Career Prospects as Scrum Master

Last post 04:55 pm December 1, 2017
by Luiz Fabiano
5 replies
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10:28 pm November 23, 2017

Hey Everyone,

I need some opinions on whether or not becoming a scrum master is a realistic career option for me at this point.

A little background: I'm in my early 30s and have spent the last 7 years in sales/account management for major commercial insurance brokerages.

I just recently moved to another city (Toronto) and was considering a career change in a new field.  I was thinking of trying out some project based work when one of my best friends (who is a director at a large IT firm) suggested that I look into becoming a scrum master.

My friend obviously knows me very well and thinks my personality would be very suitable for the job.  He thinks that I would be able to learn scrum very quickly (I consider myself a quick learner) despite having no experience in IT.  While he does think that I might have a tougher time getting hired initially, once I do land a job, it'll be smooth sailing from there.

Here's my issue: My friend has been in IT his whole professional life so I'm worried that what he considers "easy" and "common sense" may not be so for people who have never been in the industry.  I'm worried that he's massively underplaying the complexity of being a scrum master.

I'm hoping to gather some more opinions here from people who are in this field.  Do you think that someone who has no IT experience is able to jump right into being a scrum master if they're willing to put in the time/effort to learn the skills?

Thanks in advance for all your insights!

CJ

 

11:56 pm November 27, 2017

Hi CJ,

It is a common notion that Scrum is used only in IT - which is incorrect. Scrum/Agile is actually how-to, and it is not a technology. There is no syntax, no compiler, no hard-coded rules. So to put simply, Scrum is a framework. It is a set of guidelines to deliver quality stuff and at regular intervals as agreed upon. It can be 2 weeks, 3 or even 4. These iterations are called Sprints. I can talk about it in detail, but let us keep it brief here. :)

http://wikispeed.org/ - is a brilliant example where scrum is used in non-IT world.

So, I guess you don't have to worry about using Scrum only in IT. However, if you do plan to move out of IT again in the future, Scrum will stay with you. Secondly, I (just like many others) belong to your age group and completed CSM  (Certified Scrum Master) early 2017 - and I believe that Scrum Masters are here to stay. Being a scrum master (SM), you are guiding people (both business and developers) towards achieving maximum throughput, and you are also continuously looking out for improvement - be it in the process and/or people. Being in IT for 9 years now, I understand why your friend says it is easy, but as you mentioned you are willing to put in time/effort to learn more - you should go for it.

As a first step, I would strongly recommend that you should read more about Scrum beforehand, and then decide whether to or not to jump on the Agile bandwagon. From my experience, it is worth it.

All the best to you!

Regards,

Adwait.

10:45 pm November 29, 2017

I want to preface this by saying that I fully support your desire to move into Scrum and that I hope my comment is received well because it is not meant to deter you from going this route. I just want to give you the side that most people will not tell you about.

The problem is not that you don't have IT experience, the problem is you don't Scrum Master experience. Unless you know someone that will hire you with no experience, it is very tough to break into Scrum Master role with just the certification. I've worked with Scrum Teams in the past but no experience as a Scrum Master and even though I've been told the same thing you have by friends in IT, I've yet to get a full time Scrum Master role due to lack of experience as a SM. I just moved to QA with my current company and have been allowed to begin implementing Scrum so I will be gaining my experience this way in order to eventually earn a full-time SM position. 

If your friend is a director in IT and is encouraging you to go this route, I would put him on the spot to hire you once you earn the certification. If you're not comfortable doing that, ask him point blank the likelihood of him hiring a Scrum Master with no Scrum Master experience. I would bet that he would not be willing to do so. 

Take it from me that this is no cakewalk and you will struggle to find a company to hire you with just the CSM or PSM initials behind your name. Before making the investment to go down this route, I would suggest discussing this with those in power to hire and ask for their feedback. Ask them what challenges you face breaking into the Agile world and how you can use your background and experience to translate into Scrum. For those in a hiring role, ask if they would hire you with just the certification.  As much as I love Scrum, you may be better off using your experience with sales and account management to get on as a Product Owner or go the PMP route outside of Scrum. 

All due respect to Adwait, simply being willing to put in the time and effort to learn is not going to get you a job as a Scrum Master. You have a huge uphill battle ahead of you so you need to prepare. Network with those in Scrum and seek out companies that are willing to hire "junior" Scrum Masters (these companies are hard to come by but they are out there). A junior SM is typically a person with some exposure to Scrum and training/certification. If your friend as the director will help bring you onto his firm once you get the certification, then by all means go for it. If you continue to hear from others in Scrum in your area that experience is the key, you may need to look for a different career path.

Best of luck and I would love to help in any way I can. I've learned a lot through my many interviews and resume critiques.

09:49 pm November 30, 2017

CJ, it is never too late to seek the light.   ;-)

I was a Project Manager for over 10 years (IT 20+ years) before I was introduced to Agile.   Luckily, my division was converting from traditional project management to Scrum, so I didn't experience as many difficulties as others trying to enter the Scrum Master workforce with only a certification to my name.

Networking is critical.   I've gained much knowledge (and contacts) through regular Agile and Scrum-related Meetups.   Look for such meetings in your area.

There are a ton of people out there with the Scrum certification, and even a strong knowledge of Agile, but it is the actual experience serving 1 or more teams that will most benefit your maturity and growth as a Scrum Master.   Seek opportunities, wherever they are, to learn Scrum/Agile/Lean and apply what you know.

Good luck.

10:13 pm November 30, 2017

Absolutely echo with Timothy called out. Networking is huge and the meetups I've attended are helpful. Look through LinkedIn for Scrum Masters in your area and connect with them. I've asked for tips from others in my area and what I've found is 95% of the SM's that I've contacted for tips and advice have been more than happy to help. 

Scrum and Agile is an incredible field and the people are the best I've worked with but it is a challenge entering in without a handup or previous Scrum experience. Keep trying though, you may be in an area that is not heavily saturated with experienced SM's and you may be able to get in with just the certification. DFW is saturated with SM's so you need experience or it's virtually impossible to get anywhere.

04:55 pm December 1, 2017

Hi CJH

I work in IT for more 10 years in Brazil in largest industries financial, adquirence, banks and education. Actually I'm system analyst in a cards processor. Here we use the framework scrum and agile in projects of development systems (in all phases). About your issue: I believe you are correct about be Scrum Master. The framework Scrum coverage all business and fields (not only IT). Regards!!!