Grow your Scrum Master experience

Valerio Zanini
5 min readAug 21

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Many people I talk to say that their number one obstacle in finding a Scrum Master job is lack of experience.

In a recent survey of Scrum Masters and Scrum Master candidates, people shared that the main challenge in finding a job included “Lack of Scrum Master experience”, “Difficulty in securing an interview”, and “Lack of SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) experience, especially for digital teams”. In this survey, “lack of experience” was named as the primary challenge by 43% of respondents.

So, how can you grow your experience as Scrum Master if you don’t work with a Scrum Team? How can you develop a set of real-life stories that you can share during a job interview and show that you have the experience needed to act as a Scrum Master?

The first thing you should do is to retrospectively look at your work experience and identify activities or projects where you have demonstrated a Scrum Master skill in the past, even if you didn’t have the title of Scrum Master.

For example, in a hospital environment, a nurse shared that she and her team were tasked with developing an internal project to help increase reporting of effectiveness on patients’ health. They had put together a team of nurses from a few different departments, and had started working together on this project. However, very soon they started realizing that the team was making no traction on the project and there were often internal conflicts between team members that further hindered their ability to work on this project. The nurse proposed to organize a team retrospective where — without landing any blame on anyone — the team members could openly discuss what was in the way, and possibly identify ways to improve. Thanks to that retrospective, the team did improve, and within a few weeks was able to showcase some of the work they had completed.

Now, that nurse had no title of Scrum Master, nor the team was using Scrum. What she showed with this story is that she was able to work collaboratively with the other team members, facilitate a retrospective activity, and help the team identify ways to improve. And that’s what a Scrum Master should do!

Mona Adaba, in this interview video on the Truly Scrum channel, shares some additional tips on how to leverage your experience from prior jobs and position yourself as a Scrum Master.

She also shares a tip: Keep a Journal. This has helped Mona remember the important activities and how she has helped her team. And also a journal becomes a foundation for identifying common threads between events and for start crafting your interview stories. I highly suggest watching this video from Mona to learn more about this tip.

To develop real-life Scrum Master experience, look around you. Chances are, there are teams that could benefit from a little bit of help, even if they are not using Scrum. You can volunteer to facilitate some activities, or run a rertospective activity to help them find opportunities for improvement.

You could pair-up with another Scrum Master and maybe do some shadowing on the job.

And, you could offer to run the next project for your team using Scrum. Why not try? Maybe do this for 3–4 Sprints and then decide if you want to continue or not. This would be a great opportunity to practice and at the same time experimenting with Scrum to see if it’s a good fit for your team. By going beyond facilitation and experimenting with the Scrum adoption, this would really build your muscles as Scrum Master 🙂

An additional way to develop Scrum Master experience is to look outside of your work environment. People often suggest to volunteer for a project in your church, or for a non-profit, or for your sport club. While these are great ideas — and you should explore them — I think there is low-hanging-fruit right there in your house. There are plenty of opportunities at home to practice using Scrum while working on chores or a new project.

A friend of mine, together with his wife, prepares a list of chores that the kids need to complete each week. On Sunday, he asks the kids to select 2–3 chores each from a larger list called the Chores Backlog. By doing this, the kids commit to a shorter list — the equivalent of a Sprint Backlog. The kids are responsible for executing the work they selected, and to do this up to the Definition of Done.
The Mom has defined clear criteria in the Definition of Done, and when the kids are “done” with a chore, she inspects the work done. No chore is completed until she inspects the work and approves it. She is acting as PO for this team.
At the end of the week, typically by Saturday, the kids are expected to have completed all the chores selected for the Sprint.
If something doesn’t work as expected, the family runs a retrospective and discusses how to improve for the next sprint.

A similar approach could be used at home for other activities. For example, if you and your partner are planning next year’s vacation, why not use Scrum? Do a 1-week increment, align on a Sprint Goal, and do the vacation planning work during the Sprint. At the end of each Sprint, review what you have accomplished and any decisions made, refresh your backlog, and then do a retrospective to decide what to improve for the next Sprint.

When you are looking for a job, the recruiter is not interested in hearing how many millions of $ the app your team built is actually making in the market today. They are interested in hearing how you think, how you operate, and if you are the right fit to bring a Scrum Master to their team and help the team improve.

Having stories — from personal life or from work life — that you can share and highlight how you behaved as a Scrum Master in these real occasions — well, that is going to make a strong connection with the recruiter and help them learn how you think.

I talk about this and other Scrum Master job interview topics on TrulyScrum.com

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Valerio Zanini

Product Management expert, Certified Scrum Trainer, keynote speaker, co-founder of Spark Engine and Truly Scrum