Though I wrote my first lines of code 35 years ago, coding is not my life. It is one of many tools I have in my belt for making things, fixing problems, and sharing my work with others. It's a powerful tool–one with incredible impact for minimal cost. As a skill, it's among the very most highly regarded in our modern society. However, it's not my only skill, and probably not my most valuable.
In the past year, I've come to realize that the one skill of mine that brings the most value to others, and the greatest joy and fulfillment to me, is explaining things. It's one that I've practiced informally since childhood, but it's also something I've formally studied (completing two degrees in education), and practiced professionally in a variety of contexts. It's something I've gotten really good at, and something I can do that others who are much more experienced coders cannot do as well as I can.
Explaining things is my greatest skill, but that skill is made much more powerful because I can code. By writing and understanding code, I can use my teaching skill in a field that’s more highly valued than any other I’ve ever taught. As a documentation engineer, I fill an uncommon niche as emissary between those who write code and those who need to use it. I can earn more money, I can work flexibly and remotely, and I have the independence to fix bugs and build solutions without waiting for someone else to do it. What’s more, I can share the power that I have gained from coding by teaching it to others.
Learning to code does not mean that you must use that skill to become a full-time developer or engineer. You might choose to do that, and if it interests you, then I highly encourage you to do so. I also encourage you to think about and value the other skills you bring to the table, and how they may amplify and compliment what you’re doing as an engineer.
On the other hand, if you like what you’re doing now, or parts of what you’re doing now, or if you’re highly skilled in a certain area, don’t think you need to throw that away when you learn to code. There are many hybrid roles that take advantage of a mixed skill set, and many ways that coding ability can enhance other professions. Find the niche where your particular mix of skills make you the unicorn that no one can find anywhere else.