I couldn’t agree with your sentiments more. I’m a seasoned Release Engineer/DevOps (Many companies think this is the same).
The industry is changing and skills need to be updated at breakneck speed.
One thing those considering moving more towards development may want to consider is learning scripting languages like Python/Powershell, it’s an obvious gateway towards a full blown 4th generation language like C# or Java.
And an obvious gateway job is a strict release engineering job. Because they require a lot of scripting knowledge which is an easy segue over to development.
Some companies put Release Engineering/DevOps into the same boat, because the definitions have been diluted by recruiters that don’t know the difference. But a good Release Engineering role will have an element of scripting/development to it. So I see it as a natural progression for one to go from:
IT Specialist -> DevOps -> Release Engineering -> Development.
That being said, there is also merit in doing what you did, which is skip the Release Engineering step. And hey, if you can do that, awesome. But i personally suggest the above. It’s a little more gradual and allows you to grab certain bridging concepts, like installer code and how it ties to deployments vs. straight into product code, where there is no bridging logic from your previous experience.