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Being a Scrum Master: Soft skills are the cornerstone of leadership

Alejandra Rodriguez

Charles Green


April 16th, 2019

The role of the Scrum Master has gained importance over the last years thanks to the introduction and implementation of Agile and Scrum practices in the technology industry. But what does it take to be a good leader? We spoke with Tomas Merlo, currently our Marketing Operations Manager, but who for many years has led Scrum teams at Belatrix for various clients. His journey in leading teams represents the challenges and opportunities to acquire the skills needed to be a Scrum Master.

Tomás Merlo, Scrum Master

Here is his experience of being a Scrum Master:

  • What skills are necessary to become a top Scrum Master?

The top skills that Scrum Masters need are all soft -skills -; in particular, communication and coordination skills.

This is easily said, but in reality, harder to master. It involves listening to people, understanding their concerns, and understanding the group dynamics.

A top Scrum Master is diligent and proactive – in particular in providing constructive feedback to individuals and the team.

  • What’s the best way to acquire these skills?

I believe the only way to get and acquire these skills is to practice them and gain experience working in different teams. It’s important to also have experience on both sides of the team – by that, I mean having experience working in a team with a top Scrum Master, as well as being the Scrum Master.

You can learn a tremendous amount by observing other Scrum Masters and seeing what they do well and what they could do better.

As a Scrum Master make sure to ask team members on a regular basis for their feedback on your performance, so you can learn and improve.

Coaching classes are an option and can be helpful to learn new ideas. However, I see them more as a complement to experience – they can’t replicate what you learn being a Scrum Master day in and day out, working with a team, and overcoming challenges.

  • Is certification necessary?

No, not really. You can be a top Scrum Master without certification. Again, the process of becoming certified can be helpful, and you can learn new ideas – but it’s certainly not necessary, and I’ve seen excellent Scrum Masters who have not been certified.

  • Are Scrum Master skills transferable to any other IT areas?

Absolutely. I believe you can transfer the skills you learn to any other IT area, and also beyond IT. The skills involved in leading a team, and in particular the soft skills you need as a Scrum Master, set you up for many other positions. It’s worth noting that the 2019 LinkedIn survey of more than 5,000 talent professionals from across the world, highlighted the importance (and growing importance) of soft skills. 92% stated that soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills. And it’s exactly these soft skills which top Scrum Masters are so good at.

  • What is the long-term career outlook for scrum masters?

In technology, Agile development is becoming more and more important – it’s a core methodology to help organizations become more flexible in their development processes. So Scrum Masters will have no difficulty finding work in the future, as the demand for people with experience with Agile is only going to increase. Meanwhile, for Scrum Masters they can potentially move into different roles – for example, they could become a product owner or a Scrum Master of multiple teams. They can also move into mentor roles, or as a more traditional manager.

Here at Belatrix, we are interested in helping our team develop their skills, which is why we dedicate an average of 100 hours per year per person, to train our teams. This is reflected in our multiple certifications by the Scrum Alliance in the roles of Scrum Master, Scrum Developer, and Product Owner. Also, we have a total of 59 employees certified in Scaled Agile, more specifically in SaFe Agile, SaFe Advance Scrum Master, and SaFe Program Consultant. This initiative plays a key role in our high performative culture, enabling our employees to improve and develop both soft and hard skills to build the best digital solutions.

If you want to find out more about Tomas’ story and other stories like his, click here to read our employee profiles series, where some members of our team share the journey of their career at Belatrix.

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