This post is from the CollabNet VersionOne blog and has not been updated since the original publish date.
Your Career in Scrum – Pathways to Starting a Scrum career
Scrum is inspiring to me because it is one of the few management paradigms that seems to capitalize on the best of human psychology, yielding a result that is both best for workers and for business. Scrum can make work fun and, when you spend eight or more hours per day at work, it ought to be both challenging and fun (more on this in another blog). So it’s becoming more and more common that software and other management professionals want to become part of a Scrum organization. As in most industries, many prospective Scrum professionals run into the dilemma of “You can’t get the job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job.” What is an aspiring team member to do?
Before Danube started teaching Scrum classes, Danube was looking for experienced Scrum professionals to staff projects (for our clients and ourselves). There are a few things that helped us quickly identify folks who might do well on a Scrum team.
A two-day class is a good start
One way of attracting attention to a Scrum resume is with a “CSM.” The most obvious thing a prospective Scrum professional can do to begin a career in Scrum is to take a Certified ScrumMaster class from a Certified Scrum Trainer. Danube teaches these classes and our classes can be found here: http://www.collab.net/services/training/agile, but this article isn’t meant to be a commercial. You can also find the schedule of every other Certified Scrum Trainer here: http://www.scrumalliance.org/courses_world_wide. This two-day class will help the aspiring Scrum team member learn the vocabulary, principles, and practices of basic Scrum. It also opens the door to the Scrum community by providing participants membership in the ScrumAlliance, part of the fee paid to the trainer or training organization. Although the CSM is a reflection of only two days of Scrum learning, the experiential nature of most CSM courses ingrains the knowledge in a way that reading books can not.
One year of practice is even better
If a CSM is a great start, a CSP is a real reflection of experience. As a resume-reviewer, Certified Scrum Practitioner (CSP) designation is even more valuable than a CSM. Scrum professionals can apply to become CSP after taking a Certified ScrumMaster class or Certified Product Owner class and then participating on a Scrum team as a ScrumMaster, Product Owner, Analyst, Developer, Tester, or other Scrum professional for a full year after taking a CSM or CSPO class. Once the application is received by the ScrumAlliance, it is reviewed by the CSP approval committee and, if accepted, the applicant is designated a CSP. Directions on how to apply are located here: http://www.scrumalliance.org/view/practitioner_level_of_certification/
Agile engineering or XP experience is fantastic
If an applicant has pair-programmed, performed test-driven development, practiced continuous integration, or radically re-factored their code, they have great ingredients for being a good Scrum team member. The same values that apply to many XP practices like transparency, collaboration, relentless drive for quality, and acceptance of change, apply to Scrum as well. Often Scrum teams are in want of agile engineers, even if they lack Scrum experience. Many employers are hoping that XP professionals can share knowledge about agile engineering, while their Scrum teams teach agile engineers about Scrum. Together, Scrum management and good engineering practices like those listed above yield the best results.
Collaboration and facilitation skills are key
It’s not uncommon to have a career in mostly traditionally managed companies and candidates with no experience in projects that could be considered agile, Scrum, or XP might feel discouraged. There are still ways of making a resume more friendly to Scrum-minded employers. Candidates with a history of accomplishing team goals rather than performing individual heroics can describe those experiences that would help prepare them for working on a Scrum team. Professionals who have a demonstrated history of leading a group without actually managing them, especially with absolutely no organizationally designated authority, could be great ScrumMasters or even Product Owners. Having great facilitation skills and a demonstrated ability to face mistakes, adversity, and impediments head-on with transparency and tact also illustrate those skills. Scrum is about team achievements over individual heroics, leading rather than managing, and discovering and resolving impediments to success rather than avoiding them. Any candidate with natural or developed talent doing those things has a great foundation for a Scrum career.
Certifications and resume review
Certification is not the only path to a Scrum career. But having a certification helps make the job of resume-reviewers easier. Having a CSM, CSPO, or CSP designation is a way of catching the eye of the person reading a resume. Not only that, but in two days (and, of course, in two days plus a year of practice), participants in courses and those who go on to earn a CSP learn to have a similar vocabulary, way of practicing, and general view of teams that helps employers to be relatively certain that they are qualified for a particular job.
If certification isn’t an option for you, consider writing your resume to reflect Scrum practices and values, focusing on your real-world experience facilitating, leading, and resolving issues for a team.
I play a role in making Scrum courses happen, so I do come from a particular point of view. However, it’s my honest observation after participating in more than 20 CSM classes, PO classes, introduction courses, and coaching sessions that participants who took those courses learned real skills, even in a day or two of work. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to meet some of our clients and learn with them.
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