A couple of years ago, a friend recommended a book to me called Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. “It reminds me of you,” she had said.


In it, Epstein highlights the advantages that generalists can have over specialists in today's complex, rapidly evolving landscape. Reading that book, I realized that my friend had inadvertently defined me in her eyes —a jack-of-all trades, master at none; in my 28 years, I had worked professionally as a coach, baker, photographer, pharmacy technician, physical therapist, and now project manager in fintech. And in a professional world that often prioritizes specialization, because of my various short-lived experiences, I have occasionally felt lesser-than, and out of place. I had been conditioned to believe that success, no matter the context, is the direct result of mastering one specific skill or niche. 


Yet, as I started to deliberate Epstein’s message, I wondered if perhaps my friend wasn’t trying to insult me. Perhaps there is a different kind of success, my kind of success, that’s measured not by a master-of-one specialization, but rather by the breadth and variety of one’s experiences and skills. Maybe, instead of immersing ourselves in ultra-niche habitats, we can instead thrive by developing unique vantage points that allow us to see connections and possibilities that specialists might miss. Motivated by this fresh perspective, I set out to delve into the power of range, and how it has not only inspired my personal revelations, but also how it can foster a mindset of thinking outside the box and nurturing growth beyond the confines of traditional expectations.



Growing up under the influence of Chinese immigrant parents who made their living as engineers, my focus in school was always on science and math. I was indoctrinated at the ripe age of six or seven into what I call the immigrant American dream: that I was to attend Harvard (or the University of Michigan, which is still very prestigious but also has the advantage of being a public in-state university), become a doctor, and win a Nobel prize—in what category was for my own choosing.


In order to reach that level of mastery, my parents did everything they could to make sure I was college-acceptance ready. So in addition to daily math homework, I was also encouraged (possibly tricked into) to read as many books as I could, learn piano, attend Saturday Chinese school, and participate in club gymnastics all throughout childhood and adolescence. 


Quick biology lesson (gotta use that cellular & molecular biology degree somehow, right?): a developing child’s brain, in comparison to a fully developed adult’s brain, is defined a lot more by neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, and neuroplasticity. Simply put, kids have a lot more capacity to learn, connect, and adapt to new experiences. So while my parents thought they were building a perfectly curated student, they were actually also taking advantage of that early developmental period of rapid growth.


  • Sara learning gymnastics
  • Sara celebrating her gymnastic medals
  • Sara learning the piano as a child


While their intentions were focused on preparing me for my inevitable success as a future doctor, the diverse activities they encouraged me to pursue actually enhanced my overall learning experience. The seemingly unrelated pursuits of math, reading, piano, Mandarin, and gymnastics were actually building a foundation for holistic learning, allowing me to create connections between various skills and disciplines. Like perhaps understanding mathematical concepts such as angles and symmetry contribute to better spatial reasoning and improved execution of gymnastic maneuvers. It sounds like a stretch, I know, but I’m going to stretch even further; the real benefit between connecting two seemingly unrelated worlds is so singular that it eludes precise definition and remains abstract.



When I say “abstract”, I’m not talking about that million-dollar piece of art that looks like someone accidentally dripped ketchup onto a canvas. What we’re exploring here instead is a type of abstract that breaks down the walls between different facets in our lives, opening up possibilities for a deeper level of learning. By embracing the idea of abstract connections,  I have started to see how each of my experiences and skills have affected one another: how growing up bilingual has helped my brain pattern out linguistic rules for learning other languages; how gymnastics conditioning laid down the foundation of understanding how muscles work in my physiology classes, how challenging math puzzles taught me that the solution is there if I just try again. Each of these experiences acts like a Lego piece. Amassing a wider variety of Lego pieces allows me to build more bridges that can connect more ideas (please excuse my college-essay-cliche of an example). When faced with something new, I can tap into these connections with unconventional and unique angles.


The value of unique vantage points and seeing connections that specialists might overlook is immeasurable. Specialists excel within their specific domains, but it is the generalists who can bridge gaps and connect the dots across disciplines. By venturing into different arenas of understanding and drawing upon seemingly unrelated fields, we gain a panoramic (see the crossover? That’s a photography term!) view that enriches our understanding of complex problems, and enables us to ask questions that specialists may deem obvious or unworthy of exploring.


