Job prospects with PSM I certificate but no practical Scrum experience
Despite having 6 years of professional experience in software development - rising through the (very traditional) ranks from QA Tester to QA Lead at a games' publisher - I have never actually worked in a Scrum team, or even an Agile environment. I did become very interested in Scrum and its potential when I first heard about it, started studying it and I am pleased to report that last week I passed the PSM I exam at the first attempt with a score of 96.3%.
As my entire department is being moved abroad, I am now on the lookout for a new job and was hoping to actually make the career switch to Scrum Master. I am fearful though that my completely lack of experience as a Scrum team member is going to really hurt my chances. Being the person responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum might seem a bit odd after all, when all the other members of the team will have more Scrum experience than me. Hence, my following two questions:
- Given my background as I described above, would you say it is unrealistic of me to hope I'd have a shot at getting hired for a Scrum Master role? Do you know of anyone else who had a similar lack of practical Scrum experience but still managed to get into their first Scrum Master role?
- Getting hired as a Scrum Master is one thing, actually performing well in that role is another. I fully recognise that I still have loads to learn. For example I know now that I am supposed to teach the Development Team to keep the Daily Scrum restricted to its 15-minute time box or that I am to help the Product Owner find techniques for more effective Product Backlog management, I also know why that is the Scrum Master's responsibility, but my PSM I preparation has not taught me how to do those things. So: which next steps would you advise for me to deepen my knowledge and better prepare for a Scrum Master role?
Many thanks in advance to anyone willing to share some insights or advice!
1. If you've been a lead, you may be able to work that into your resume and your interview. It's more likely that you will land a contract role than a full-time role.
2. You will need to invest in yourself. There are several Agile organizations that provide certifications. Certifications make you look good on paper so you can get the interview. They also help build your foundation and introduce to your peers. You should attend in-person certification trainings. Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches I have met in the last few years held multiple certifications from these Agile certification organizations, including Scrum.org.
yes ,i agree ,"You should attend in-person certification trainings. "
Thank you both for the replies. I do intend to obtain further certifications, but they will have to be through self-study. As much as I would like to attend in-person certification training, €1000 or more is simply not the kind of money I have available to me to spend on a 2-day course, unfortunately...
I am now thinking to go for PSM II, to start with. If there are other specific certifications that someone could recommend, advice on which specific areas to focus on or which tools/resources to use, then I would be most grateful.
Hi, you asked a very specific question - how to apply what you been taught. I had the same questions and have been researching online various situations to apply my knowledge. Just searching on Google has been extremely helpful. Going back in time to my own experiences with problematic team and thinking about how I would resolve has been good. And I have started reading coaching tips online to help learn how to coach versus solve the problems. hope that helps.
I am going to do PSM1 but considering the reality,will it fetch me any job outside is a BIG question and not sure how to proceed as they are asking for software exposure and other tools exposure...not sure how to go about it...can anyone suggest or guide me in right direction
I actually had a similar background, I'll share my experience, hopefully you can make some informed decisions from there.
I imagine being in game development you're somewhat of a gamer, as am I! I spent a few years trying to do the youtube content creation thing back in like 2012, but that didn't work out. I ended up landing a contract position at a telecom company to do order entry black box testing. I did that for about a year with very minimal responsibilities. I had one tiny system that I was completely responsible for testing.
About a year into the position my boss started giving me more responsibility, added me to a lead assistance and had me learning the end to end testing of the companies product lines. After two years of that, I was handling three of my own projects at a time, training 4 new contractors by myself, working 7 to 7 and just putting the time in.
An opportunity to promote two contractors to full time, and I won out. A year later, our company was bought out by a major name, in order to make us more attractive, we underwent agile transformation following the spotify model. I was selected to learn Team Foundation Server and Scrum. I was voluntold I would be the Scrum Master for two pilot projects, which on the first project just consisted of me taking meeting notes and doing data entry for user stories.
After that, I was actually placed into a real team, with an on site customer. The closest to a true Scrum team I've EVER participated in. Day one of the launch, our PO was re-assigned along with 3 of the 6 developers on the project. We were told to just get it done anyway...
