Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why We Still Need Heroes

History has proven time and time again that the world needs heroes. People who are helpful, selfless and dedicate themselves to a cause--a high level initiative. In the realm of software delivery, where you have to ship a product on a tight deadline, you often face burnouts and frustrations--a seemingly impossible uphill battle. That's why you call on your heroes...

Horatio Hornblower was a British admiral full of integrity, courage, and intelligence. He fully understood the potential and limitations of his team. Without any hesitation, he answered Britain's heroic calling to engage Napoleon head on.

While waiting at his Mediterranean rendezvous point for the rest of his squadron—and its commander—to arrive, he carries out a series of raids against the French along the south coast of Spain. He learns that a French squadron of four ships of the line is loose, having slipped the blockade. He decides that his duty requires that he fight at one-to-four odds to prevent them from entering a well-protected harbour.
- "Horatio Hornblower" Wikipedia

When heroes answer the call of duty, they are compelled to go into battle with the odds stacked against them. His crew had a choice of evacuating back to England but they followed him into battle because Horatio led them: Horatio knew how to encourage his teammates--Horatio knew how to empower his teammates--Horatio could dispel the fear in his crew and transform them into valorous soldiers by crystallizing a shared vision.

In our current projects, we face the same types of situations--sometimes you're thrown into a situation where you can make a difference. In more recent times, Bob Fitch is Blizzard Entertainment's lead programmer. When everyone hated the original Starcraft because it looked like a reskin of Warcraft II, he completely rewrote the game engine within a short period of time. People loved the new result. Starcraft went on to become the most popular eSport in South Korea. South Korea has 2-3 full time running eSports channels dedicated to Starcraft alone.

If you have a lead with that level of integrity, righteousness, courage, and dedication--more people will start to follow in their footsteps. Generally, they want to change the scene and improve things for the better. Furthermore, Blizzard Entertainment has a proven track record because they are a legion of heroes.

Software companies of today never really encourage their "resources" (a foul word for a person working at an agency) to break through walls and voice out their opinions. Incidentally, corporate software development is paralyzed with the learning disability known as "I AM MY POSITION".

You have the ability to punch through walls--you just don't know it until you've tried it. Your actions shape you and your team's reality--you're important to the team. Fill multiple roles (break out of your position), change things to improve your team's shared vision, and eventually, you'll be the hero.

Good luck and have fun,
Jaime Bueza

Jaime Bueza is a software developer in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He has developed web applications for Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Ritchie Brothers, Kiwi Collections, Cox Communications and Microsoft. When he's not developing useful software that constantly evolves with business requirements, he's creating tutorial videos for aspiring front-end developers.