I work at a ~30 person engineering company (the nuts and bolts kind, not software). I'm really interested in changing roles to something focused on software tool development, instead of engineering. I have some software development background that is not used in my current role, and I am actively spending personal time learning the necessary skills, but I do not believe my skills are currently sufficient to take on the role I want.
I feel that I would be better positioned to make this transition if I could either spend some work time learning the necessary skills, or at least get paid for outside hours I spend developing my skills on projects that could benefit the company.
Within my company, there is a business case for the role I want - developing better software tools would help us. But, an experienced developer would build these tools much more quickly than I would, and I worry that at my current salary, my employer may think that I am "too expensive" to be dedicated to developing these tools.
Therefore, my question: Are there creative arrangements I could suggest to my employer to let me work on building these software tools?
Asking to spend, say, 20% of my work hours on development projects. But my current dev skill level is not worth my current salary, so maybe I'd offer to work at half-rate for those 20% of hours. (Effectively, taking a cut in pay in exchange for my employer allowing me to build my skills).
Asking to contract (for a fee) for delivery of tools made outside of work hours. Projects are the best way to learn, and I might as well make a project that does something useful to someone. And get some compensation for it.
Overall, my goal is to transition from an engineering role to a software development role focused on building tools for engineers. I would like to understand how this type of transition is typically made and what sorts of arrangements are typical with employers to facilitate this type of transition.