I talked with the other 3 developers and customer. We all agreed to make the sprint cadence 1 week, with a weekly review in person where we would demo the work and request feedback / refine the backlog and then start the next iteration. This worked despite completely lacking a product owner, and was not Scrum, but it was still Agile. This project released on time, with all of the major features requested, and the customer was so happy our team was taken out for a special day on the companies dime as appreciation.
Soon after that the major company that bought us out stepped in and I was re-assigned to being a tester again full time. I'll spare you all the crap that followed, but I was desperate to get out of this new company and wanted to pursue Scrum full time. I went and got my 2 day sticker saying I was a Scrum "Master". Thought I was going to change the world!
I applied like mad, spent 6 months trying to find anything, no one would even interview me. Then one random day, I got a call from a company looking for a scrum master, got an interview the next week. They liked my personality so much they hired me. I was assigned to a 3 man team, including the PO, who wanted to release a small product to a service desk that was internal to the company.
We lost a developer half way through, and I picked up some testing responsibilities. Ultimately, we delivered on time, and the customer was mostly happy. But, overall, the company was happy with my performance and I was then put in charge of their entire service delivery development teams... All 6 of them.
I spent 2 years there learning on the job just how horribly broken the company was, how completely incapable of applying Scrum they were, and with much anguish managed to convince them Scrum was not at all the approach they needed seeing as they had NONE of the essential requirements. I managed to get most of their teams just using basic Kanban and tried desperately to convince the company to change their structure. They were HARDCORE command and control, refused to trust their employees and openly said they didn't trust them.
When Covid hit, I was selected as non-essential and laid off. So I have about 3 years of completely in the trenches, doing bloody awful war, and I have been looking for work for over 9 months now. I have applied to well over a thousand positions. I've managed to get a few interviews, but every job I've seen is getting 500+ applicants within a few weeks.
The Scrum Master field is MASSIVELY over saturated due to how easy it is to get certifications, and unfortunately companies are still just not ready to embrace it. They want a project manager who can bring them all the benefits of Agile without changing any of the core structure that is literally anti-agile. They want guaranteed budget / risk / delivery controls and they want to keep their silo's, assigning work, and micro-managing their employees etc etc. Most of the interviews I've gotten, they ask me how I would work in this kind of environment.
My suggestion for ANYONE trying to become a Scrum Master is to forgo direct approaches. Instead, go back into a company as a tester, any company that will take you. Then, from there, convince your leadership to allow you to enact a small pilot to test the framework, or really any Agile development process that you can employ within your companies constraints. From there, you can leverage that experience to get more responsibility and hopefully become an actual Scrum Master or Agile Professional for the company you already work for, or perhaps that new gained experience will be enough to leverage a new position.
I do NOT suggest pursuing more certifications. They're almost useless, other than just a simple CSM or PSM, you'll have all a company really wants in term of certifications. What they WANT is PROOF through EXPERIENCE that you are capable of delivering and transforming their completely broken crap into something workable. This isn't taught from a certification, it's learned through doing the war personally. If you want the easiest possible route cert wise, get a SAFe SM cert as it's the most popular right now.
After that, just forgo certs unless your company is willing to pay for them, as they're basically just stickers until you get to things like PAL or CST which all require years of experience, mentoring from fellow leaders in the field, and a rigorous exam etc. THOSE matter, but you can't just jump into them, gotta get the experience first.
Hopefully this wall of text helps, good luck out there!
"unfortunately companies are still just not ready to embrace it. They want a project manager who can bring them all the benefits of Agile without changing any of the core structure that is literally anti-agile. They want guaranteed budget / risk / delivery controls and they want to keep their silo's, assigning work, and micro-managing their employees etc etc".
This is a very accurate statement and one that I have observed in my former company as well while looking at job postings.
Like Jonathan. I'm a transition role too.
I was in IT Operations. I was interested in our Program Delivery side. I applied to a position, didn't get it. Over the next year I did a 6 set of courses on Coursera in Agile Program Management, watched numerous videos on SAFeans Scrum, and then got my PSPO I. A position became available. That work I did was enough to get my foot in the door.