How a Growth Mindset Has Helped in my Journey to Become a PST
In this post, I’m going to share my history and show that you can succeed in any challenge you commit to by using a technique called the Growth mindset. A growth mindset is a term coined by Carol Dweck in 2006 in her book mindset Mindset: The New Psychology of success to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. In summary, the person with a growth mindset believes that new abilities can be developed through practice.
As an endurance athlete, I have embraced some challenges like an open water swimming race of 24 km in one day and three half Iron Men. I’ve been swimming since I was 10 years old and the sport helped me to learn from mistakes, embrace big challenges and overcome obstacles like injuries.
When I started using Scrum as a software developer back in 2007, then I decided to learn more about Scrum and I became a Scrum Master in 2012. In 2015 I started to teach Scrum, overcoming my fear of public speaking. I remember my first day as a teacher, I was just frozen in front of 30 students.
To be honest, I was against certifications, but in my classes and sometime in my teams I had people with certifications challenging my knowledge and the content I was teaching without arguments, just because they had the certification and I didn’t.
In 2016 I started to take the Scrum.org assessments, but in the first assessment, I realized that the journey of study, research and mastering was something really rewarding for me more than the “badge” itself.
I will never forget a conversation with my manager Vinicius, the person who gave me the opportunity to become a Scrum Master. He said: “Fabio, you’re bright-eyed when you talk about Scrum, you should focus your career as a conference speaker, trainer or consultant. You love this!”.
In 2017, I decided to raise the bar and embrace the biggest challenge in my career so far. Surprisingly, this decision has changed my life completely. I clicked the button “Apply here” to become a Professional Scrum Trainer.
Step one and two - Prerequisites and Submit Application.
I'm from Brazil and I started my journey after applying to become a PST in March of 2017 when I did my first interview with Daphne the Director of PST community to explain my experience with Agile and Scrum framework. This interview is timeboxed in 30 minutes and you go through the challenges you had and how you applied Scrum to solve them in your career. During this interview, I received the first feedback that I should remove the language barrier in order to share knowledge and contribute to the community. In 2017 my English was an intermediate level.
The pre-requirement to apply for PST is to achieve a score of 95% or more in the PSM I and prove that you have at least four years of experience as a Scrum Master. I did my first PSMI attempt in 2016 scoring 90% and did it again in 2017 scoring 98%.
I had a great job as an Agile Coach working for a Startup consultancy that was changing the market with a creative way to run Agile transformations. The moment was perfect in my career. The number of clients and the startup was growing so fast and I was helping the CEO to create and improve the courseware and the framework for Agile transformation.
Step three - PSM II
Before attending the TTT you need to clear the PSM II assessment and I failed in the first attempt but succeeded in the second attempt after working in my gaps.
Step four - Train the Trainer
In June 2017, Thanks to Ivan dos Santos who has been helping me since my very first day in this journey. I did the TTT and it was the best experience I’ve ever had in the class. During the TTT you have many opportunities to give and receive feedback to other PST candidates, teach Scrum, answer tough questions and simulate real class scenarios. The format of every PSM TTT is two days Professional Scrum Master I course and one-day TTT and it's delivered by a PST Steward, the PST Steward is the person responsible to look after and improve the PSM courseware based in the community feedback.
PST Candidates answering tough questions during the PSM training - 2017.
Unfortunately, after the TTT I received the constructive feedback that I should wait for one more year in order to work in a list of items that I struggled to teach and explain during the session, before moving to the next step.
At this point, I had two options, the easy and the hard path. In the easy path, I could call myself a PST candidate for one more year and keep working to become a Scrum trainer and give up the journey given this achievement.
In October 2017, I chose the hard path and it changed my life, I decided to quit my job and move to New Zealand for a language exchange program just for six months to have a real English immersion. I thought that in six months I could improve my fluency in English, I was wrong.
Be inspired by others success
In the meantime, I was added to the PST candidate slack channel that helps candidates around the world to discuss Scrum, learn from each other, share experiences, content and more importantly, practice the scariest step of the PST process - the peer review. I will explain the peer review at the end of this article.
In this channel, we celebrate each candidate that becomes a PST or clear the PSM III. This kept me inspired until November 2019.
I used LinkedIn as a tool to reach out to PSTs around the world. The community is amazing they really help without expecting any return. They also create so much content that inspired me to create this post which is my first ever English post.
Learn from criticism
I think criticism is a strong word because every feedback I received from Scrum.org was constructive and given in a respectful way, the community embodies the Scrum Values.
A person with a growth mindset develops the skill of Learning and can develop ability through effort and practice. I knew that if I keep interacting with Scrum.org they would provide me more feedbacks, so in January 2018 I decided to share my improvements, just to receive feedback.
- I started to teach Brazilians through Skype using the Scrum.org content and the Scrum guide vocabulary.
