of the program. Perhaps artificial intelligence does not have to be discussed in extreme detail, but at least the difference between traditional Econometrics and artificial intelligence could be covered. Finally, Econometrics at the UvA is mostly applied to macro, micro, and finance and less to business administration.

What should change?

We should observe which people are being hired by Google at the moment. Luckily this is already the case as we are planning several changes to incorporate programming, artificial intelligence and business administration to the Econometrics curriculum.

Would you recommend Econometrics to your children?

Definitely. Especially when the curriculum gets modernised. Econometrics is an amazing education and provides many interesting careers.

How about Business Administration?

It is going very well and we have many students, but Business Administration could also benefit from a modernised curriculum. In addition to Accountancy, Marketing and HR, artificial intelligence is also gaining ground in Business Administration. Within Finance we see that the Blockchain is becoming more and more important. This means we need to find specialists within these areas and change the curriculums. I also see an opportunity to cooperate with Econometrics in these areas. Several of our Econometrics teachers are also teaching the Business Administration students and the Mathematics and Computer Science students. This crossover has been very successful in the past.