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What are the qualifications of a Scrum/Agile coach? Can someone with no actual experience in a scrum team but has passed certifications be qualified?

Last post 04:20 pm September 5, 2019 by Daniel Wilhite
7 replies
11:38 pm September 3, 2019

09:19 am September 4, 2019

Certifications will help you stand out of the crowd easily, make your resume and profile shine and glitter more than others. But in actual world, while coaching it will not just your knowledge that helps it also your experience, your communication skills, inter personal skills etc (which is more often than not). 

I have seen managers and business people become scrum masters, product owners with or without PSM certificates and perform badly in there respective duties. I have also seen people becoming scrum masters, product owners without certificate but with fair knowledge of scrum perform well. 

If you are interested in becoming coach then it is really important you gain some experience in scrum team or work with other agile coaches before getting into leadership mode.

11:11 am September 4, 2019

Qualifications: the right mindset, knowledge and softkills

07:54 pm September 4, 2019

Certifications get you into interviews, Experience gets you the job offer.

Could you be qualified with no experience? That depends on what the organization's needs are for the coaches. An organization going through an Agile Transformation, the coaches are primarily used as trainers rather than Coaches. In that scenario, of course a person with just a cert (or several) can get into that job. If the org is going to focus on actual growth and continuous improvement, someone with no real world experience will not be able to do a quality job. Besides, coaching involves more than just training people on Scrum and Agile. Coaching involves some actual counseling as well. It involves getting to know people and being an ear to listen and provide some actual help from experience, not just suggestions because of what the Scrum Guides says. 

09:36 am September 5, 2019

I think we are missing some opportunity here.

That is to say we need a place where Scrum Masters can learn and grow. Often, and I know this was the case for me, getting the certification was my entryway /starting point into getting a job.

If we don't allow people with any experience to get experience, then you will eventually run out of scrum masters. 

The most important point for me, does this person have the right value set and mindset to do the job. If it is a yes, then employ them, and let them learn. More importantly, let them make mistakes and learn from their mistakes and let them improve iteratively.

Just my 2 cents. 

12:08 pm September 5, 2019

Another idea is to find some networking events within the Agile space in your area. If you show you have the right mindset and passion to do the job you'll be one of the first people thought of when positions do open up. 

It's also an awesome opportunity to share experiences, challenges, and ideas with other members of the community. 

03:30 pm September 5, 2019

@Stephen Sykes While I agree with your point, this thread is not regarding Scrum Masters. The question is what qualifies a person to be an Agile Coach and if you can do that without actual experience. I made my point about this above so no need to rehash it.


04:20 pm September 5, 2019

What are the qualifications of a Scrum/Agile coach? 

In my opinion it is:

  • desire to help people work in teams and share responsibility with others 
  • taking pride in helping others become better
  • strong belief that Empiricism is valuable
  • strong belief and understanding in servant-leadership
  • understanding of how Scrum is a framework to build upon and not a process to be followed
  • understanding of agile principles

Depending on the level of Scrum/Agile coach you are trying to enter, all of those qualities vary in degree of knowledge.  As @Stephen Sykes points out, you can't have experience if you are never given the chance to gain it. A couple of the best Scrum Masters/Agile Coaches I have ever worked with had absolutely no previous experience but had a strong desire.  They were fortunate enough to work somewhere that gave them a chance and had someone to mentor them. But they started with all of the things I listed in varying degrees.

Can someone with no actual experience in a scrum team but has passed certifications be qualified?

I don't look for certifications when I evaluate individuals for these roles. I obtain certifications for my own edification as they help me validate my own understandings/knowledge. I really don't expect anyone else to care although some do. I have taken and passed many courses during my school and career but do not feel like I really understand how to do the work.  I passed 2 accounting courses during my college degree but I have failed at creating personal budgets on so many occasions I have quit trying. If I see someone with certifications, I don't assume they know the material. I ask them why they got it, how they prepared for it and then ask questions to see if they really learned or just remembered enough to answer the questions correctly. 

Yes, someone with no actual experience can be qualified as I stated in the first part of my response. 

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