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Im interested in becoming a Scrum Master but I don't have any experience working in a true Scrum/Agile environment. I work in the tech industry managing clients and web production for an email platform company, so it's different than typical development. Would getting my Scrum Certification be enough to find a job? I'm trying to figure out the best way to go about this. Any advice would be great!

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  • Sure, I would just start changing your current methodology over to scrum. A certificate later would help if you go for jobs
    – Ewan
    Oct 27, 2015 at 11:09
  • @Ewan - This worked for the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz but I'm not too sure that it's a simple in practice. There are thousands of people who have attended a two day course and been handed a Scrum Master Certification after a perfunctory exam where they have just been taught the answers. The scrum.org professional scrum master is much more difficult requiring one shot to get 67/80 questions. But still can be studied for and passed without practical experience. Nov 26, 2015 at 15:41
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    I think you got my comment the wrong way around.
    – Ewan
    Nov 26, 2015 at 16:33

8 Answers 8

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You can be a Scrum Master, but without any experience in Agile, you will not be effective. The training itself is two days, and does not cover most of the extreme cases you'll meet day to day.

If you would like to be a good Scrum Master, be part of a team that actually is agile, and learn from its Scrum Master. If you would like to land a good job, do the two-day long course and get the certificate.

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Would getting my Scrum Certification be enough to find a job?

Certification will certainly help.

When I'm looking to hire I look for:

  1. Practical, demonstrable and relevant experience
  2. Relevant education / certification

Since you have some non-scrum-master expertise you may try looking for a SM job in the industry you have experience in so you can use your experience as leverage (eg "Whilst I'm new to the Scrum Master role, I have my certification and a wealth of experience in this domain so I have all the tools I need to be a success").

Everyone starts somewhere.

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Part of Scrum Master skill profile is playing the facilitator and coach role. While the technical aspects can be learnt through books, trainings, and videos, the above aspect will require some hands on.

My advice is to strongly understand the Scrum technical foundation by opting for the excellent certificate PSM 1. Use the popular book for PSM 'Scrum Narrative and PSM Exam Guide.' https://www.amazon.com/Scrum-Narrative-Exam-Guide-All-ebook/dp/B018JXYRNA

On the softer aspect, apply Scrum in whatever you do today (Scrum is not just for software dev alone. It is a framework to solve complex problems). This will provide some basic experience. With that you are reasonably set for next opportunity.

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It is totally possible to be a Scrum Master without any experience.

What you will help you achieve this is:

  • A willingness and hunger to learn, going way beyond the initial certification training
  • Joining Agile communities - like meet-ups, conferences, talks, etc.
  • Reading books, blogs, etc.
  • An open-mind and the humility to realise you will make mistakes

Getting your first Scrum Master role can be challenging. A few things that can help:

  • A common route in is to combine being a Scrum Master with something else. A lot of Scrum Masters take on the role part-time combined with being a developer, tester, BA or similar. This isn't the ideal environment to be a Scrum Master in, but it is a good opportunity to get started.
  • Charities and non-profit organisations often have a much more open-mind about the experience levels needed to be a Scrum Master.
  • Use your network - getting employed by somebody who knows you already and trusts you to deliver can really help
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Although there are companies who hire people with little to no experience and maybe a certification or two as Scrum Masters, it is not a role to be filled by someone without experience. The role of a Scrum Master on a team is not an entry-level role and it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for someone without hands-on experience working in an agile (and specifically Scrum) environment in some capacity to act as a Scrum Master.

I prefer to look at a broader picture than just Scrum, however. The Scrum Master is a specific example of a coaching role, and other frameworks have similar roles. DSDM has the DSDM Coach. Scaled Agile Framework has the SAFe Practice Consultant along with Solution Train Engineers, Release Train Engineers, and Team Coaches. Disciplined Agile has various Team Lead, Process Engineer, and similar process improvement-oriented roles. All of these can be generalized to an agile coach role, although they may have non-coaching components as well.

A good model to think about the agile coach role is Lyssa Adkins and Michael Spayd's Agile Coach Competency Framework.

In order to be an effective agile coach, you need competency in a few key areas:

  • Agile and Lean Practices - Using the values and principles from Agile and Lean methods and applying them to real-world situations.
  • Teaching and/or Mentoring - Conveying knowledge and experience to the individuals and organizations that you work with.
  • Coaching and/or Facilitating - Working with stakeholders to understand the direction they want to go, discover the best places to be, and guide them on the journey without forcing your own opinions or judgements on the team.
  • Mastery - Deep expertise in the technical domain, business, product management, or organizational change that you can draw on to teach, mentor, coach, and facilitate.

Not everyone is going to be an expert in everything. Not every agile coach is both an effective teacher and an effective mentor or an effective coach and an effective facilitator. These are different skills. However, you do need to be able to somehow convey knowledge and you do need to be able to guide the people and organizations you work with. Similarly, there are people from highly technical backgrounds who can work more closely with technical people on the practices and tools and techniques to enable agility and those are different than people who understand product and project management and making business value decisions. Although high degrees of mastery in different areas is good, one person can't be expected to be a master of all of them.

However, someone who has never worked in an agile environment or doesn't have in-depth experience delivering products or helping organizations change doesn't have the requisite knowledge and experience to be able to be effective. In my experience, these people tend to be relegated to note-takers or meeting-schedulers or other kinds of assistants. They don't drive teams and organizations to continually improve and get better, while navigating the uncertainty and ambiguity and fear of change.

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    @ToddA.Jacobs Not fully. The name is "SAFe Scrum Master/Team Coach", officially. But I think they are moving in that direction. Which is indeed a good thing.
    – Thomas Owens
    Jan 23 at 18:00
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    Our comments temporally crossed each other. I just checked, and SAFe is still using a "Scrum Master" role at the team level. That annoys me because SAFe doesn't fully comply with the Scrum framework, and that often leads people astray. As of today, they're still offering a SAFe Scrum Master Certification, while your post gave me some hope that they'd dropped that facade.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Jan 23 at 18:02
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Traditional Project Management and being a Agile coach playing a Scrum Master role are at two different ends. If you don't know any thing on Agile Practices first I would like to suggest you to take PMI-ACP and Scrum Alliance SCM certifications. May be you can join a company with agile culture and shadow how the scrum master takes the daily stand up meetings and learn the theories first. You need to think agile and adopt your self to the discipline to become an successful scrum master.

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I work in the tech industry managing clients and web production for an email platform company, so it's different than typical development.

You're right, managing clients is not per se project management.

but I don't have any experience working in a true Scrum/Agile environment

That is rather your benefit. You are willing to learn, which is your first step. Second, you learn about Agile and focus on Scrum. But I recommend you another thing. Check if Agile will deliver the results you expect for your environment. Maybe it does, maybe not. Maybe it is alien to the environment, maybe not. Enjoy your journey.

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Without Agile experience you will find it hard to get a Scrum Master role, even if you get the certification.

Try working in a Scrum environment first to see whether you like it. Scrum has a lot of rules. As a Scrum Master you will be expected to buy in heavily to the Scrum methodology. Be sure that you agree with the methodology before become a champion of it.

Bear in mind also that the Scrum Master is in theory a "temporary" role to enable teams to become self organising and motivating. So the perfect Scrum Master is someone who makes themselves redundant.

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