I've been fortunate enough to have been involved as the lead tech/designer/architect/coder/whatever in co-founding, building and selling several successful software companies. I'm now in physical design manufacturing, and it is very satisfying, and there is a surprising amount of crossover.
Even those purely software ("information economy"?) projects benefited heavily from by earlier experience in physical/manual work through my HS/college years. I tended to strongly emphasize initial design to minimize coding and minimize machine loading before starting to code.
Possibly the biggest lesson transferred from physical work to software work was the lesson to work hard to avoid excess work. I found it worth it to spend many hours to AVOID writing code. This was not being lazy, as it is often initially faster to write code than to not write code. The basic lesson is: What takes time to run? Code. Where are the bugs? In your code. So, write no code that not absolutely required. Simplicity. It takes discipline and work, which is best learned from physical work, and not in a cubicle.
Especially in the late 90's, I became flabbergasted by the people that just wanted to start-writing-code and fix it later. Or, who wanted to just take the short-cut of sticking their fingers in everyone else's code and data structures. Fortunately, I prevailed in most of those debates, and in one company, in about 2yrs we were taking business from a much larger and better funded competitor who (surprise) had scalability problems that we (no surprise) avoided. When you work in the physical world, you learn well that short-cuts are almost always bad ideas, and that time spent sharpening the tool will more than pay off when it comes time to cut your material.
Since selling and leaving the last company, I did a lot of thinking about what to do next. Rather than doing another software business, I chose to start a business in advanced materials, which wound up mostly in composites (carbon fiber, Kevlar, etc.).
What I find remarkable is how much this feels like the computer industry did in the 1980s -- vibrant, interesting new developments and tools popping up all the time, good access to people who know about the tools and materials I'm using or considering (vs having to teach so-called tech support how to do their jobs just to extract an occasional clue). And, while it was really cool to see people happy to use software that we built that helped them do their jobs better, it seems even more satisfying now to build something physical with my own hands and see it used (but, maybe that is just because it is what I'm doing now).
This change, especially since the last economic crash, has also made me think even more how fundamentally bad an idea it is to oursource our manufacturing. It is an extremely dangerous and long-lived MBA fad (and I'm definitely glad to see the MBAs being properly skewered in Dilbert last week).
For our society, I only hope that the lesson is soon learned and that we can reverse the trend. Information Technology, and even management techniques, do have a place. BUT, that place is in support of the actual act of building something. If you never get around to actually building or growing something, you haven't done anything. And, one only need to glance at the trade deficits to see that we're building far too little.