Changed my life to become a scrum master. Advice appreciated

Last post 09:10 am June 11, 2019
by Johannes Geske
17 replies
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12:50 pm May 15, 2019

Hi everyone.

 

Stephen here. First of all thanks for taking the time to read this. Long story short, I left my career in teaching English as a foreign language to learn to become a scrum master.

1. What I did

So I always knew about scrum, and before I decided to do PSM 1 I thought I needed to at least learn to code a bit. I've read blogs where people say you can do it without some knowledge of coding, but I thought if I wanted to give myself the best chance I would give it a try.

So with no real knowledge, I enrolled and successfully completed a javascript based coding boot-camp. This lasted from January to March.

When I came back home in April, I thought I was ready to go full into scrum. I decided against doing a course and go direct into the source material. For 3 weeks my office looked like a crime scene, with lots of string attached to various pieces of paper. 

Foolishly I tried to attempt the exam after the first week having passed the open assessment multiple times, as well as various other online tests , but it showed my lack of real understanding. The second time round in week 3, I made sure to read a lot round the subject as well as the guide. Blogs, books, courses, anything I could get my hand on, I ate them up. Thankfully I passed.

2. Where I am now

I've just updated my CV and I'm looking for advice.  I have no professional scrum experience. I have written to some large firms asking to shadow a scrum team to get some experience first hand, but even though its still early days, I have had nothing back so far.

So, should I:

1. Study for the scrum with kanban certificate? How useful is it, and is it well known/ sought after by employers?

2. Should I apply for jobs directly, even though I have never had a scrum master job? (Plenty of other experience which is relevant though)

3. What do you recommend to a starting scrum master to highlight in his covering letter?

 

Thanks again.

 

Stephen

 

 

06:50 pm May 15, 2019

My opinion and advice is to apply for jobs.  From my experience in the United States, the only way that companies would let you shadow a team is if you are an intern or new hire. Not sure how other countries work.  But I suggest you apply for jobs and look for ones where they are trying to find "junior" talent or low experience levels.  If the company really understands Scrum, they will see that your teaching background can actually be a beneficial talent for Scrum Masters and that your path to the certification shows a real passion.  

Pursuing more certifications isn't always an aid to employment.  Check out this thread for some good discussion on the subject of certifications. (https://www.scrum.org/forum/scrum-forum/29903/why-agile-community-so-hung-certifications).  If in your case the pursuit of the certification helps you feel stronger in your knowledge, then go ahead. But I would suggest trying the PSM II before the PSK as it shows deeper knowledge of Scrum.  You might also consider the PSD I, PSPO I to accompany your PSM I.  Again it shows an ability to understand Scrum from the perspective of the entire Scrum Team. 

Cover letter is a hard one for me.  I actually never provide a cover letter when I apply in the United States for jobs.  (Again not sure how important it is in other countries.) I usually want my resume to talk for me. I have provided comments on applications and usually tailor them towards the posted job description for which I am applying.  As an English teacher I assume you are really good at context and could probably craft some very good responses.  Do not hide your inexperience as a Scrum Master and highlight your other relevant experience.  Highlight your passion for Scrum as evident by your complete change in career and pursuit of knowledge in the area. 

Good luck and please come back here with updates.  I think your journey could help a lot of others thinking of venturing into the this world as well as people like me that are still trying to find that place I want to call my last job. 

07:19 pm May 15, 2019

Hi Daniel, 

 

Thanks for the helpful post.

 

I take on board what your saying, and think applying for jobs is also probably the best way forward. I suppose internally, I was thinking of doing more qualifications to cover my lack of experience. You are right in that I have other transferable skills which I think are super useful, especially when it comes to communicative approaches and removing impediments.

Although I am British, I live in Germany, and the German tradition of doing things is very by the book.

 

That said, I will keep you up to date on a new scrum master's journey.

 

Kind regards, 

 

Stephen

 

09:57 am May 16, 2019

From Daniel answer I conclude that you live in US. Let me share the story how have I found a job in Texas, US in 1996.

I have arrived there from Poland and I stayed with my dad, who lives there. I was looking a job as Oracle database programmer mainly. I sent out more that 100 CVs and received two invitations for interview. My dad arrange visit at dentist for my. After conversation with dentist assistant she said that her friend is looking for someone in Nortel. I applied and I worked there for one year. After that I returned to Poland. I have married and we lived hapily ever after :)

 

01:31 pm May 23, 2019

Stephen, 

Before I really got into my SM work, I thought certifications would get me the job and I'd be set..... boy was I wrong! I learned that all the certifications do is get you in for an interview. I'm a huge supporter of getting certifications, but get them for the right reason. I want to build up my arsenal because it is a way that I can view what I've learned, they are accomplishments of completion. 

With that said, before you send out 100's of resumes, I strongly suggest you find recruiters in your area that have had experience working with folks like yourself. Let them critique your resume and advise you how to structure the resume. They would also be able to advise you on the likelihood of you getting a job too. As I said previously, the certification will get you through the door for an interview, but you either need to have experience or a tremendous wealth of knowledge of Scrum in order to win the interview and ultimately the job. 

I work as an Agile Coach for a large organization going through an Agile Transformation and I frequently participate in interviewing prospective Scrum Masters. I personally feel that experience is great but it can also be a detriment because if it is bad experience; that is worse than no experience at all. 

To summarize, reach out to recruiters in your area that have actually placed Scrum Masters and work with them. Once you've had that done, spend a couple hours a day applying for jobs, and be sure to keep reading and studying on the life of a Scrum Master. 1 book that I highly recommend you invest in is Essential Scrum by Ken S Rubin. One of the best investments I've made and I still use it frequently. 

