Scrum

The Journey from Developer to Scrum Master

Published 07/03/2022

The roles in Scrum are quite different from other traditional software methods. Given the flexibility and adaptive approach of Scrum, as team members, we get the opportunity to experience new responsibilities and broaden our skills. For example, one can start as a Developer and then migrate to a Scrum Master role, while another can transition from Scrum Master to Product Owner or vice versa. Our focus today will be around Developers and how they can become Scrum Masters. 

The Scrum Master educates, coaches, and guides the Product Owner, Team, and the rest of the organization in the skillful use of Scrum. Because Agile processes are entirely dependent on people and collaboration, Scrum Masters must possess both soft skills as well as technical skills in terms of using the latest tools and collaboration methods. The Scrum Master is not the manager of the Team members, nor does she act as project manager, team lead, or team representative. Instead, the Scrum Master serves the Team, helps remove impediments, protects the Team from outside interference, and helps the Team adopt Agile development practices. 

The Development Team builds the product that the Product Owner indicates: the application or website, for example. The Team in Scrum is “cross-functional” and includes all the expertise necessary to deliver the potentially shippable product each Sprint. The Team takes a few user stories from the top of the product backlog and turn them into features.The members of the Development Team could be any of: developers, testers, ux designers, business analysts, dev-ops specialists, architects. 

First step – Gain (any) Scrum experience

Any Scrum experience is better than no Scrum experience.  If you are already part of a Scrum Team as a Developer, that is great. If not, there is no need to focus solely on Scrum Master opportunities. A first step could be to join a Scrum Team in another role suited to your skills and experience. Gaining Scrum experience as a Development Team member is very valuable. Ideally, you’ll have an experienced Scrum Master on the Team that you can also shadow and learn from. Many great individuals started their careers as Developers before successfully transitioning into a Scrum Master role.

Get the Proper Training and Credentials

One does not need a degree to become a Scrum Master. However, every person interested in this career path needs a good knowledge of Agile and of the Scrum framework. Larger organizations might require a Scrum Master course or a certification in order to get started, while for smaller organizations, like start-ups or agencies this won’t be mandatory.

There are different levels of certifications, you can start from the basic ones and then level up as you gain more knowledge and experience. The most popular certifications out there are from Scrum Alliance (Certified ScrumMaster) and Scrum.org (Professional Scrum Master).

Depending on each one’s professional goals, from Scrum Alliance you can get one of the following certifications:

  • Certified ScrumMaster – basic level
  • Advanced Certified ScrumMaster – for individuals with one or more years of experience as Scrum Masters
  • Certified Scrum Professional ScrumMaster – for expert level Scrum Masters

For each certification level, following a specific training course is required, along with other prerequisites and requirements. More information can be found on Scrum Alliance’s website.

The certification levels from Scrum.org are similar to those from Scrum Alliance and start from a fundamental level, then they move up to advanced and mastery levels:

  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM) I 
  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM) II
  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM) III

Scrum.org certifications attending a course is not mandatory for taking the certification exam. For beginners, it is recommended to follow a training course for at least the first certification level.

Shadow Another Scrum Master or Find a Mentor

Once you learned the basics about the role and responsibilities of a Scrum Master, it’s time to test and sharpen your skills. The best way to do it is to shadow a Scrum Master (or even better, to have a Scrum Master act as your mentor), ideally in your organization. You could do this by starting to join the Scrum ceremonies of another team, for example, the Daily Scrum, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, Sprint Refinement, and also help the Scrum Master of that team on the day to day activities.

If you can’t find a Scrum Master to shadow in your organization, look for a Scrum Master buddy from the Scrum community. Then get involved by helping the Scrum Master solve their day-to-day issues. You can do this either by active listening or by serving as a brainstorming buddy.

Get Involved in Scrum Communities 

There are many great communities out there supporting Scrum, some more formal and some informal. Don’t be afraid to join a community, even if you have little or no experience with Scrum. Being part of a Scrum community helps with networking, exchanging ideas, learning new things from the experience of others, and many more.

These communities are organized groups of people who have Scrum as a common interest, or more specifically, are focused on the Scrum Master role. They regularly collaborate to share information, improve their skills, and actively work on advancing the general knowledge of the domain. Healthy communities have a culture built on professional networking, personal relationships, shared knowledge, and common skills. Communities enable practitioners to exchange knowledge and skills with people worldwide. 

The Transition from Developer’s to Scrum Master’s Mindset

We’ve left this for the end, but it’s paramount to become a successful Scrum Master. Scrum Master are facilitators, not direct contributors on building product backlog items, as Developers are. This is the most important change between being a Developer and being a Scrum Master.

As a Scrum Master, you need to be aware of the context you’re working in, it’s all about delivering products (not projects) and it’s not about completing a specific user story or task you had assigned. Transparency is your new best friend, as transparency is one of the pillars of Scrum. Perhaps as a Developer, you didn’t always consider sharing best practices with everyone or making transparent a specific issue. As a Scrum Master, your first thoughts in any situation should be: “What would be an effective way of making this issue transparent?” Transparency about problems, issues, challenges, questions, etc., creates opportunities for Inspection and Adaptation, which leads to the continuous improvement of any Scrum Team.

Another critical aspect is that the Scrum Master shows people that they should talk with each other instead of about each other. Some killer sins of Development Team members are talking about people at the coffee machine, in informal calls or chats, or talking with management about their complaints on some of their colleagues. Doing such things reduces the Scrum Team’s trust, courage, openness, and respect. Once you’ve gone through all the above, get out there and start your journey as Scrum Master. A good start could be a volunteering project and then you can apply for Scrum Master jobs. It can be either in your organization or outside. The important part is to land your first job in the Scrum Master role. Once you get to practice, your day-to-day activities will become easier, and you will also sharpen your skills. Later on, to level up, you can transition to other teams or other types of products, with varying complexities.

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