How to gain scrum experience

If I were to charge a cent for each time someone asked me how they can become a Scrum Master, I would be rich by now. A lot of times, the questions are; what does it take to be a scrum master? How do I gain experience as a scrum master, what are the skills I need to be a scrum master? I will try to answer these questions and more. First, who is a scrum master?

The scrum guide describes a “Scrum Master as a servant-leader for the Scrum Team. They help those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. In addition, the Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team.”

Start where you are and with what you know- If you work within an organisation who has agile teams or you are part of that team, volunteer to stand in for the scrum master. Facilitate some scrum meetings, ask questions and reflect on your learnings. Speak to your reporting line about your desired role, and they might recommend for the role you should the opportunity arise.

Make it personal- Agile is a mindset that needs to be embodied. You have to live it to experience the values of manifesto and principles. At home, I have a task board for tasks that I need to complete. I work in sprints and limit my work in progress to 2 work items concurrently a day. Also, as a family, there is a task board for weekly chores that are self-assigned. Having a board for chores reduces clamouring for my children to complete tasks and I can focus on more important things.

Ask for help- I have found that having a Mentor to guide you on the journey helps tremendously. An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” A Mentor with knowledge and experience will help to unpack the questions you have that will take you to the next stage of your career. I understand it can sometimes be hard to find someone with availability and willingness to mentor. Before you reach out to someone, ensure you have handy your goals for the mentoring partnership. Be prepared! Make the first connection worthwhile for you and the potential mentor.

I coordinate the DAC mentoring program that matches Mentor and Mentee. If this interests you, join the LinkedIn page to get information on the next round of the program.

Find a community- Join an agile community. And guess what? The agile community is the most receptive community ever! When I moved to Ontario, that was one of the first things I did. Securing my first job was catalysed by someone I met at a meetup. The person had noticed how I interacted with people at the event and mentioned this to the hiring manager that I am the right candidate for the team. Never underestimate the power of the agile community.

Be your own brand- I listened to Jeff Gothelf at a recent webinar, he asked some powerful questions which resonated with me:

● Why would anyone ask for you?
● What problem do you solve for them?
● Does anyone know who I Am?
● How will they look for me?
● How would they find me?

You are your own brand! No one will promote you better than you could. I will also suggest you craft how you introduce yourself using an elevator speech format for when you meet someone at a networking event.

Gain the right knowledge/skills- noticed I said the ‘right’ knowledge. While a Scrum master does need to have technical expertise, you will support your team greatly if you understand the technical lingo. I have a management background but I have taken classes in Design thinking, Agile Testing, HTML/CSS, SQL to name but a few.

Do a stock take of the skills you possess, are there transferable ones for your desired role? If not, identify those gaps and speak to your Mentor to seek guidance.

Certification- I leave this till last because it is sometimes controversial, depending on who you are speaking to. I have a bunch of certifications and I won’t discourage you from obtaining certifications if you choose to. However, having several of such “letters” after your name does not guarantee that job! Many times, people send me messages asking what certification they should embark upon, my response is; how does the certification tie to your career goal and/or life purpose? If you can answer that question, you have an answer to the certification question.

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Kemmy Raji is an enterprise agile coach

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