Get to know Jan De Vilder
Introducing our colleague Jan De Vilder, a true veteran here at Cubis! Ever wondered what it’s like to journey through data analysis? 📊🔍 Jan tells you all about it in this interview, giving you an insider’s view of his career, and even a sneak peek into his future ambitions. Scroll on to uncover the story! 👇🏻
How long have you been working as a data analyst?
I have been working as a data analyst since 1993. My career began at a Ghent-based company, building Swedish cars. I was team leader of the production planning department. On my very first working day, my manager asked: “Are you familiar with SQL?” As a physicist, being relatively new to the IT domain, I wasn’t familiar with SQL at all. I quickly started studying SQL myself. At that time, we used SQL on a DB2 database on an IBM mainframe. At the same time, I learned programming in APL2. This is a multi-dimensional array-based programming language. I never encountered another programming language as powerful as APL2. Hence, being unaware, I rolled into the world of data analytics.
Where did you discover your passion for data?
Over the course of three years, I improved my skills in SQL and APL2. Later, while working for another company, I delved into PowerBuilder, a Sybase client/server application development tool. Later acquired by SAP in 2010. In PowerBuilder, we developed a spare-parts ordering application for car-dealers. At the end of the previous century, I found myself at a consulting company that introduced Business Objects v4.1 to customers. We developed custom data warehouses in Oracle and used BusinessObjects as a reporting tool on top. Immersing myself in the realm of data, I got passioned by Business Objects, making data consumable for business users without IT knowledge. In 2000, I joined Business Objects (later acquired by SAP in 2008) as a consultant, traveling extensively for SAP BusinessObjects-related projects across the globe until 2015.
However, the extensive travelling schedule began to take a toll, especially when having young children. Consequently, I pursued opportunities with other Belgian companies, working as a BI consultant. Since I didn’t want to be trained as an SAP BW consultant, I decided to explore a new role as a BI Project Manager in a different organization. It was during that time I had the opportunity to attend TechEd in Barcelona, where I discovered SAP Analytics Cloud. I followed all possible SAP Analytics Cloud workshops and was impressed by the tool.
How did you get in touch with Intellus / Cubis?
It began with a phone call from Wim Van Wuytswinkel. He discovered me on LinkedIn. We decided to meet each other for a business lunch. We had a nice conversation and immediately a connection was triggered. During our discussion, I expressed my desire to work with SAP Analytics Cloud, and Wim informed me about Intellus’ needs for professionals with this expertise. Consequently, I joined Intellus/Cubis in 2018 and have been a part of the team ever since.
How does it feel being a more senior person within the organization?
Being a more senior professional, I don’t quite notice a generation gap. It keeps me young! Despite my age, I still have a young state of mind, feeling as energetic as someone in their mid-twenties. Outside office hours we cycle, run, walk, snowboard, or party together😉.
Besides, I have occasion to share my experience in Business Objects or SAP Analytics Cloud to younger colleagues. Simultaneously, there is a wonderful “cross fertilization” that occurs. The younger generation brings fresh perspectives and alternative ways of approaching challenges. Through this mutual exchange, I find myself continuously learning from my younger colleagues, as they introduce new ideas and alternative viewpoints. Each day brings new opportunities for growth and learning within this dynamic team.
How would you compare yourself now to how you were before as a data analyst?
Before being a data analyst, I was a scientist-researcher at university. Becoming a data analytics consultant made me understand the business processes in companies. Why and how some decisions were made. It made me understand better the reasons behind business requirements. I became more confident interacting with customers in English, French, Dutch or even German. I now possess the knowledge and expertise necessary to address and resolve any complex challenges that may arise. As a result, I have become more at ease, confident and relaxed in both my professional and personal lives.
What do you enjoy most about working at Cubis?
During office time we do not see each other very often. Everyone is working professionally with their own customers. What I enjoy most is the colleagues supporting each other. Sharing their knowledge. You can contact your colleagues anytime and they will make time for you, helping to solve your issue. We have a lot of fun together after the office hours in sportive events, or even fun or challenging events. It’s a spontaneous thing.
Which piece of your job do you find most interesting?
