You don’t need to stick to your laneFeatured

The complete quote attributed to William Shakespeare is, 'A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.'

Most of us have only heard the first half of the quote and have used it to mean, 'Do one thing really well.” This interpretation completely misses the mark as Shakespeare intended to convey that being a generalist can actually be a good thing.

Being a generalist is more than just having a variety of interests; it's about how these diverse experiences feed into one another, fostering creativity and innovation. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you lack expertise. In fact, it allows you to build a unique blend of skills that can set you apart in a specialized world.

Adopting a generalist approach can be particularly beneficial for women and can lead to:

  • The exploration of various career paths, helping break down traditional gender roles and stereotypes.
  • Enhanced problem-solving and creative thinking by bringing a wide range of skills and perspectives to the table.
  • Empowerment and confidence by mastering new skills and successfully navigating diverse roles. This can help break down internal and external barriers to success.

As a fellow generalist myself, I’ve found that software engineering greatly benefits from this approach. Throughout my career, I have held various roles spanning from system administration to full-stack engineering and product development. My breadth of experience in various business areas has been invaluable, and my creative pursuits, such as writing, poetry, and painting, have enriched my perspective.

My blend of technical skills and creativity fueled my foray into interior design and architecture, especially during Covid. It also drove me to create - a place where I was able to merge my expertise in software engineering, AI, and creativity to create instantaneous interior designs.

There are many examples of multi-hyphenates in creative fields. One person I admire is interior designer Athena Calderone, who has the “More Than One Thing” podcast that speaks to this. It's a good one if you like interior design and creative journeys.

Other well-known generalists whose interests cross disciplines include:

  • Leonardo da Vinci: Da Vinci's work epitomizes the fusion of art and science. His notebooks, filled with scientific diagrams, anatomical sketches, and engineering designs, illustrate his unparalleled ability to blend artistic creativity with scientific inquiry.
  • Frida Kahlo: While primarily known for her poignant self-portraits, Kahlo's work transcends painting to include elements of surrealism and symbolism, incorporating insights from her personal life, politics, and Mexican culture.
  • Arianna Huffington: Co-founder of The Huffington Post, her career spans politics, media, and wellness, showcasing a broad range of interests and expertise.
  • Richard Branson: The founder of the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies in various fields, including music, airlines, and space tourism, exemplifies the generalist entrepreneur with his ventures across multiple industries.
  • Steve Jobs: His emphasis on design and user experience bridged the gap between technology and the humanities.
  • Elon Musk: Perhaps one of the most prominent examples today, Musk has ventured into sectors as varied as automotive (Tesla), aerospace (SpaceX), and infrastructure (The Boring Company), among others. His ability to apply knowledge across different domains has disrupted traditional industries and led to significant technological advancements.

This isn't just about my journey or the successes of well-known generalists; it's about rethinking how we approach our careers and passions. Are you ready to explore all your strengths and interests without limiting yourself to a predefined path?

Here are some ideas to start broadening your horizons:

  • Diversify your learning: Take courses, attend workshops, or simply dedicate time to self-study in areas outside your primary field of expertise.
  • Cross-pollinate ideas: Apply knowledge from one domain to solve problems in another. Innovative solutions often come from the most unexpected places.
  • Network outside your bubble: Engage with professionals and enthusiasts from various fields. Expanding your network can provide new perspectives and opportunities.

I hope that this post will inspire you to assess all your strengths and interests, not limit yourself based on your background, education, etc., and feel encouraged if you haven’t yet found your niche or don’t feel like you need to.

Would love to know if this resonates with you and if you know someone in your life who exemplifies this mentality!

@madhavideshmukh Love this! Discovering the Generalist World community ( has been a game changer for helping me embrace my Generalist superpowers. I now look for jobs with a clear view to how my generalist strengths would be utilized instead of trying to fit myself into a specialist silo that has never and could never fit who I am at my core. Being a Generalist is actually a core future-proof trait. We need to get better at communicating this to people who see the world through narrow specialist frames.
@susannawilliams I just recently came across the community myself, I haven't checked it out yet though! I will, soon!
I've been a member since February and it has given me community, insight, unexpected insights and opportunities. They'll be opening membership again in May!
Thanks, will mark my calendar!
GW is fantastic! I'm a member as well. :)
This speaks to me so much right now. I’ve been wondering if my generalist career has work against me. Right now I’ve been looking into specialized roles and it has been tough getting companies to see me as an expert.It’s good to see how others including you have found success as a generalist. Even if I switch to a more specialized role, my experience as a generalist will serve me.
Yes! Especially since you are in a default creative field :)
Great post! Being a generalist is an advantage, not a hinderance.
I'd never heard the complete Shakespeare quote before. Thank you! I'm a technical writer, support expert, and QA analyst. All of those fields feed into providing an excellent user experience, and each informs the others in my experience.
Thanks for your comment and so awesome that it works for you!
This post is so helpful. Perfect timing. I needed this. I try to fill my mind and my algorithm with people who share this way of thinking because I am also a multi-hyphenate and multi-passionate creative technologist and edu-creator.I reject the only one pursuit and "stay in your lane" way of life.I am the lane, the flow, the blueprint.Love this!Jeneba
Thanks! I love "I am the lane" :)
As a generalist and creative, this is so affirming! I love this take, thank you for sharing.
I love this idea, and I qualify! But I'm a little unclear how to find and apply for roles as a generalist. I don't recall even seeing roles for generalists, though maybe it doesn't work that way. Can you give us some advice on roles to go after, and how to apply for them? Thank you!
Thanks for sharing! I found it very inspiring especially me who has a diverse background mixing finance, real estate investment and business management. I was very confused about where my career path is heading and was frustrated that I didn’t focus on one and make it the best. Now your advice gives me much more confidence, I am ready for the next phrase of my career!
This is a great post! And I have loved reading the thread that came out if this original post. Thank you so much for starting this conversation. It was really on point of what I have been wondering for some time now. Specially in the job hunting process!!
Glad it resonated. Thanks!