I probably see this question asked more than any other on all of the Scrum Master groups that I am in and it isn’t a sentence or two answer so I thought I’d weigh in here and link to it.
So you have a PSM or CSM certificate – congratulations! But, now you wonder how to get a job with no experience? Like any field; social work, teacher, vet, plumber, scientist, etc, there is a time for training and a time for experience and they both matter! Many of the same things apply to becoming a Scrum Master as to any other profession. Make sure to network effectively, make sure you have great references (they don’t have to be Scrum related) things like you are you are a decent human, you show up on time, you are a creative problem solver etc. Make sure to have an awesome resume, make sure you share it with companies doing Scrum that you want to work for, and be sure to find companies doing Scrum that you want to work for!
These next suggestions are a bit more Scrum specific; read blogs, books, and listen to podcasts from other people in the Scrum world to learn more, much much more. Here is a direct quote from the Scrum Guide, (which you should read often!) it is at the end of Definition of Scrum, “Specific tactics for using the Scrum framework vary and are described elsewhere.” That is your golden ticket right there!
That means there is loads of information on the HOW to do Scrum in other places and it means there isn’t one way to do it, so the more you can learn and practice, the more tools you will have to use when you do get a job and the more you will be able to serve your team and organization. So read voraciously but don’t just read, apply! You do NOT need a software development team to do Scrum. Let me repeat that, you do not need a software development team to do Scrum. You don’t even have to have a team, though it is ideal. You need a project, business, or goal that is suited for Scrum. So look around your house, your neighborhood, your friends and family and see what challenges there are and use Scrum to help resolve them! Then apply the tactics you learned about and be transparent, inspect, and adapt. That way, you will have some experience, and you should definitely add it to your resume, and hiring managers will see that you are a go-getter who is finding ways to use Scrum without having a traditional Scrum Master job title and that will set you apart from everyone else. You will also have answers for many of the questions in a Scrum Master interview – also a major plus!
Example; after I was certified I worked for myself doing technical writing and QA, marketing/ web design/ blog/ SEO for 4 completely different businesses, voice overs, and revising a 175,000+ word trilogy I wrote. How did I manage all of these things? Scrum!
First thing I did was to write down all of the things I needed to do for each of them and organized it by project. Some had a more clearly defined definition of Done than others, (when I revised all 175,000+ words and sent it to the editor for further revision it was done vs technical writing and QA projects never ending but the specific projects did, I just moved to another). Once I had all the epics jotted down, I went through and prioritized and included daily tasks in the prioritization as well. Adding daily tasks was critical to determining my capacity because I had several daily tasks that often took at least 2-3 hours a day so I needed to factor that in. Once prioritized I did complexity and estimated time to complete. From there I pulled specifics into my sprint backlog for the sprint, I did week long sprints. I then worked my backlog for the week and each day would check-in with myself and my backlog for a quick Daily Scrum – what have I done, what is left, what do I need to adjust/ change to get everything completed? Did something change with an item or 5 in the sprint backlog? How do I need to adjust to accommodate that? Then at the end of the week I reviewed everything done and not done (not a traditional review, but the gist is there). At the beginning especially I found that I often was not finished with everything and so my retro often consisted of why am I not done? I realized I wasn’t done because my clients kept changing the scope but not the due date and because I had so many clients none of them really and any idea how much work I was doing so I found it hard to explain that i was happy to serve but I couldn’t add 3 more things for them without something being undone for someone else. I finally got better at saying, “sure I can do that, but it will be x date before I can be done, or then what do you not want included?” Granted, I still have more room to improve that as well! 🙂
I often started the next sprint’s planning meeting by carrying over what wasn’t finished, and checking my complexity and time estimates on everything before pulling in the next round of things, as well as doing a quick prioritization check, since the priorities sometimes changed as well. Everything is documented and over time I watched the backlog shrink. I also realized while doing this that it wasn’t sustainable and I didn’t want to do it long term so I also looked for a FT Scrum Master job and got one, partially from sharing what I just shared with you! Then, things got really crazy, because I still had commitments to several of the projects I had been working on and couldn’t just leave them hanging, so that’s when I spent about 6 months doing almost nothing but work! Eventually, I finished or dropped several of the clients and got to a sustainable pace. By the way, a fantastic way to learn about sustainable pace it to put yourself in the position of not being in one, you will learn more about yourself than you thought there was to learn, including, most likely, how much more you can do than you think you can!
So, that is just one example of how I used Scrum – you can use it to help manage projects around the house, moving, organizing the garage, painting, planting a garden, losing weight, training for a marathon etc. You can use it to help your kids do chores, remember their bed time routine, have a great week with visiting family, plan a vacation, party, or family reunion etc..
There is a gaping hole in this idea, do you see it? So much of being a Scrum Master is working with a team and helping them become a cross-functional, self-organizing, high performing, fulfilled group of people. For that, I’d say practice with your family, or friends in big and small ways. Practice teaching them, practice ice breakers, exercises, or learning games with them. Coordinate a family reunion or a party and then coordinate some team building games and facilitate them. Practice bringing out the best in others when you run errands, look for the good in everyone and tell them about it, and by all means work on yourself! One of your greatest limitations as a Scrum Master is your EQ and awareness of your ‘stuff’ and how healed you are or aren’t. Example, do you want to be liked by everyone all the time? To the point that you won’t make hard calls and risk someone not liking you even when it is the right thing to do? Then deal with that – because it will limit your ability to be a great Scrum Master! You can’t please everyone all the time, and you need to be able to have hard conversations with team mates and/or management as part of the job, so make sure to work, and keep working on your self. Your friends, family, and co-workers will benefit from it, as well as yourself, even if they don’t directly notice it.
The point is to apply what you learn and keep practicing it. Scrum is easy to explain and very difficult to master for a reason! It takes practice! And then more practice!
I hope all of these tips help you not only land a fantastic Scrum Master job but also to be a great Scrum Master, we need more great ones! Please be sure to comment and let me know if this is helpful for you, what you tried, and how it went. There isn’t just one way to getting a job as a Scrum Master, but this is a great one and I hope it is useful for you!