D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Kung Fu Panda - Parallels to Software Development

Monday, June 16, 2008 12:34 AM


I saw Kung Fu Panda tonight. It was a great movie, I really enjoyed it. However, as much as the escapades of the animated creatures and the feel-good message was a huge hit for the kids, I kept finding myself drawn to the adult themes in the film...specifically as I compare them to my own career in software development. So I give you the Kung Fu Panda Parallels to Software Development post!

So without giving too much of the plot away, let me give some of the movie plot away...

Po is a Panda who works in his fathers noodle restaurant. His room is plastered with posters and action figures of the local heroes who live at the Jade Palace: The Furious Five! Meanwhile, one of the Kung Fu Masters has a vision that an old baddy is going to break loose from prison and the great Dragon Warrior must be selected. Of course, Po eventually gets selected for this role and his training in Kung Fu begins.

We learn a few other things, like how the baddy is actually a former student of the palace's and he's got a grudge to settle with a former master (a lot of repressed father/son type of drama here). Po also goes through his own issues of not being good enough, dealing with his heroes rejecting him, and trying to convince himself that he's the true Dragon Warrior.

So how does this all come back to Software Development? Let me share some ideas of wisdom with you...

1. Idol Worship Will Bite You In The Ass

We all have our heroes. We all have people that we look up to and admire, who we aspire to be, and who we dream of learning under. Unfortunately, the reality is typically much less palpable than our fantasies. I'm reminded of a friend of mine at Tech Ed 2005 who was ecstatic that he was going to see Don Box give a talk. I ran into him later at the attendee party, and inquired on how his viewing of his idol went? He looked at me with a disdained, disappointed look and said "It was alright." Turns out that during his presentation, Don dropped his pants...something that shattered the view my friend had of this stoic, serious software developer.

It's ok to have people that you look up to, who mentor you and who come alongside you to help in your own journey. But we all have a few people that we place on a pedestal, typically without actually knowing who they are or what they're really about. It's one thing to see someone present, but totally something else to talk with them, work for them, etc. Guard yourself against buying the myth that "Rock Stars" of our industry are anything but mere mortals. Speaking at conferences, writing books, and blogging doesn't mean their quality human beings.

2. Don't Let Other's Opinions Change Your Own

Although we have great community in our industry, we're also doggedly competitive with each other (whether we admit it or not). Value of others is sometimes measured by choice of technology, chosen methodology, achievements, etc. It's not uncommon to find yourself in a situation where your progress and career path are met head on with those that don't believe in your ability, feel that their opinion is of more worth than yours, or are malicious in wanting to maintain their own sense of power and purpose at the cost of others.

Regardless, success in our field depends on us realizing that belief in our own abilities and skills supercede those of others around us. Especially in an industry where opinions can be formed based on technology decisions, we need to have a thick skin and strong resolve to stand for what we trust is right, while at the same time balancing that with openness of hearing other ideas and altering out views when facts dictate...not pressure or emotion.

3. No Man Is An Island

I wouldn't be the developer that I am today if it wasn't for the friends that I've gained over the last 7 years. My first two points are warnings of how we must be on guard to ensure that we don't lose ourselves to others opinions, pre conceived notions, or perceptions. But #3 is vital: you cannot thrive in this industry without a solid, trusted team of peers around you. In the movie, there's a fight scene where the Furious Five band together to take down an enemy. Originally only one member of the team leaves to meet the foe, but the others follow. Those are the people you want to surround yourself with: ones that will teach, challenge, and support you.

Now, you may be thinking that these things aren't entirely software development specific, and you'd be right. In fact, they're more HR/Soft-Skill type of observations than anything technical. What I've found over the last few years though is that technical ability is only a fraction of what makes someone a good software developer. Involvement in community, and being active in the development of others is a crucial piece of ensuring our industry prospers. Look at the conversations happening at conferences, user group events, code camps...these discussions and interactions are what will continue to shape our industry and how we develop software, not islands working in isolation trying to impart their wisdom and ideas onto the masses. But for those conversations to continue, we need people to listen and consider, but also speak out and contribute. We need to build a culture of trust, but that culture begins with a positive view of ourselves.



# re: Kung Fu Panda - Parallels to Software Development

ok seriously, you need to add that pic to facebook and tag every one of them. 6/16/2008 8:39 AM | Blogus Maximus

# re: Kung Fu Panda - Parallels to Software Development

Well said. I agree on all points.

We should all get costumes of our character to wear at conferences now. ;-)

++Alan 6/16/2008 8:53 AM | Alan Stevens

# re: Kung Fu Panda - Parallels to Software Development

You should change it fom Dreamworks to Geekworks... 6/16/2008 6:54 PM | Kelly

# re: Kung Fu Panda - Parallels to Software Development


Great post, great pic! That needs to go on Facebook. Half of that crowd looks way better now! ;)

Rach 6/21/2008 10:36 PM | Rachel Appel

# re: Kung Fu Panda - Parallels to Software Development

Wonderful post! 9/9/2008 10:20 AM | Luky

# re: Kung Fu Panda - Parallels to Software Development

THAT IS FUNNY how did you make it? 10/24/2008 11:57 PM | Kailyn

# re: Kung Fu Panda - Parallels to Software Development

Kung fu panda is one of my favorite movies. I dunno how many times I watched it on Ukmovnow app. This is the best app to watch our favorite movies. 9/2/2017 7:55 AM | Bugof

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