One of the most common question I get asked in my Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) class is “how do I get my first job as a Scrum Master?” So let’s look at 3 steps you can take to help you land your first Scrum Master job.
It’s important to note that certification on its own is not enough. Earning the certified scrum master or CSM credential is really just the start of your Agile journey. The CSM is a 2 day introductory class with no pre-requisites. Completing the class and passing the exam does not really make you a Scrum expert and is not enough to get you hired. It’s just an indication that you are interested enough in the topic to invest in learning about Scrum fundamentals and are ready to begin your journey as a Scrum Master. So, let’s talk about what else is needed. Here are 3 steps to landing your 1st Scrum Master job.
Step 1 – Experience
Step 1 is gaining experience. This might be challenging at first as no one will offer you a job if you don’t have Scrum experience, and you can’t get that experience if you don’t have a job. So what do you do?
Join as a member of the development team
Well, start by getting Scrum experience as a team member. Any Scrum experience is better than no Scrum experience. Don’t just focus on Scrum Master opportunities. Join a Scrum team based on what’s best suited for your current skills. That might be as an analyst, a designer, a tester or a developer. Gaining Scrum experience as a development team member is very valuable. Ideally, you’ll have an experienced Scrum Master on the team that you can also shadow and learn from. I’ve seen great Scrum Masters start their career as analysts or designers before successfully transitioning into a scrum master role.
If your team or organization is not currently doing Scrum, take the initiative to start introducing some elements of Scrum. Start very slowly, maybe by making the work more visible using a task board and having daily Scrums to coordinate your activities. Then move on to working in Sprints and focusing on producing a deliverable at the end of the Sprint. Start holding retrospectives to see how that’s going and how to improve and eventually try to get the business onboard with a product owner that helps build and maintain a product backlog and joins your Sprint reviews to give you feedback.
And if you can’t do that at work or if you are currently unemployed, then try to apply what you learned in your certification class to volunteer opportunities that you support. Help out in your local community or with a non-profit organization and use Scrum to help deliver on the mission. Set it up so that there is transparency into the work, meaning make the work visible and ensure that it is ordered by value. Break it up into manageable pieces that you can finish in a short timeframe. Try to have a cross functional team of multiple disciplines with team members working together collaboratively instead of in silos. Deliver early and often and adjust based on feedback. You won’t only be helping others via your volunteer work but you will also be helping yourself by gaining Scrum experience. On your resume and in your interview you can reference how you leveraged Scrum in aspects other than professional work. It’s valid and valuable experience.
Another suggestion for you is to join hackathons. At hackathons, you work in a team environment to build a product in a very short timeframe. Some are for fun, some are competitive. Either works. You don’t have to win to gain the experience. It’s great if you do win, but what’s more relevant in this context is that you apply your skills in a setting of product development.
Step 2 – Continuing Education
Step 2 is to continue learning. Go beyond the fundamentals you learned in the CSM class. I don’t recommend you jump straight into taking advanced classes yet. Wait until you get some experience 1st. But I do recommend you read books and blogs, watch presentations, and attend conferences. Here are a few tips.
- Read Essential Scrum by Ken Rubin.
- Read blogs and watch presentations at infoq.com
- Join the Scrum Alliance and Agile Alliance. They both run awesome conferences throughout the year.
- Follow Kaizenko on linkedIn or twitter to stay in the loop of relevant upcoming agile event and watch previously recorded presentations.
In addition, start sharing what you just learned. Write a blog post, run a brown bag, do a presentation, a podcast or a youtube video. Remember that you don’t need to be an expert to share. If you learned something new, just write about that and say hey here’s what I just learned. Odds are that if it was new to you and you found it interesting, then it will likely be new to someone else and they’ll find it interesting as well. By writing about it, talking about it, or presenting on it, you will remember it and learn it that much better. I can’t stress this enough. This is how you differentiate yourself from others. Not only are you saying you know this stuff, but you are also helping others learn about it.
Step 3 – Network
Step 3 is networking. For any job, and not just a Scrum Master role, you are much more likely to get an interview if you are being referred for the opportunity than if you were just applying online without an internal contact at the organization. Join a user group like the DC Scrum User Group. It’s now virtual and accessible to everyone, but even if it’s not, you will find a similar group near you. A lot are on meetup.com or you can look up Scrum Alliance affiliated groups near you by plugging in your zip code here. User Groups are another great way to continue learning with the added bonus of meeting others with similar Agile and Scrum interests and establish connections and a network of contacts that are in the field and will think of you when the next opportunity comes up.
And there you have it. 3 steps to help you land your first job after getting your certification. Hope you found these tips helpful and remember to follow kaizenko on your favorite social media channel to stay in the loop of upcoming events: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Feel free to reach out for any other questions you might have. Good luck!