Who is Ola Ellnestam

Who is Ola Ellnestam?
Ola Ellnestam was invited by Zuzi. Zuzi wrote she was interested in Ola‘s answers.
You might know Ola from his Mikado method. You gotta love a man that invents a method called Mikado. I’m not sure where I met Ola, I think it was at SDC 2010. Oh and don’t mix Ola up with Ole one letter different, two different countries (Ola is from Sweden, Ole from Denmark) and two total different people, both in their own special way.

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

I have no formal education when it comes to programming. Actually I haven’t attended any ‘higher’ education at all. After 13 years in school I decided I’ve had enough. So, at the age of nineteen I told my mother I wanted to work with people and computers and she looked at me like I was from outer space. ‘You can’t work with computers and people, it’s either or …’

Two months later I was hired as a software & hardware support technician at Sweden’s largest emergency hospital, where I stayed for three years. After coming in contact with a lot of bad and good computer programs, and more importantly the people who used them I realize how important it is for software to be really fit for purpose.

If I had continued studying I probably would have missed the computerization of the Stockholm area health care and a lot of learning opportunities as well.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

My first real memory regarding a career choice was related to flying. I dreamt about being a fighter pilot or traveling in space. Probably because I built a lot with Lego and around that time the coolest parts were the space Lego. Later when I considered myself too old for playing with Lego, I felt something was missing and it would take me another 5 years before I could put my finger on what. It was programming that filled the hole I’d felt, the creative, experimental aspect of it and the development and realization of ideas I had. They could all be done with computer programs.

In a way I have my dream job so I haven’t thought much about an alternative. But if I were to reconsider my career now, it would definitely include people and something very creative.

Maybe creating social games or being an artist.

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

Living in the ‘now’ is what causes me most conflict really. I sometimes catch myself planning the next family dinner or party in my mind, while being at a party or having dinner with the family. It’s sort of the opposite of running around and taking photos of everything. Photographing would be documenting, while sort of trying to imagine the future and creating it, there and then.

What comes out of this constant planning for the future is a lot of options though, which I do appreciate. And this inclination I have towards exploring options and preparing comes in handy in my work where adaptivness and flexibility often are appreciated and a lot easier if you have thought a bit ahead.

What drives you ?

I guess it’s an [un]healthy mix of curiosity and a feeling that there’s always a better way. I constantly have this nagging feeling that I can do better, this code could be a bit clearer and I just can’t sit idle and watch something being done inefficiently. Or even worse, see people spend energy, money or time in a manner that I feel is ineffective.

What is your biggest achievement?

That’s a really tough one because I don’t feel like I ever achieve something as I tend to minimize my own part in what I do. But if I trick myself and rephrase things a bit I would say I’m very proud of my family, my three kids and my lovely and supportive wife. I’m also proud of the company I started 5 years ago with my colleagues. Again if you look at what drives me, I think my biggest achievement is somewhere in the future, I like to think that tomorrow I’m going to do even better.

What is the last book you have read?

The last one I’ve actually read the final page of was Idealized Design by Russel Ackoff et al. It was interesting because of its practical advice and interesting stories about systems thinking.

But my reading is more this pile of books that are lying around and waiting to be finished. I got a handful going at the moment and somehow it feels like I never really finish books, apart from fiction books, which I feel are more important to actually read from cover to cover. Books that are non fiction almost always cause me to pick up a new book, as I get ¾s into them. That obviously doesn’t help me in finishing books. At least not in the sense ‘reading the last page’.

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

What is your favorite question right now?

The answer is ‘Could you please tell me something I don’t know about <>.

I love asking people that because it spawns really interesting conversations when you time it right.

Who do you think I should ask next?
Chris Matts or Aki Salmi .

Chris because of his energy, his drive and constant challenging of current views and ideas.
(Ola answered this before Chris his Who is was published.)

Aki because of his humility and his engagement in creating an active Agile community in Finland.

If you like these answers, you might want to buy the Who is agile book it contains tons of answers like this, with extra questions not on my blog.