years as a leader in software development
years as a leader in the performing arts
With over twenty-six years as a leader in software development and over ten years as a jazz musician, conductor, and bandleader, Adrian Cho has a unique perspective on leadership, collaboration, innovation and agility gained from managing two successful parallel careers and combining them into a third pursuit. In software development, Adrian has extensive experience leading both small and large-scale, global, agile projects from concept to delivery. He is currently working at Shopify where he is helping the engineering team to evolve their culture, process, and tools to be more effective at scale. This includes accelerating the decision-making process for product investments, launches, and pivots, evolving the toolchain to support the team’s ways of working, coaching leaders and teams, and scaling R&D programs such as hiring, on-boarding, and training. Previously at IBM, in the Cloud unit, Adrian managed development of cloud-based analytics across the BizDevOps pipeline to improve developer productivity and operational excellence, integrating with IBM’s Bluemix, Softlayer, and DevOps services, and other non-IBM and open source tools. He was also a contributor to the IBM Bluemix Garage Method which documents IBM’s perspective on DevOps practices. In IBM’s Cloud and Smarter Infrastructure brand, Adrian helped deliver SaaS offerings of IBM service management products at the Service Engage portal while leading a cross-organization project to deliver Collaborative Operations, a collaborative solution that integrates IBM and third-party service management solutions across the hybrid cloud. In IBM’s Rational brand he was an evangelist for Continuous Delivery and DevOps; he led a strategic initiative across IBM software group brands to improve online engagement with developers; he managed a complex, globally distributed, agile software development project coordinating contributions from over four hundred people at twenty-five locations in ten countries; and, he managed intellectual property for IBM’s open source, Eclipse, and open commercial development, Jazz, initiatives, helping to establish new approaches to both open source and commercial software development. Prior to his time at IBM, Adrian was a Lab Director at Object Technology International (OTI, which would later be acquired by IBM), running the company’s lab in Sydney, Australia, and he was a key contributor to Smalltalk and Java-based software development toolsets including ENVY/Developer and IBM’s VisualAge/Smalltalk and VisualAge for Java. Before joining OTI Adrian worked as a consultant building software development tools for Fujitsu and business and financial trading systems for retail and commercial banks in Australia. Adrian performs as a jazz bassist and is the artistic director of the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra, a unique, critically acclaimed symphonic jazz ensemble that brings together an impressive array of professional jazz and symphony musicians. He works frequently as a bandleader, bassist, composer, and teacher of jazz history, presenting concerts at Canada’s National Arts Centre and teaching at Carleton University. Alex Hutchinson of the Ottawa Citizen labelled Adrian “a cool guide to hot jazz” while Doug Fischer, also of the Ottawa Citizen, referred to him as “a musical missionary.” As a presenter and teacher his educational outreach efforts and teaching have earned rave reviews. John Kelman of All About Jazz wrote that “Cho’s intentions were clearly to educate as much as entertain, and he succeeded on both fronts.” Combining his experiences in arts and business, Adrian developed The Jazz Process, an execution-oriented framework for collaboration, innovation, and agility that can help teams in any domain improve their performance. Adrian speaks and blogs about high-performance teamwork on a regular basis. His book, The Jazz Process: Collaboration, Innovation and Agility, published by Addison-Wesley in 2010, has been endorsed by a diverse collection of thought leaders. Reviewers have praised the book as “a huge payback for the time invested in reading it,” “a deep exploration of collaborative know-how,” “a concept of leadership and teamwork that’s well suited for the Google-age workplace” and “a top pick for any business collection!”
born in Sydney, Australia
living in Ottawa, Canada
working across the globe
Organizations which design systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.Melvin Conway
Adrian has worked in the software development industry for over twenty-five years. As a software development leader at IBM he has helped to lead some of the company’s most important initiatives, managing complex, globally-distributed, agile projects with as many as four hundred people working at twenty-five locations in ten countries. He has deep knowledge and extensive experience in collaborative software development tools, development communities, open development, and cloud delivery. The projects he has been involved in as a leader include:
- ENVY/Developer, a Smalltalk-based multi-user configuration management and version control system that was way ahead of its time
- VisualAge for Java, IBM’s award-winning Java Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
- Eclipse including the award-winning Eclipse IDE, Java Development Tooling, and many of the core Eclipse projects
- IBM’s Jazz platform and products including Rational Team Concert and IBM’s Collaborative Lifecycle Management solution
- IBM’s developerWorks developer network
- IBM’s Service Engage portal for SaaS delivery of IBM’s service management products
- IBM’s Collaborative Operations solution for integrating IBM and third-party service management solutions across the hybrid cloud
Before joining IBM through an acquisition Adrian worked as an independent consultant. During this time he built banking and financial trading systems for commercial banks in Australia and worked on research and development projects for a number of companies including Fujitsu and IBM. For a more detailed résumé, see Adrian’s LinkedIn profile.
