This Blog is a 5-Part Series | Part -3
March 11, 2021 | BY Sarfraz Aaron, CSM, SSM, PMP
Welcome back to part 3 of my journey to becoming a Scrum Master.
I had mentioned previously that I became more agile centric and started to promote agile and scrum. I continued to work as project manager and always tried to incorporate agile/scrum where possible for another 10 years while in Canada. During this time I managed to obtain PMP certification and also held few full time managerial positions.
In this blog I wanted to show you what steps I had to take to ensure I was able to focus on being a full time scrum master for the next 5 - 7 years of my career.
This blog is a 5-part series that I will go over my professional career life journey, highlighting my thought process, what options were available and what decisions I took (good & bad!) that got me to this point.
Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection ~ Mark Twain
Working as a Consultant
In 2015 I had to resign from my full time managerial position and start working as a consultant, in order for me to focus and work as a full time scrum master or as an agile project manager so that I could strengthen my agile/scrum skills set.
As a consultant, I was hired by various organizations across different industries working with diverse, talented and cross-functional teams. My PMP and CSM certifications certainly made it possible for me to be a marketable candidate.
As I worked with different teams on different projects, I realized that to be an effective project manager or a scrum master, one must be prepared to work and adapt with teams in the environments that they operate in and try to bring efficiencies in project delivery where possible.
I had to adapt according to the scrum team's agile maturity level or the organization's agile adaptation in order to be an effective scrum master. Theory states that a scrum master is a servant leader, meaning you don't really have any authority except you remove any scrum team impediments during the sprint, coach and implement agile principles.
So what are some of the qualities of an effective scrum master?
From my perspective it means having a good technical experience regarding IT in general, networks, databases and cloud computing etc. so that as a scrum master or as an agile project manager, you could hold meaningful technical conversations with the project team. My technical background, gave me solid foundation in this regard.
One of my life lessons is that sometimes things don't make sense as to why they happen in a certain way, but only later in life you realize the reason or the impact it has made in your life. For example, in my case, jumping from company to company for the first 10 years after graduating made no sense to me and I knew I had to settle and focus being a specialist in one field - but now I was so glad it happened the way it did!
As a Scrum Master, As a Coach
As we have mentioned that a scrum master is a servant leader so to be an effective scrum master, I always assess the scrum team's agile knowledge and the environment being worked in to identify any coaching opportunities or any process improvements, respectively. This approach helped me to gain scrum team's respect and their buy-in to do better and to succeed. This approach also demonstrated that I was a team player and had their interest to succeed - If we succeed, we all succeed & If we fail, we all fail!
In some cases when I joined an organization as a scrum master, I was asked to onboard people for the scrum team. This was very unusual as I expected the team to be ready for me to work them. However, this opportunity gave me valuable experience and the ability to vet, interview and onboard candidates.
As an effective scrum master, your interpersonal skills are paramount as people management is a top priority. I try to work with management if the environment is not agile centric, identifying ways to streamline some of the existing processes so that when a two weeks sprint takes place, the processes are not taking longer to complete. For example to get a firewall opened or access to a database server etc. should be completed within a reasonable timeframe so that the 2 weeks sprint is not impacted.
Secondly, the people who are working in the agile environment need to be aware of agile/scrum otherwise, they will hinder the progress and will need to be coached. The scrum team needs to be focused in completing the workload and nothing else matters to them. This mindset may not exist and as a scrum master you have to protect the scrum team from outside interferences, for example, dealing with requests from other people, departments or resolving issues that are nothing to do with the sprint!
Sometimes, one or more scrum team members may not be performing as expected. In this case the scrum master will have to assess and plan to have them replaced by somebody who is able to complete the work as needed. This situation needs to be handled with care as people will feel alienated and this is not the goal. Remember the scrum team is a cross functional team ranging from developers, QA, subject matter experts, database, network and security. They're all superstars and they know everything in their field and can work on any other areas as well. They are empowered to make decisions, pivot as per the feedback from the Product Owner/Stakeholder, self-organizing and collaborate to complete common project deliverables.
Road to success is always under construction ~ Lily Tomlin
At A Crossroad
From 2015 onwards, I continued to work as either a project manager or as a scrum master and tried to build on my technical skills, apply the best project management practices and gain & share agile/scrum knowledge. All this to make a positive impact, build team spirit, and to drive the team to a common goal as a one-team. This formula worked for me then and still works for me now!
This brings me to the year 2020 and I'm at the point where I feel that I have managed to acquire the necessary skills that are needed to be as an effective scrum master or as a project manager.
Now I wanted to start the next chapter in my career - coaching, mentoring or even teaching aspiring scrum masters.
So for part four of my journey to becoming a scrum master I will be talking about my next steps: do I move into coaching or continue being a scrum master?
I look forward to seeing you on my part 4 of How Did I Get Here? My Journey to Becoming a Scrum Master.