My story of becoming a Scrum Master is a short one. My journey up to this point is less short. I started as a software engineer working on a mobile device within the trucking industry. I got to work with other engineers on complex problems that were challenging to me.
Along came Agile and Scrum to disrupt our work in a good way. The new ideas of Agility and Scrum started to make their way into my daily work life to a point where Agile and Scrum had to be seen. Scrum Masters were taking time to engage with engineers in a way that left me wanting more. I transitioned to the role of Associate Scrum Master, and my career as a Scrum Master began. I have searched for growth opportunities and ways to advance my career. The journey has not been clear-cut and still appears foggy in the distance. So why am I sharing this?
For many, the idea of a career is one with growth opportunities and vertical movement. Some careers have a clear path: junior, senior, lead, principal, etc. To a Scrum Master, that path may not be as clear. For one, getting to be a Scrum Master is not always as easy as getting certification to get a job. Once you are a Scrum Master and have done that for a while, you may ask, “where do I go from here?”
Breaking into the Scrum Master career
When searching “how to become a Scrum Master,” the first page of results is about certifications. You have the certification, but what about the experience? Once you have a certificate, the jobs do not come rushing to you. More often than not, a freshly certified Scrum Master will have a little trouble landing that first gig. Certifications alone will not land you a role as a Scrum Master.
Look to the past
Take the time to dig into your past experiences and see how you can approach them from a Scrum Master perspective. Look to your past experiences and how they relate to the responsibilities of a Scrum Master and what they do all day—were you working with teams creating cross-functional ways of working? Were you an engineer who strove to find ways to deliver high value? Were you a teacher who helped guide children or adults in their learning? These are skills that are transferable to the role of Scrum Master.
When you find where your past experiences align with that of a Scrum Master, use them to fill out and tweak your resume. Along with filling out your resume with Scrum and Agile skills, this will give you stories to leverage during an interview. I do not know about you, but when I read a resume, that is merely the hook. If the resume hits right, I want to learn more. This comes in the form of stories and examples.
Your daily life
Are there ways you incorporate Scrum Master into your daily life? Some people have found that they implement a Kanban in their daily lives to keep themselves organized. You may find yourself looking to remove impediments from your daily routine to help make things easier for you. That is a skill a Scrum Master needs to have. To transition to a Scrum Master role, you must find where you have already been doing it somewhere. Build out your backlog. Find the things you want to learn more about and add them. You will gain helpful insight into what you can do next and show you understand what it means to build a backlog. Building your personal backlog is a transferable skill that can be leveraged with any team you encounter.
If in doubt, reach out. Find a Scrum Master you know or reach out to a community of Scrum Masters. Take the time to pick their brains and ask questions. There are many user groups with people who are more than happy to help. Scrum Masters love to help teams and people. You reaching out will not bother them one bit. You are not on the journey alone. There have been others in your position.
Where can I go from here?
So you have landed the job of Scrum Master and have been at it for a while. Where can you go from here? I have found myself asking this question on occasion. As I mentioned, I started my Scrum Master career as an associate, but I wanted more. At the time, that meant vertical movement. I took on more responsibility and became a Scrum Master (no associate title). From there, my experience grew, and I became a Senior Scrum Master.
Not all companies have a cut-and-dry career path. Some places you enter as a Scrum Master, and then what? You may find that the next step in your organization is to become an Agile Coach. In others, career growth may mean becoming a Product Owner, Technical Program Manager, or something else. You may find that you need to change roles horizontally before you can move vertically.
Learning and gaining knowledge
Each possible path requires the same things, breadth of experience, and learning new things. You may find the idea of becoming more “T” shaped. When you build out one specific skill, you add depth to the knowledge and experience you have. That is where a practitioner becomes “I” shaped. To become more “T” shape, you must familiarize yourself with various experiences and tools. You do not need to become an expert in each one. Find time to take on new coaching opportunities within your organization and community. Find unique ideas to add to your toolbelt. By doing so, you will not only gain knowledge, but you will show that you have a learning mentality. You will gain valuable experience and growth through these opportunities. Find conferences and thought leaders to expand your knowledge. Read new and old books on Agile and Scrum. You can find a reading list here.
The side hustle
Find time to mentor new Scrum Masters. Mentoring newer Scrum Masters is a great way to grow. Remember when you were looking to land your first gig and reached out to the Scrum Masters, who were happy to help? Well, now is your chance to pay it forward. Maybe mentoring is not your thing. Teaching and coaching others may be for you. At one point, you may have picked up a certification or two. Take that a step further and become a coach/trainer to the Agile community. Another path you could take is writing. This could be a blog post, a book, or small blurbs on social media. No effort is too small.
Growth can take numerous forms.
In the end, the choice is yours.
Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps: Simplifying the jargon
The internet and social media are full of Agile, Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps jargon, including incorrect and misunderstood concepts. This could be problematic for a learner seeking knowledge. Without a course with Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, or DevOps Institute, this knowledge is difficult to achieve.