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This saying is often said just as the title of this post but is actually not the full saying. The full saying is “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” Why am I writing about this? Well, I’ve heard this saying multiple times over the years and I always get the feeling it’s meant as an insult when in fact I look at it as a compliment. Let me explain.

Throughout my education, this saying was uttered to help incentivize us students to pick a track. For those not super familiar, User Experience (UX) is an extremely broad field. There are many possible paths on the UX track and we were encouraged, before entering the workforce, that we really nail down which path we were closest to. For me, though, that seemed really difficult.

I like the field of UX because it is so broad. I can always learn something new, and I can try out different areas all within the same umbrella. For me, the term ‘jack of all trades’ is extremely exciting. Personally, I’ve created full websites, mapped out taxonomies, managed massive projects, designed web interfaces among many other things. Each one has allowed me to grow in a new area, broaden my expertise, and make me a more well-rounded UX professional. How could that ever be viewed negatively?

Another angle I like to look at this from is leadership. As mentioned in previous posts, leadership is a huge passion of mine. I love the ability to grow team members and see people achieve their goals. Having a background in a variety of areas allows me leverage all of my knowledge and resources to help out my team members in ways other leaders can’t. I had a team member who did data analysis work and was primarily using visualization software such as PowerBI to create our reports. She expressed interest in learning Python to expand her expertise into more customizable visualizations. With my previous experience learning Python and doing web development, I was able to help point her in a more targeted direction and discuss, in greater detail, the ins and outs of coding. The increases the trust and loyalty she has in me and deepens our working relationship as I can relate more.

On the flip side, being a master of an area seems incredibly limiting. In this space, technology, products, languages are all moving at ever-increasing speeds. A jack of all trades, to me, shows that you can learn and that is vital in today’s society. Being a master of one, to me, shows that you stick to what you know or ‘your lane’ and no one knows when that lane may end or divert into a completely different highway.

As mentioned, I decided to write about this topic because I hear it all the time in this field. It bothers me. UX is very interesting and is constantly evolving and I love all areas of it. I will always continue learning and trying out new areas and I look for my career to follow those interests. Working for a company that allows for that flexibility and development is something I value a lot as the entire technology space continues to innovate. I’ll take being a jack of all trades over a master of one any day.