- I attended many meetups in NZ to talk about Scrum as much as possible.
- I invited Agile coaches and Scrum master through LinkedIn to catch up for a coffee to talk about Scrum.
- I posted in my LinkedIn a message saying that I could teach Scrum in English for free in exchange for feedback for improvements in my English speaking. I made many friends online.
After this interaction, Daphne asked me to record a video explaining Scrum in 10 minutes. In March 2018 I sent the video and failed, it was another inspection and adaptation opportunity, but this moment I was about to give up on everything because after five months studying English I couldn't explain Scrum in 10 minutes properly.
Persist despite obstacles
My wife and I loved NZ and we decided to look for a job and live in this wonderful country. In April 2018, my last month of the Language exchange program in NZ I found a job. I won't describe the backs and forths about the visa process, but this delayed my PST process.
In June 2018, I started again to record myself teaching Scrum in 10 minutes, then finally in October 2018, I received the approval in the second attempt and moved to the next step the PSM III. My goal was to complete 10 minutes without cut and edition, I recorded more than 100 videos and succeed in the second attempt, the practice improved my fluency, body language and teaching skills.
Step 5: Assessments and Interviews
See effort as a path to mastery
Before taking the first PSM III attempt I tried different approaches to upskill answering hard essay questions in short timebox, but what really helped me was the tough question challenge that François Fort created in the slack channel for PST candidate. We exchanged tough questions every day, the person answering the question received the feedback from the person asking. This process prepared me to expect all sort of questions about Scrum.
I also read great books and re-read the Scrum Guide many times and followed the Scrum.org forum.
This is the list of books I read:
- Scrum Mastery - Geoff Watts
- Scrum a pocket guide - Gunther Verheyen
- Mastering Professional Scrum - Stephanie Ockerman and Simon Reindl
I failed in my first attempt achieving a score of 80% because I left three questions without an answer. Trust me, the PSM III is the hardest assessment ever. There is no room for mistake given that the PST must score more than 90%.
After the failure, I had an interview of 30 minutes with Daphne to go through the feedback I received from my assessment. I also did another assessment that was an experiment that Scrum.org was running to test candidates, after this assessment I had another interview with Daphne. Those interviews helped me to identify the gaps that I should work. In May 2018, after more preparation I succeed in the second attempt.
By the end of this step, I was ready to teach and explain how important the empirical process and Scrum values are to the Scrum framework. At this moment I achieved the intelligence that I thought I couldn’t ever achieve.
The Peer Review
The peer review is a short meeting of 45 minutes between PSTs and the candidate with one Scrum.org staff member facilitating it where the candidate is assessed in some scenarios of classroom answering hard questions.
This is the scariest step of the process, because the candidates come to the PR very nervous and they see this step as a final test (like the final bosses in the video game) instead of seeing the PR as another inspection and adaptation opportunity.
In the candidate slack channel we created a group of candidates to practice the peer review every weekend during three months, the more actives were Bharath Srinivasan and François Front. It was great to build confidence in front of the camera and share knowledge and experience. We became friends and we still catching up, but with less frequency to discuss the new challenges and to help new candidates.
Another approach that really helped me was watching the series Ask a Professional Scrum Trainer at Scrum.org channel on youtube. While I was watching the video I paused it when the facilitator asked the question, before the PST answered, then I answer the question myself and compare my answer with the PST.
I used to practice the “drop the mic” answer like Ryan Ripley does in this video - Breaking Bad Scrum. In the PSM I course, we need to deliver the content in two days and should avoid answer question in the consultant model, instead as a trainer.
I also co-facilitated a PSM I training with Felipe Andrade. Felipe was really helpful and gave me awesome feedback.
In November 2019, I did the Peer Review and it was a great experience. I had some audio issues and technical glitch, luckily I solved the issue quickly. I was prepared, confident and surprisingly calm for my PR.
After the PR you need to wait for 10~15 minutes before you receive the feedback and the result. It’s like an eternity I was shaking and anxious waiting for the second call.
Step 6: Join the PST Community!
The second call started with: “Fabio, congratulations! You’ve received the thumbs up and Scrum.org would like to invite you to join the PST community”.
“The harder you work for something, the greater you'll feel when you achieve it.”
I used to picture this moment in my mind. The moment I could share my post from Scrum.org wishing me a warm welcome.
It took me almost three years of effort and commitment but worth it. This journey has helped me to become a better person and professional, because I’ve met great people, I practiced kindness and respect, I learnt from many failures.
It's impossible to achieve such challenge alone. I would like say thank you for my wife, family, friends, work colleagues and the Scrum.org community for the support.
My team and me in the challenge 24km open water swimming.
If after reading my journey you felt inspired. I would like to invite you to start your own journey and join this amazing community. Click in this link to become a PST.
If you want to read more inspiring stories from others PSTs. These are some stories that have inspired me: