Should PMs be jack of all trades?

Are you in agreement with the statement that product managers are a jack of all trades but a master of none?

Just curious to know more about it.


Product managers must be able to adapt quickly and think strategically, but they also need to have a deep understanding of the products they are managing in order to be successful in their role. By continuously improving their expertise and staying up-to-date with industry advancements, product managers can ensure that they are equipped to make informed decisions and guide their teams effectively. While specialists may have more in-depth knowledge of a specific area, generalists can bring a broad perspective and versatility to their role, allowing them to pivot and problem-solve in a variety of situations. Ultimately, both approaches have their strengths, and product managers can find success by leveraging their unique skills and experiences in the ever-evolving landscape of product management. Hence, it won’t be wrong to say that PMs are jacks of all trades.


The statement “Product managers are jacks of all trades and masters of none” reflects the perception that product managers need to have a broad skill set and be adaptable to various responsibilities. While it’s true that product managers often work across multiple disciplines and need to understand various aspects of product development, marketing, and strategy, the characterization of “masters of none” might be an oversimplification.

Product managers do need to balance a diverse set of skills, including communication, leadership, analytical thinking, and domain knowledge. They must collaborate with cross-functional teams, understand user needs, and make informed decisions. However, this doesn’t mean they lack expertise. Successful product managers often develop deep domain knowledge and become subject matter experts in their industries or product domains.

In essence, product managers are not necessarily “masters of none.” Instead, they are professionals who excel in synthesizing a range of skills to drive the success of a product. They might not be experts in every single domain, but they are certainly specialists in the unique role they play in product development and management. The ability to balance breadth and depth of knowledge is a key aspect of effective product management.


With regard to product managers, I believe that there are many archetypes that correspond more closely to various functions:

  1. Technical: extensive technical skills, most likely with extensive experience in SWE. Excellent for machine learning and platform products.
  2. User experience (UX) entails having a deep understanding of the product and the consumer. Great for items aimed at consumers.
  3. Business - MBA types. Great for products with many stakeholders and inputs, or sales driven products.
  4. Generalist/Entrepreneurial Product Managers are People Who Get Things Done. Excellent for initiatives that are part of a more established company’s skunkworks or that are in the early stages of a startup.

There is no denying that a generalist product manager may also be an expert in consumer goods, for instance, but the majority of product managers that I am familiar with, including myself, tend to fall into one of these categories.


@CathrynCui, In all honesty:

  • Some product managers are very knowledgeable in their particular fields of expertise.
  • The best product managers are also exceptional leaders, collaborators, and influencers in their respective fields.

That they are “masters of none” suggests that they do not possess any abilities that are of any practical value. It is possible that outstanding project managers might not possess strong ‘hard’ talents; rather, they should be exceptional when it comes to softer skills.


Product managers are often seen as jacks of all trades because they need to have a wide range of skills to effectively lead their teams and projects. However, this does not mean they are not masters in their own right; they excel at coordinating various moving parts and ensuring successful product delivery. It would be beneficial to explore how product managers can continue to develop their skills and expertise in order to further enhance their effectiveness in their roles. Specialists may excel in depth of knowledge, but generalists can adapt quickly to changing circumstances and provide a holistic view. It’s important for product managers to strike a balance between the two approaches to effectively lead their teams and drive successful outcomes in product management.


The phrase “jacks of all trades and masters of none” suggests that individuals, in this case, Product Managers, have a broad range of skills but may lack deep expertise in any specific area. While this characterization may apply to some Product Managers, it’s important to recognize that the role is highly dynamic and requires a mix of both broad and specialized skills, depending on the context and the goals of the organization.

Balancing Act:
Product Managers often need to be versatile and possess a diverse skill set to navigate the multifaceted responsibilities of their role, including market analysis, product strategy, team leadership, and communication. They are expected to understand various aspects of product development, from user experience to technical implementation. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they lack mastery in any particular domain. Instead, it reflects the need for a balanced set of skills to effectively collaborate with cross-functional teams and address the complexities of bringing a product to market.

Specialization vs. Adaptability:
In certain situations, especially in industries or roles that require deep domain knowledge, specialization might be preferred. However, in fast-paced and dynamic environments, the ability to adapt quickly, learn new concepts, and collaborate across different functions is equally valuable. Some Product Managers might start as generalists and later specialize based on their experiences and career goals, following a more hybrid approach.

Continuous Learning:
Regardless of whether a Product Manager leans more towards being a generalist or a specialist, continuous learning is crucial. Staying informed about industry trends, emerging technologies, and evolving customer needs ensures that Product Managers remain effective and adaptable in their roles.

In conclusion, while Product Managers are often expected to have a broad skill set, the degree to which they specialize or generalize can vary based on the demands of the industry, company, and the individual’s career goals. The most effective Product Managers find a balance between being adaptable to diverse challenges and developing deep expertise where it is most beneficial.


Excellent response @HeatherKurtz. Thank you very much for taking the time to respond so accurately. Other responses to the post are equally insightful and interesting. Thanks to each of you for your replies.


A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one. A diverse skill set can be advantageous in the fast-paced and ever-changing world of product management. Being able to adapt and excel in various areas can lead to more successful outcomes and innovative solutions. The ability to adapt and learn quickly, communicate effectively, and problem-solve creatively is crucial for successful product managers. Being well-rounded in various skills can help them navigate the complexities of their roles and drive innovation within their teams. It is important for product managers to have a well-rounded skill set that includes both technical expertise and strong interpersonal skills. By being able to adapt and excel in various areas, they can effectively lead their teams and drive successful product development.


While having a diverse skill set can be beneficial for product managers, it is also important for them to focus on developing specialized expertise in key areas relevant to their industry or product. Being too well-rounded may spread their focus too thin and prevent them from becoming truly exceptional in a specific area. Therefore, product managers should strike a balance between being versatile and honing in on their strengths. By continuing to improve their technical knowledge while also cultivating their interpersonal skills, they can effectively navigate the complexities of product development. Specialized expertise in key areas will distinguish them as leaders in their industry and allow them to make a significant impact in their product management roles. Ultimately, finding the right balance between being well-rounded and specialized is crucial for the success of product managers in today’s competitive market.


In spite of the fact that I have personally constructed websites and applications, developed templates and brand identities, promoted digital services, and written for publication, I strongly advise that no one ever hires me to do any of those things. Product managers are effective because they are able to provide opportunities for others to achieve greater levels of success. Product managers excel in facilitating collaboration among cross-functional teams, identifying market opportunities, and driving innovation to meet customer needs. By focusing on empowering others and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, product managers can lead their teams to deliver impactful products that drive business growth.


A better title, in my opinion, would be The Servant of Two Masters


This is the same conversation that I was having with my coworkers, who are PMs in engineering or finance. They did not trust what I said! I will email this to them. It is an excellent example of the delicate balancing act that is often necessary in the modern business environment. The concept of being a servant leader is not always well-received in every industry, but it is crucial for effective product management. By sharing this article with your coworkers, you can spark a meaningful discussion on how different leadership styles can impact team dynamics and overall success. I believe they will find it enlightening and relevant to their roles as product managers. It provides valuable insights on leadership and team dynamics that can be applied to various industries.

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The product manager is an expert in understanding the particular problem and the users using the product. The role requires strong communication skills and the ability to collaborate effectively with cross-functional teams. The discussion highlights the importance of adaptability and emotional intelligence in leadership, which are crucial qualities for product managers to possess. It also emphasizes the significance of fostering a positive team culture, which is essential for driving innovation and achieving goals in any industry.