I apply jazz to almost everything I do. Today’s world, especially the one in which modern businesses exist, is subject to constant change, confusion and chaos. The best way to be resilient and agile is to continuously innovate, improvise and iterate.Adrian Cho
A band leader and innovative artistic collaborator, Adrian performs as a bassist and conductor and is the founder and artistic director of the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra, a unique, critically acclaimed symphonic jazz ensemble that brings together an impressive array of professional jazz and symphony musicians. Under his leadership the orchestra has presented over thirty major concerts and premiered over ten seminal jazz works in the past seven years. Adrian performs regularly in the Ottawa area and travels throughout North America performing and speaking about jazz.
Jazz is the ideal model for modern leadership.Adrian Cho
Adrian writes frequently about collaboration, agility, innovation, software development, jazz and the parallels between the worlds of business and the performing arts. His book, The Jazz Process: Collaboration, Innovation and Agility, published by Addison-Wesley in 2010, is a treatise on collaboration, innovation, and agility that can help teams in any domain improve their performance. The book has been endorsed by a diverse collection of thought leaders and praised by reviewers.
Both books on innovation address the subject passionately and informatively. The Jazz Process is about team building and collaboration; Innovate the Future is about targeting a market segment and implementing a product successfully. They are vastly different applications of innovation, but could be attractive to someone who is looking for that particular innovative niche.Carolyn Rodd Lincoln
Adrian loves to teach and has spoken as a keynote speaker at conferences, corporate events and universities. He speaks about jazz history and performance, corporate agility, personal productivity, team collaboration and software development.
Learn about Jazz
Adrian will be teaching his jazz history course as part of Carleton University’s Learning in Retirement program from January 15th to February 19, 2016. This course has consistently received rave reviews from students (see feedback below) and is one of the most popular classes in the Learning in Retirement program.
There are six classes and each class is two hours long and held on Friday afternoons. One of the classes is a live music performance where Adrian brings in other musicians for an impromptu concert with explanations about how the musicians perform. Adrian teaches this class much like a jazz performance, improvising the precise content and delivery for each class. A few people have even taken the course multiple times to benefit from this unique style of presentation.
The course follows a loose outline covering jazz from the 1920s to the 1960s with a focus on providing insight into what went on behind the scenes for key performances and recordings as well as understanding the structure of the music and how jazz musicians improvise and collaborate in the moment. Adrian plays, sings and occasionally involves the class in group exercises to help explain form, rhythm and other elements of jazz music. Handouts include unique essays Adrian has written for past Ottawa Jazz Orchestra programme notes.
Praise for Adrian's teaching
“I learned a tremendous amount about how to listen to jazz, and the underlying rhythmic form of different jazz styles.”
“Adrian had the ability to convey important material in an interesting and lively manner.”
“Very knowledgeable and engaging lecturer; lots of fun.”
“The instructor’s knowledge of the subject matter was extensive and his ability to apply his real life experience to the subject matter made for a most enjoyable class. He accommodated all questions with respect. The live presentation was a key experience. Adrian’s ability to communicate so effectively is a real asset. I hope you will consider offering another lecture by the same lecturer. I liked the loose, non-linear structure of the course especially in the context of the subject matter. Very cool course! I would even consider taking it again!”
“Adrian is an amazing teacher and very knowledgeable about all aspects of Jazz. I would be really keen on taking a more advanced class with him.”
“Best course I’ve taken. Adrian was knowledgeable, pleasant, and had a love of his material and a lot of knowledge. I learned a lot.”
“Instructor’s friendly, conversational style of presentation with the right balance of “technical” info and anecdotal background comments, plus samples of jazz material from various artists. It was a large group for this kind of subject, but it was handled extremely well.”
“Excellent teacher, wonderful music, interesting information.”
“The instructor was very, very knowledgeable about the subject matter and presented the course in a very engaging and personable manner.”
“Virtuoso teaching performance by Adrian Cho. Bravo!”
“Everything about the course was fantastic. I do not have a musical background so this was extremely instructive but not overwhelming.”
