This post became my theme of the week. I interviewed one of our ICs this week who's going for an engineering manager role. I was thinking about how he might retain his technical skills, I started thinking about my own technical skills, and as is often the case, it happened that Will Larson was just writing about the same subject...
Becoming an engineering leader is about shifting towards creating value through influence. In another life you created value through creating and nurturing code. In your new life, you use your words. Some written, some presented, some through face to face conversation.
Continuing a sub-theme of transitioning from individual contributor to leader. As a software engineer, you can often reduce your critical relationships to a small handful. Two or three people with whom you prioritize caring what they think. Maybe they're your manager, an influential peer and an architect.
Once you hit leadership, that simple view of the world goes out the window. In a maturing org you might have twenty to thirty people you need to keep up with. At least a few of them are going to be mad at you all the time. If you're not used to that, and you care too much about what other people think? It'll eat you alive.
My hot take would be, why not do both? Nonetheless I appreciate the callout that while there's a focus on learning tech skills, it's actually the big bucket of skills often referred to as 'soft' that determine a lot our success.