Scrum Master Interview on Technical Areas

Last post 05:30 pm July 30, 2020
by Steve Matthew
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03:26 pm July 29, 2020

Hi all, 

In a recent interview for a SM, i was asked a lot questions on Engineering Practices, Swarming, TDD, I.N.V.E.S.T. and so forth. They tend to put a lot of stress on these concepts over the series of questions you would generally expect.

What i really want to know is if a certain SM has not been exposed to practices like these are they not good enough to be a SM? I felt extremely let down for not been able to answer questions on these. They seem to only focus on the technical bit of SM (as they said) and didn't really care much about all that the scrum guide teaches you. Thoughts?

Also, here's the dilemma, the scrum team i work with (for a year now) haven't been exposed to such practices or never felt the need to, perhaps we may want to explore. But if another team who is practicing these already dont want to hire you, how will you ever learn or practice them? Don't you think someone needs to take a chance and let the learning continue?  

Any thoughts around this would certainly help me understand this a bit more. As you can gauge i am very disappointed in how i have been perceived today as a Scrum Master. 

Thank you ! 

08:05 pm July 29, 2020

Also, here's the dilemma, the scrum team i work with (for a year now) haven't been exposed to such practices or never felt the need to, perhaps we may want to explore.

@Sneha Das, I can understand how you are feeling, and perhaps the kind of candidate they are looking for is specific. There are times even I don't qualify for certain Scrum Master roles that are advertised.

However, in my opinion, the things you mentioned, like Swarming, TDD, and INVEST, I would expect a Scrum Master to know what these are, however, in the specific case of TDD, I do not expect that a SM should know how to implement this, but should have some awareness conceptually/theoretically. If a candidate is technically skilled, its definitely a bonus, but not necessary.

It would be nice if you could tell us a bit more about your background and overall experience. It would also be helpful to elaborate more on what your Scrum Team does. Does your team build software or something else? What other kinds of questions did they ask? I am curious to understand the technical nature of their expectations.

12:47 am July 30, 2020

Depends on the company. Some companies are looking for former developers to be in the Scrum Master role. Others are looking for former Project Managers. The job description and the recruiter can usually tell you how technical the position is, and then you should prepare accordingly.

08:36 am July 30, 2020

@steve matthew: Thank you for your insights. Can you share any study material that i can refer for these concepts and more. What i am really asking is from a technical standpoint. I think thats where i have to improve and get better. 

Also with regards to my current team and the pattern of our work: I work for a team that typically builds dashboards and reporting tools. The work is very straightforward and limited. We havent experienced a lot of challenges in terms of development, testing or timelines. 

Now that i have read a bit about swarming, its not like we didnt do it ever, i didnt know the technical term for it. Which tells me that i need to really brush up the jargons. Now i dont know where to begin and really seeking help here. Any data source or pointers will be helpful. 

My career: I have mostly been a Business Analyst and project Manager for most part of my work span (which is about 11+ years) - so technically i am not from a development background. 

Questions they asked included Engineering practices, Swarming, TDD, and INVEST, continuous integration (CI) and automation. 

05:30 pm July 30, 2020

What i am really asking is from a technical standpoint. I think thats where i have to improve and get better.

@Sneha Das, If you are referring to INVEST, Swarming, SMART, etc as technical terms, then these aren't really "technical" terms. These are complementary concepts/techniques that in my opinion an experienced Scrum Master should know or at least have awareness of. Also, just knowing the Scrum Guide is not enough. If what you meant by technical is, how to implement a CI/CD pipeline, then this I would consider as very technical. If someone just asks what is CI/CD, then you should have awareness of what it is.

So, I would advise you to learn about these concepts, to begin with. There isn't any one book that has all this information. I believe reading different books will help you absorb more knowledge.

Lastly, remember that sometimes you could be really qualified but the organization you are applying for may want something else.

I hope this helps in some way.