A Day in the Life of... Mario!


Author: Bart Thans


Shadowing Mario, not the one we know from the eighties computer game, but our own Mario Van Hissenhoven.

To keep ahead of change we have to think outside of the box. This is why within VisionWorks, we have decided to introduce shadowing days. A shadowing day is a day where a Junior will get the opportunity to shadow one of his/her more senior colleagues and learn what that person does on a day-to-day basis. It creates a great learning opportunity where the Junior can ask away. At the end of the day, he or she will be more knowledgeable. As a try-out, senior MS BI Consultant Bart Thans decided to shadow one of our practice managers: Mario Van Hissenhoven. He wrote this blogpost about his experience.

I got the chance to shadow Mario for a day, and this is what happened:

When I pitched my idea of 'shadowing a colleague' back in December 2018 at the Ordina Visionworks weekend, this is what I had in mind:

At Visionworks, we are all BI colleagues with very similar but sometimes also different skillsets. My idea was: what if I could be the shadow of a colleague for a day? It could be a colleague who masters a certain technical skill that I want to learn about. Perhaps my client wants to be able to use this in the near future. However, if I barely know anything about it, it will be harder for me to implement. If I could shadow a colleague, I would be able to look over his/her shoulder and ask all the questions that would pop in my head.

Questions that I assumed would pop up are things like:

  • Why did you implement that feature in that way?

  • What about error logging?

  • What if the client wants … ?

  • Will it be easy to maintain if you do it like that?

  • Could you also do it in a different way?

All these questions would come up during the day and I would be able to discuss these with my chosen shadow subject for the day. At the end of the day, I could share with others about what I learned (in a blogpost or at a session). I could elaborate on the things I learned throughout the day that I did not know before. In the end, I would hopefully have learned some skills that help me be a more complete consultant.

This was the aim of shadowing one of my colleagues. So on Thursday, the 25th of April, I shadowed Mario.


I arrived at the Ordina headquarters at 9 am. I met up with Mario and we briefly went over the planning for the day. In his role as Practice Manager, he had to go around and talk to his subordinates. Mario wanted to see how they were doing and how things were at their client(s). He would offer support for any difficulties they encountered that he could help with. Other colleagues could talk to him about any issues that they had, either personal or at their client(s).

The next order of business was an email he had to sent out to the Competence Center Leads; he had to postpone their afternoon meeting (but more on that later).  Up to this point, I had already noticed that a practice manager has a very busy schedule.

Next, the more interesting part (for me at least) began. Mario explained in detail what the data architecture at Nike looked like. He also mentioned why they did the things at Nike in the way they were implemented there. In the meanwhile, I could ask him all the questions that came to mind. After Mario’s explanation, we met with another colleague of ours: Driss. Mario clarified for Driss what direction he wanted the pilot at Nike to go in. As Mario explained, I was able to brainstorm along with them. I squeezed in some ideas and questions that I had about the matter.

Subsequently, Mario had to do some additional work for Nike himself on a planningstool he had developed for them. As we sat together I had the opportunity to ask some additional SQL- and BI related questions that had been haunting me for a long time. It is always nice to pick Mario’s brain about these topics since he is very knowledgeable and has a lot of experience in the field.  As you can read, we had already covered quite a lot of ground and it was only noon!

In the afternoon, we met up with another VisionWorks colleague: Wout. Wout had to go on an assignment at Sarens. Mario was going to help him get started and guide him along the way. After Mario’s meeting with Wout, we had the postponed Competence Center Lead meeting. This meeting was meant for the Competence Center Leads to promote their ideas about their role as a CC Lead. Mario would evaluate these ideas and, if necessary, align their propositions and steer them in the right direction. 

Before I knew it, the day was over... for me anyway. The work of a Practice Manager is never done. At the end of the day, on his way home, Mario contacts the colleagues he has not spoken to in a while. Just as he did at the office, he inquires about their well-being and if any assistance or guidance from him is needed.


To wrap up my day, I want to say that I am glad I got the opportunity to shadow a BI hero for a day. I learned a lot, and I was really happy with how the whole experience turned out. One technical thing that I learned and that I would like to share with all of you is that:  

When you are doing an upsert (insert/update operation on a Data Warehouse), it is sometimes a good and more performant idea to delete the rows you were going to update from the destination and simply insert these into the Data Warehouse. This means that you do this not only for the new rows, but also for the ones you were going to update initially.

I have learned a lot about this experience so feel free to ask me questions concerning my day shadowing one of my colleagues!



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