You should read John Alspaw’s essay, On Being A Senior Engineer, even if you don’t aspire to be a senior engineer. Maybe you already think of yourself as a senior engineer. Maybe you work in some completely unrelated field. What it’s really about is becoming a mature professional and not only mastering the skills of your field but passing them on to other colleagues in useful ways as well.
I recently read a post about the value provided by managers. I was not surprised to read that managers do add value, but I was a bit surprised at the means by which that value is added. I would have assumed that it was by keeping people happier, removing distractions that sap productivity, or helping to prioritize work. As it turns out, the actual value is in teaching people how to do their jobs better.
So as a manager, the best way to add value is to help people along their path to becoming senior engineers (if the people who report to you are engineers). As an engineer, you should be looking for opportunities to work for a manager who can teach you to be a better engineer. And perhaps most importantly, you don’t have to be a manager to help other people get better at their jobs, so you should helping other people get better as a key aspect of you’re job. This is one of the key points of John’s essay.
Anyway, you should be reading his post and not mine. It’s a road map to making the most of the incredible opportunity we have to work as engineers.