Best Wishes my friend. I would be happy to give your resume a look as well, just realize that I'm in Texas, not Germany, so there are many things that may be done differently there. Find me on LinkedIn and send it my way if you feel like it.

03:20 pm May 23, 2019

I'll echo Curtis Slough's excellent advice to talk to recruiters. And I'll add this: look for agile user groups or meetups in your area. My growth as a Scrum Master really took off after I began attending a local Scrum Master group. User groups often provide opportunities to demonstrate and practice what you've learned, as well as connect with other agile practitioners who may be able to mentor you in getting your career off the ground.

Best of luck!

07:55 pm May 23, 2019

I have no experience in Germany, we hire and interview SMs in Hungary and seen some juniors.

Coding is absolutely no help, IT background would be, without that you have harder time getting a SM job.

All the advices above are great (meetups, recruiter contact, good books, finding mentors). 

If you think it worth it, upload your cv, we can check how we see it.

But your biggest thing as a junior is mindset and toolset. Companies who are willing to interview SMs without IT background look for mindset, so for that you have to deeply understand what agile is, and how can you contribute. And if you are junior and you can show some specific tools you have that shows you are more than an idea. How would you handle a conflict? How would you facilitate a hard decision? How do you provide feedback? (these questions are tipical at our company, but a bigger multi might not focus on these on an interview, not sure)

Id suggest find someone around you (Germany is full of great SMs) and talk to them, for that the meetups mentioned above are great.

08:23 pm May 26, 2019

Hi everyone. Thanks for the useful feedback.

 

So this is my target for this week, and I will come back to you with results next week.

1. Reach out to recruiters to critique my CV

2. Join some scrum meet ups where I live.

 

I appreciate all your helpful advice, and I look forward to coming back to you and telling you what I found.

 

Thanks again, 

 

Stephen

10:49 am May 27, 2019

Hey Stephen, your case is very good as its really helpful for others facing same scenario.

Years back, I was in the same scenario have no experience and  not following a specific career path I’d chose in my life & ( till today I’m still shaping it ).
as Scrum master and I’m speaking for countries like GCC in middle east, it’s hard to get this job title or even work in Agile culture, so what basically I advise you & myself is to enhance your experience in business analysis, business development because to be a good Scrum Master means you’re strongly able to analysis everything around you, from helping product owners to coach Dev-teams in order to be a cross functional & last but not least is empower the Agile transformation with Executive management in your organization then Agile coach must be your aim later on.
I hope it can help.

Best wishes,

Saleh

11:34 am May 29, 2019

Hi everyone, 

 

Just a quick catch up post. Again thank you for all your responses.

 

So i have sent my cv to several recruiters and am awaiting feedback. 

 

I applied for several jobs, with most of them coming back as a no.

 

There was one company that I was really keen on, so I wrote a follow up email saying asking look, I know I probably didn't get the job because I lack firsthand experience, but is there any possibility for some job shadowing / work placement so I can get that experience?

 

In response said I should apply for an internship, and I have an interview next week.

 

So here are my thoughts.

As long as the internship is scrum focussed, I'll take it. I'm not afraid to be a 34 year old intern. This is an opportunity to learn. Also if I can prove myself, maybe there will be an opportunity to work for them directly after.

 

Will keep you all posted, and thanks again for your valuable suggestions.

 

Stephen

05:50 pm May 29, 2019

Networking beats job boards imo. Reach out to people.

Don't give up!

03:40 pm June 4, 2019

So just another update:

 

Bit of a disappointing week, but still motivated.

 

The internship position I applied for turned out to be a dud. No guarantee of working anywhere near the scrum team, and from what I was lead to believe, it would be answering calls from disgruntled customers...

I have asked to do an internship/traineeship in several companies, but only 2 have come back to me so far, and both said they don't offer it.

Whats even more dissapointing, is the employment office is offering to cover the salary costs if they let me do a 1 month internship...

I have a meeting tomorrow afternoon tomorrow to discuss my CV

 

Anyway, I'll keep plodding.

 

Appreciate the feedback

06:31 pm June 4, 2019

Inspect, adapt, repeat.   True mantra of an agile practitioner.  Don't lose faith. It will happen when it is right. In the meantime keep studying and looking for a mentor.  

Good luck and keep up the fight. 

06:09 am June 5, 2019

@Daniel Cheers matey. Faith not lost, you learn the most from failure, so pushing on!

08:55 am June 5, 2019

Hello Stephen, 

I understand you live in Germany. Do you live near Dusseldorf? Do you understand German well enough to follow a Scrum Team's conversing in German? Responding in English would be perfectly fine? If so, I might have an internship for you. Let me know if you are interested?

Best, Johannes

09:19 am June 5, 2019

Hi Johannes,

I am definitely interested and thank you for posting. Yes that should not be a problem. I used to work for a language school, and I was tested at  CEF level B2.1 in German.

I will send you a contact request on linkedin, so you can tell me more about the internship privately.

Thank you very much for taking an interest. I really appreciate it.

Stephen

 

 

 

07:43 am June 11, 2019

Update *

 

So this morning I had a call with Johannes Geske, and he has very kindly offered me an internship. First off a big thank you to Johannes for giving me this opportunity, but also thank you for all the people who offered me advice.

 

 

Stephen

09:10 am June 11, 2019

You are very welcome, Stephen! We are looking forward to working with you!