“The instructor was fantastic! Total command of his subject, excellent presentation, amazing music collection to demonstrate what he was talking about. He and a colleague also demonstrated on their own musical instruments.”
“The instructor’s thorough knowledge and ability to bring an inside musician’s perspective to the material.”
“How well prepared Adrian was with the music and his knowledge of jazz and its history.”
“Adrian’s knowledge is phenomenal and his suggestions of what to buy were useful.”
“Adrian’s knowledge and his presentation of the course. It was excellent and he made the class interesting, informative, and fun.”
“The professional approach to teaching, the in depth knowledge of the instructor, the pace was perfect; everything about this course was wonderful. Adrian as a musician knows how to reach his audience, as a teacher he is also spot‐on!”
“Adrian Cho’s ability to present the course in a manner that was informative, engaging, based on expert knowledge, etc.”
“A superb course. The lecturer was knowledgeable, well organized and a fine musician. I learned a lot.”
“I have already recommended the course to my wife. If there was a continuation of the course, I would take it. It was excellent.”
“This class was full. I would take a Part 2 on the history of jazz if it was offered and I’m sure a lot of people feel the same.”
“Our instructor, Adrian Cho, provided interesting lectures and material, e.g. text and A/V notes, live music with a guest artist and recorded music. I feel it was a very pleasant way to spend a Friday afternoon.”
“More courses with this caliber of lecturer please.”
“Course was well prepared and interestingly delivered.”
“Excellent course, most enjoyable and illuminating.”
“His sense of humour, his love of music, and his wide experience were all incredible pluses to the whole experience.”
“Adrian is an excellent lecturer: Well-organized, extremely knowledgeable and approachable. His handouts are superb and using one class for a performance was brilliant.”
“Adrian Cho has an engaging personality, and a very nice style, and his enthusiasm for his subject is hard to resist. As well as the historical context that Adrian’s lecture addressed, he provided us with the musical theory and practical aspects of jazz, which was a great bonus.”
“Adrian Cho was very informative and easy to understand. I appreciated his easy, pleasant style.”
“Adrian Cho is a fantastic lecturer – very knowledgeable and great presenter. Hope he will do more!”
“Adrian Cho was articulate and well prepared. A delightful lecture series.”
Collaboration, Innovation, and Agility in the Jazz Age
Tools of the Trade
My main machine is a MacBook Pro Retina 15. For software development I rely a lot on Google Docs and Slack for collaboration and an ever-evolving set of software development and project management tools. For music I use Sibelius for music composition and arranging. I’ve used Sibelius since 1.0 and swear by it. I also rely a great deal on Google Play Music for both listening to tracks and researching. In fact I no longer own any CDs or records. When I’m mobile I am very reliant on my iPhone 6s. I often carry two Bluetooth headsets with me at all times and this super handy folding Bluetooth keyboard that fits in my pocket just in case I need to input a lot of text in e-mail or online chat. Around the office or home I am often using my iPad Air 2. DuetDisplay is an essential app for allowing me to use my iPad as a second monitor with my MacBook when I’m on the road. I keep a “go bag” packed and ready to go. My trusty Everki Versa is great for toting everything I need when I’m traveling through airports. I typically just throw my MacBook in there and I’m ready to go since I keep the bag full of chargers and other essential gear. For trips around town I use a smaller Everki Studio. It will also hold my MacBook and iPad and other stuff but has a little less extra space than the Versa. I also like to use this backpack for vacation trips when I am toting around just the iPad an no MacBook.
My main axe is a Shen Gemunder 7/8 willow flatback with a C extension. I currently have Innovation 140B strings on the top three strings. These are a steel string with nylon braided cores. I’m using a Pirastro Permanent on the bottom. I have been waiting a while to get a C extension 140B but the combination is working just fine. I’ve used all kinds of gut and gut-like strings in the past and I’m finding these strings to be great for all kinds of music without the tuning and breakage concerns that I’ve had in the past with natural core strings. For sound reinforcement I’m using a Fishman Full Circle and a Fishman Platinum Pro-EQ Acoustic preamp going into a Mackie DLM-8 P.A. I’ve used all kinds of mics and other specialized bass heads and cabs in the past and this gear works just fine and there’s very little setup or fiddling around. The Mackie is not even a bass amp and only goes down to 65 Hz but it’s entirely sufficient for double bass amplification. You don’t want the sound booming at the very bottom as it’s totally unnatural. The bonus is that when I’m doing a duo gig with my wife, she can plug into the Mackie too and we just have one speaker to deal with.