When we break out of the pattern of thinking in terms of our narrow specializations, we develop the flexibility to adapt to new contexts and embrace change. This ability to think beyond the confines of our expertise allows us to explore uncharted territories and transcend perceived limitations. In the heads-down pursuit of problem-solving, we often only think within the boundaries and restrictions that have been arbitrarily imposed upon us. But once you step out of the box, you realize that in the real, problem-solving world, the box was never really there in the first place. When the standard out-of-the-box solutions aren’t cutting it, you can explore the plethora of other solutions you have, and try out something that’s unexpected and creative. After all, it was Steve Jobs, legend of the tech world, who said “creativity is just connecting things.”



The power of range takes on even greater significance with the relentless march of technology and the digital age. As I reflect on my diverse experiences and the value of interdisciplinary thinking, it becomes evident that technology is thriving because of the blurring boundaries between different disciplines. The onset of fields like fin tech, health tech, art tech, and many others has revolutionized the way we live, work, and connect with the world around us. These advancements have not only accelerated progress within specific domains but have also paved the way for cross-functional, interdisciplinary teams that thrive on diverse expertise. It's no longer a matter of pursuing the singular paths of A) doctor, B) lawyer, or C) engineer anymore; we now have roles like sales engineers (does that still count as an engineer?), UX/UI designers, and business intelligence, all roles that are essential to an innovative, functional team, and all roles that are probably confusing the heck out of today’s ambitious parents and their dreams for their overachieving children.


Here at Array, we’re no stranger to building teams out of crossover roles and teams. In the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of technology, the creation of innovative products requires the collaboration of cross-functional, flexible teams that can seamlessly work across specialties. In a dynamic environment like ours, the boundaries between traditional teams blur, giving rise to a new method of working that breeds teammates who possess a diverse range of skills and can adapt quickly to changing requirements. These interdisciplinary collaborations enable us to leverage unique perspectives and uncover unexpected solutions to complex challenges. By fostering a culture that values cross-functional teamwork, we empower each other to broaden our horizons, expand our skill sets, and ultimately deliver solutions that work through a variety of lenses.



Fostering an environment that values and encourages range is certainly easier said than done. One area where we actively promote range is in our PMO (Project Management Office) team hiring practices. Rather than relying solely on a narrow checklist of experience, we prioritize candidates with diverse backgrounds who embody the appropriate values and mindset. This approach ensures that our PMO team comprises individuals with a wide range of skills, perspectives, and expertise. By assembling a team with diverse talents and experiences, we enable robust and comprehensive project management that can adapt to varying challenges and drive successful outcomes.


Furthermore, integrating interdisciplinary thinking into educational systems, workplaces, and personal development is crucial for cultivating range on a broader scale. Educational institutions can encourage interdisciplinary studies, exposing students to a variety of subjects and promoting the integration of different fields. Similarly, workplaces can facilitate cross-departmental collaboration, providing opportunities for employees to engage with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and exchange knowledge across domains. Additionally, personal development initiatives such as workshops, conferences, and mentorship programs can encourage individuals to explore new areas of interest and expand their skill sets beyond their core expertise.


By actively promoting interdisciplinary thinking and cultivating range across these domains, we create a more innovative and adaptable workforce. Embracing diverse perspectives not only fosters creativity but also enhances problem-solving capabilities, as individuals bring their unique experiences and knowledge to the table. It enables us to tackle complex challenges from multiple angles and discover groundbreaking solutions that may have been overlooked in a more siloed approach.


Fostering an environment that values and encourages range is essential for driving innovation and success in today's technology landscape. By embracing diverse talent, promoting interdisciplinary collaboration, and integrating range-focused practices into educational systems, workplaces, and personal development, we can unlock the full potential of individuals and teams, enabling us to thrive in an ever-changing world.



Editorial Note: This content is the author’s opinion, expression, and/or recommendation(s).


Sara Lin
Post by Sara Lin
September 23, 2023
Sara Lin is a Project Manager at Array, where she has played a key role in defining and nurturing the Project Associate team, a critical support function that spans various departments and drives initiatives organization-wide.

She holds a Bachelor's degree in Cellular & Molecular Biology from the University of Michigan and a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Oakland University.

Sara brings a unique blend of skills to approach ideas from a different angle, joining project teams with fresh insights and innovative thinking.