Alejandra Roitman has been a Scrum Master at Belatrix for seven years. Several years ago, she transitioned from Waterfall methodologies to Agile and Scrum practices which means she understands very well the added value of the methodology and what it takes to be successful. We interviewed her in order to get her insights regarding the skills and the long-term career outlook of a Scrum Master.
- What skills are necessary to become a top scrum master?
There are many characteristics that a top Scrum Master should have. I can distill them into three main aspects (here it’s worth noting that Belatrix is a service provider – so our Agile teams work directly with our clients on their projects).
1- Team: Empathy is one of the key soft skills to have. This involves understanding each team members’ needs, desires, concerns, and trying to find the best challenges for each of them. Communication is a key skill, implying not only the ability to communicate different topics regarding the project/client, but also to listen. Top Scrum Masters are organized, promote confidence, and help generate a good relationship between everyone on the team. Flexibility is another must. Finally, having the capability to delegate is key when trying to create a self-organized team. Scrum Masters also work closely with each individual on their career development.
2- Client: When working with a client, top Scrum Masters demonstrate their communication skills with the client, and adapt to their style of working. Here it’s important to be organized and proactive – demonstrating results via valuable reports. This involves showing the progress of the team, while also trying to make each team member visible. Make room or hold ceremonies for improving after each cycle, and share the process and results with the client. Be responsible with the committed goals. Be open to different ways of doing things, to listen to the client feedback, and to work on those action items.
3- Company: Here it’s important to follow your company’s defined procedures, policies, and rules. Scrum Masters are responsible for completing internal audits (a continued process throughout the project life). Our top Scrum Masters transmit the company values, and share their knowledge. They help out internally at Belatrix, meet with potential clients, and help organize trainings.
- What’s the best way to acquire these skills?
Gain experience with different projects and clients. Be part of internal Scrum Master meetings to share experiences. Attend courses, talks, and meetups. Here at Belatrix we have a dedicated “Leader Coach” role, which helps Scrum Masters (and other leaders) to develop their leadership skills.
- Is certification necessary?
Although it’s helpful, I don’t think it’s necessary.
- Are Scrum Master skills transferable to any other IT areas?
Absolutely. All the skills I’ve mentioned so far can be applied to different roles. For example, the “subject matter expert” role actually needs all these soft skills, as well as technical skills. Most of the time, companies don’t emphasize these soft skills for more technical positions, but they are a must.
- What is the long-term career outlook for scrum masters?
He or she will have the potential to move into various different roles. They can move into a more senior management position (here at Belatrix that would be the “account director” role – where they manage and are responsible for overall client engagements). Scrum Masters can also move into more specific roles which blend leadership with technical expertise – such as being the director of a center of excellence (focused for example on a new emerging technology such as blockchain). There’s also of course the potential to become a Scrum Master coach and help the next generation of Scrum Masters learn the skills of the role.
At Belatrix, one of the things that motivates us the most is to encourage our employees to keep improving and developing their skills. Some of them started as interns and have grown all the way into leadership positions, discovering areas of interest and strengths they were not aware of. As a result of our interest to provide opportunities to people, we have more than 100 employees certified by the Scrum Alliance and more than 50 certified in SaFe Agile, SaFe Advance Scrum Master and SaFe Program consultant. If you want to discover some of the most inspiring stories at Belatrix, click here to read our series of profiles, where Alejandra and other members of our team share how their journey at Belatrix has been like.