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Embracing Range: Project Management as the Gateway to Diverse Career Paths

Embracing Range: Project Management as the Gateway to Diverse Career Paths

By Jeff Zircher
December 13, 2023

In a world that often celebrates specialization, the value of being a generalist is frequently overlooked. The book “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” by David Epstein challenges the conventional wisdom that deep expertise in a narrow field is the key to success. Instead, Epstein argues that individuals with a broad range of skills and experiences often thrive in today’s complex and unpredictable work environment.

One profession that inherently aligns with the principles of range is project management. Project managers are the orchestrators of diverse teams, ensuring that various functions come together seamlessly to achieve a common goal. However, the great alignment between being a project manager and sampling different roles within a company goes beyond the coordination of tasks—it serves as a strategic path for personal and professional growth.

The Project Manager's Playground

Project managers are, by nature, adaptive generalists. They need to understand the big picture while managing the intricate details of a project. This unique perspective positions them as ideal candidates to explore various roles within an organization. As they navigate different projects, project managers gain exposure to diverse functional areas, from finance to marketing, from human resources to technology.

In “Range,” Epstein introduces the idea of the “sampling period” in one’s career—a phase during which individuals explore different domains before settling into a specialized role. Project managers, with their inherent need for versatility, are already on this sampling journey. They engage with cross-functional teams, absorbing insights from different departments, and gradually building a versatile skill set.

Learning Through Diversity 

Sampling different roles within a company provides invaluable learning experiences. Project managers learn to adapt to different work cultures, understand the intricacies of various functions, and cultivate a holistic understanding of how an organization operates. This diversity of experience not only broadens their skill set but also enhances their ability to communicate effectively with professionals from different backgrounds.

I would argue that individuals with a wide range of experiences are better equipped to solve complex problems and innovate. Project managers, through their exposure to varied roles, develop a unique cognitive flexibility that allows them to approach challenges with creativity and adaptability.

Planning for Migration

The alignment between project management and career exploration becomes particularly apparent when an individual considers migrating to another part of the business. Having sampled different roles, a project manager gains a comprehensive understanding of the organization, making informed decisions about where their skills and interests align best.

This migration isn’t merely about changing job titles; it’s a strategic move to leverage a diverse skill set. The project manager’s ability to see connections between seemingly unrelated tasks becomes a valuable asset in any department. Whether transitioning from a technical project to a marketing role or from finance to operations, the insights gained during the sampling period empower individuals to contribute meaningfully from day one.

Embracing Uncertainty

I would encourage you to emphasize the embrace uncertainty in one’s career journey. Project managers, as leaders in dynamic environments, are well-versed in navigating ambiguity. They understand that career paths are rarely linear, and that success often comes from the ability to pivot when necessary.

By applying the principles of range, project managers can inspire a culture of continuous learning within their teams. Encouraging team members to explore roles beyond their immediate expertise fosters a collaborative environment where diverse skills converge to drive innovation and problem-solving.


In the evolving landscape of the modern workplace, the great alignment between being a project manager and sampling diverse roles within a company is a strategic advantage. Project managers, embodying the principles of range, have the opportunity to embrace a broader perspective, cultivate a versatile skill set, and strategically plan for migration within the organization. As we navigate the complexities of the professional world, let us recognize the strength in being adaptable generalists, finding success not in narrow specialization but in the rich tapestry of experiences that shape our careers.

Jeff Zircher, MBA, is currently a servant leader at Caterpillar Inc, with over 30 years of leadership experience in IT, Logistics & Distribution, Marketing & Product Support, Product Development, and Project Management. Jeff currently leads an enterprise PMO service team for Caterpillar, with over 250 team members spanning the United States, Northern Ireland, England, India, and China. His Global Program Management team provides Project-Program-Portfolio Management, Change Management, Agile support, and Business Analytics support for nearly 2,000 projects enterprise-wide. Jeff has been a member of the PMI Global Executive Council since 2014. In collaboration with The Children’s Home Association of Illinois, Jeff and his team won the PMI Educational Foundation – Community Advancement Award in 2016.

Jeff is presenting at this year’s Leadership & Innovation 2024 Online Conference!

Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.

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