Alberto Brandolini

nominato in Who is Agile in Italy da:

Jacopo Romei

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

Alberto – When I was a kid, my father used to play in a jazz band. They practiced in a silenced room in the basement of the house where we lived. I often went downstairs to listen, but mostly to watch that magic happen. Musicians joining and playing tunes without following a script, music created on the fly, driven by inspiration and mastery.

What a difference with the way kids were taught music in official school.

Later, I became a drummer too. Not a pro, but good enough to play in a few bands, and to perform live in front of some hundreds people. And if there’s one thing I do well is… I get in the groove. I feel where the other musicians want to go, and help them going there.

As a drummer, I need no script. I can read music and play other instruments too, but that was always less important that catching the groove. This means that I am 100% aware in catching the little signals coming from everyone else on stage. It also means you can’t stop. If you stop you failed big time. It’s continuous real-time recovery of little mistakes.

It’s more awareness than focus. Focus happena when you practice, but when you perform it’s basically catching the signals.

If you would not have been in your current industry / role, what would have become of you?

Alberto – As a kid, I loved drawing cars. That’s what i still do. My doodling during meetings leads to Lamborghini or Ferrari like sketches. In a more mature way I later enjoyed the idea of becoming a designer, Philippe Stark has been my idol for a while, looking for a shape that was the optimal solution for a given problem.

Around 12, I discovered programming and obviously wanted to code my own videogames. But I guess we should exclude coding from the alternatives.

As a teenager, I obviously dreamt about becoming a pro-drummer.

I also liked writing, articles and short novels. And comics too.

When I was 25 there was a concrete possibility of me opening a restaurant in Finland instead of finishing my degree in Software Engineering.

Yep. Clear ideas.

I guess that I would never be framed in a well-defined profession like ‘Lawyer’. I keep trying many things, driven by curiosity, boredom and ‘positive envy’ (“this dish is delicious, I want to cook like this”) and by the need to solve problems.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

Alberto – Focus. The big picture is big. The moment you start something good you’ll trigger some avalanche effect. Sometimes you have to ignore signals in order to get things done.

I am currently fighting hard to secure time for writing. This is something that needs to be done in isolation, away from interruptions. But at the same time ideas would not sparkle without connections. It’s not “a wise man on top of a mountain thinking about the meaning of like” any more. Ideas are the result of cross-pollination from a vibrant community, so unplugging is not that easy.

But that’s my private problem.

The biggest challenge out there is probably the fact that plain old common sense reached the par. Organizations and even small businesses are more complex than they used to be. We need counterintuitive solutions, like pair programming for example, but they will always encounter fierce resistance because they’re counterintuitive. But at a system level they work better.

This is actually true not only in the professional life but in communities and politics as well. Basic common sense ‘sells well’ but it’s actually crap at the system level. A better level of awareness is maybe the only antidote.

What drives you?

Alberto – Good one. Maybe curiosity, or boredom, or the combination of the two. I never cook a recipe exactly in the same way. Whenever I found myself doing exactly the same thing, I try to inject some variations, just to see what the effect would be.

Maybe I am just never satisfied. If the result is below par… I study more, aiming for “perfection”. If the result is ok, I inject variations.

One day I realized that another motivator was envy. Not the evil side of “I want to have a car like yours”, but something like “skill envy”. I see a nice drawing and I find myself thinking “I want to be able to draw like this”, I taste a great dish and “I want to cook it at home”, I read a good book and “I want to be able to write like this”.

Maybe the real difference is in the wording: it’s not “I wish I could” it’s “I want”. And then I try.The results can be disappointing, or telling me where I need to improve. Or I might discover that something was in fact not that hard, and that I could have tried before.

In projects, I found myself doing what the others weren’t. It’s not a great definition but it’s real. I look to what is missing from the picture and I do it.

What is your biggest achievement?

Alberto – I am amazed by my family. My daughters never cease to surprise me.

But I guess you’re more interested in the professional part. So here we go.

Some weeks ago, I’ve been a speaker in DDDEurope, the biggest conference so far on Domain-Driven Design. When I walked in the main hall I saw a lot of people modelling on the walls using IKEA paper rolls. That was an incredible feeling. I realized that the seminal ideas of EventStorming had started to become viral and to stick.

As a rockstar wannabe, it had the same effect on me that listening people in the street singing a song I wrote. I really made me feel like I started something, and something good.

What is the last book you have read?

Alberto – The power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. Really interesting. After reading Thinking Fast and Slow, I became eager to know more about our brain loopholes.

What question do you think we should also ask and what is the answer?

Alberto – Is there any advice that you would give to young practitioners or to your younger self?

Don’t follow the path. Really, don’t follow. Listen, try, but don’t obey. Don’t do things just because everybody else is doing them. Doing things the way your teachers expect you to do them is “the par”. But stopping there will make you just like anyone else. A “replaceable resource”.

Any day doing spent doing things in the same old way, is a day wasted. Try something different. Try your idea and discover why it was a bad one, and LEARN. Then eventually you can get back to the mainstream, but you’ll know why you’re doing it. Or you will find yourself in places where the “rules” don’t work very well any more. And it’s fun.

Who do you think we should ask next?

Alberto – Jacopo was going to be my choice as well. But I guess that won’t count.
Fabio Fabbrucci was going to be my choice as well… too. He’s “in the staff” can we count him?

So I say Paolo Perrotta and Marco Abis.


Paolo Perrotta