I find there to be a lot of value in actively managing your career. This is part of a series of editorials based on advice I've read from Raylene Yung (Facebook and Stripe) on your engineering career.
In the last few years I've started to see a number of organizations find ways to build technical career growth paths that don't require someone to become a manager. A lot of technical people don't want to manage others, and I'd argue that making the best technical person the lead or manager isn't often the best decision. Those are two different skill sets and success in one doesn't predict success in the other.
There are technical people who would like to move into management. If you are one of those people, then you ought to tackle building skills in that area just as you might tackle learning Power BI, SQL window functions, or any other skill.
Management requires a few different skills. Project management is important, as you will often be balancing a variety of work tasks for your direct reports. Another set of skills is people skills: leadership, listening, evaluating, and having hard conversations, none of which are easy.
Part of the advice for technical people wanting to be managers is that you have to work on your emotional equilibrium, as the way your job works as a manager is different from that of an engineer. Your view of success, happiness, and your emotional takeaway from daily work is different. You also have to view the workings of your team at a higher level, understanding that your focus and goals can be slightly different than those of your engineers.
I think you also have to learn to make hard decisions on what to prioritize or how to distribute your staff among the competing demands you face. Learning to make decisions and move forward, as well as apologize and change course when you realize you've made a mistake is something relatively few people do well.
It's also important to recognize that as your team grows, something will always be wrong. In any size organization, you'll have a birthday every month and likely some sort of illness or other negative action. Have a large enough organization and someone will die on a regular basis. Keeping yourself balanced when something is always wrong (and something is always right) can be a challenge.
Having done these jobs, I do think that one way to test the waters is to ask to lead a team on a small project. Getting a feel for balancing work, and learning that management is work that needs to be done differently, can help you decide if you want to go down this path. It's not for everyone, but becoming a manager can be a good career path, though not necessarily easier than writing code or managing infrastructure.
If you want to consider this path, ask others for advice, read books, and learn like you would if someone assigned you a new technology. I've enjoyed my time in some companies as a manager, and if I hadn't been looking to move earlier in my career, I might still be running the technology organization at a previous company. It was one job I really enjoyed.