I actually got into coding because of music, albeit in a very indirect way. When I was in primary school one day, my Chinese teacher came into the classroom and asked who played the keyboard. I raised my hand. She later explained to me that the school was trying to set up a coding club, and she thought that if I played the piano I would be able to type fast. Back in that time very few people would have had a computer at home or knew much about them. She probably thought that if someone has the potential to learn how to type fast, they would make a good programmer.
Hi, my name is Panpan, and I am a software engineer at IBM. I develop web and mobile apps. I have always been interested in different things – coding is only one of these things. It is a bit of a coincidence / luck that I ended up in the industry, but what made me stay is the joy of programming itself, and the fact that I have an awesome team lead and an appreciative manager. I also love the open source community.
Before moving to Dublin I used to live in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Paris. I ended up in Ireland for my love of literature, but what made me stay is the lovely Irish people.
Piano playing is a passion of mine. I grew up surrounded by music and science. My dad plays the trumpet, and he is a chemist. My parents got me a piano when I was 3, but I did not start taking lesson until around the age of 5. I play several times a week, and give at least four public performances per year. For example, I played the piano for the Humanitarian Symphony Orchestra and the Dublin Classical Musicians Network. I have concerts with these two groups from time to time. I also gave performances at least twice a year with my soprano friend Eve Garavan.
I mostly play classical, but I recently started taking singing lessons, and I will sing and play a lot of Irish traditional songs and jazz. I am currently learning a Chopin’s nocturne on the piano and Fly Me to the Moon (singing + piano). I also play a bit of guitar, ukulele, flute, violin, and cello, but piano is my main instrument.
I love playing the piano, as I get to travel to different places and meet interesting people, and become very good friends with many of them by playing music. It also helps me to switch my brain a bit, so that I can be more productive afterwards.
I think both coding and piano are skills that can only be acquired by spending a lot of time actually doing it and practicing rather than by reading about them. Playing a duet is similar to pair programming in many ways. In both cases, the two are trying to achieve the best result together but sometimes there can be different opinions or even conflicts, and the musicians / coders need to learn how to work with different personality types. The experience of being in the flow while I play music and while I am programming is also very similar.
Playing the piano is very fun for me in itself, especially when I get into the flow, either playing on my own, or with other people. That is the main reason I play the piano. Like any serious musician, I hope to be good at it, and I take pride in my craft.
I always say to my musician friends to keep practicing! Give performances and seek feedback from your audience. Go to other pianists’ concerts and listen to different versions of the same piece, see how other people are doing it. Practicing is the best way to learn in my opinion – whether it is piano or programming!
Great interview. Particularly enjoyed the anecdote at the beginning.