Problems. I really enjoy being able to solve problems. The ability to tackle challenges and find innovative solutions satisfies me. I thrive when I take calculated risks and push myself to go outside my comfort zone. I like challenges that are new and have never been done before. I like convincing customers in pre-sales activities, or proof of concepts. I like to pass to assist my junior colleagues in scoring the goal.
Can you tell a success story where you used data and analytics to drive business growth or make a big impact on a project?
The SAP BI War Room in Paris is the best project I have ever done. Working in an international team of SAP BI addicts, we solved SAP BI4.0 issues for customers worldwide. During that year in 2012, I was sent to a big international customer who was considering abandoning Business Objects. Despite initially facing a negative reception from the IT manager, I worked hard to improve the system’s performance in just a few days. As a result, when I met the IT manager again after one week, he was smiling, and we shook hands. He congratulated me; the project was saved.
More recently I showcased SAP Analytics Cloud Predictive to a business user, struggling getting his forecast right. He was immediately convinced, saying: “finally this is exactly what I need”.
How do you maintain your work-life balance?
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that working from home is a viable option. I have been working remotely for three years now, and I like it. It saves me three hours of traffic each day. However, I do miss the social interaction with colleagues. To address this, we often meet at our flex office in Wetteren, or sometimes I invite them to work from my home, collaborating with colleagues from Ghent region. Overall, my work-life balance has improved since the pandemic. I can work longer hours while still managing to finish on time, without losing valuable time in traffic. Sometimes it is necessary to work on-site because I like being in touch with the customers explaining or understanding things in person.
How have you experienced the evolution of SAP since you started until now?
During my time at SAP, I witnessed a vast array of tools and solutions. At one point, SAP acquired Business Objects, and integrated these various tools. In the past decade, significant progress has been made. Some tools have been phased out as SAP streamlined its offerings, leading to a clearer vision of their strategic direction. Moreover, SAP has displayed a commitment to continuous innovation, consistently pushing the boundaries to drive further advancements within the industry. I experienced really the shift in business reporting from looking at the past (how was the data) to looking ahead (how will the data look like…). I experienced the shift from client/server applications to cloud applications.
How do you stay up to date with the latest SAP technologies and best practices?
It is hard to keep up with SAP Analytics Cloud completely because it is so extensive. Now I mainly focus on the Planning module. But later this year, I want to concentrate as well on the Predictive Analytics module. Compared to “traditional” BI tools that look in the rearview mirror, with Predictive Analytics, one can look ahead. It would be nice to do a comparative POC with Aivix at a customer’s site, for example.
By attending many webinars on SAP BI and SAP Analytics Cloud, I try to keep up with the latest trends.
What do you wish more people knew about SAP and its capabilities?
It is difficult to teach SAP at school because it is so gigantically broad and there are so many modules. To address this, it would be beneficial for students to receive an introduction to SAP’s functionalities during their education. Afterwards, on-the-job training could allow them to delve deeper into specific modules or areas of expertise.
What was your most enjoyable experience at Intellus / Cubis?
I always love the Intellus’ short ski at Cubis. As well as the Strong Viking Run, we did last year; this was really a team event where we had to work together to get to the finish. We went through the mud together. However, the pinnacle of my experiences thus far were the Ibiza and Marrakech trips.
Why should someone apply to Cubis/Lytix/Aivix?
I worked at many companies. Intellus is the most dynamic, spontaneous of all. You really take part in the growth of Intellus. Everyone works hard, but it is appreciated. You should apply to Intellus Group because it is a young, dynamic, spontaneous company. You can learn a lot, follow your interests, and chart your own growth path.
Joining Intellus Group means becoming part of a vibrant team, where innovative ideas are valued, and you really can make a meaningful impact.
What are your aspirations for the future?
In the future, my goal is to delve deeper into SAC Predictive Analytics and SAP Datasphere; become an expert in this area. Once I have gained proficiency, I aim to share my knowledge with younger colleagues. Additionally, I aspire to become more active in our knowledge hubs.
What tips would you give to (future) colleagues?
One valuable tip I would give to colleagues, both present and future, is the importance of building a strong network. Having a reliable network to turn to when you have any questions or seeking guidance can greatly help you.
You can never fail; failure is always a learning experience.
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better. Learn.