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From Project Manager to Scrum Master

By Carol Dreyer

I had been working as a Project Manager for over 15 years. I thought I knew everything there was to know about managing a team and running a project. Work wasn’t very stimulating anymore; it had been ages since I felt real passion for my job. I guess you could say I was just doing it for the money.

Then my company decided to introduce Agile as a methodology. We brought in Scrum Sense and Growing Agile to do in-house training.

The first few days of the training were very exciting, plus a little unsettling as I soon realised that there is no such role as a Project Manager in an Agile team. Ok, so where did that leave me? Well, the role that I could identify most with at that point was the Scrum Master role. And so that is how, in February 2012, I found myself in a position that changed my working life forever!

The IT team decided to split into 2 agile teams, and so we needed 2 Scrum Masters. The other Scrum Master and I had a 1 day crash-course on how to be a Scrum Master. Yip, I remember those days well. Sam and Karen from Growing Agile went through all the basics of being a Scrum Master with us – it all sounded pretty easy.

And then we started to practise Scrum and we very quickly realised that in reality, Scrum is exceptionally difficult to do well. Bringing out the best in your team (which ultimately is what your job as a SM is) requires a fresh mind-set – and it is only through experience, as well as collaboration and coaching with other Scrum Masters, that you can really start to make a difference.

Once Growing Agile had finished the onsite training, they offered weekly conference calls with the 2 Scrum Masters, to discuss issues and difficult situations. I found that those telephonic interactions were an absolute life saver! I continued with those calls for many months, and I found every single one of them to be relevant and interesting. I was amazed to discover that for every situation you experience as a Scrum Master – someone else has experienced the same thing! Speaking to other Scrum Masters gives you a different perspective on things – which is often the most important aspect of being a SM. You need to be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes. Karen and Sam were brilliant on those calls; I have formed a very close relationship with both of them. They have been morally and emotionally supportive all the way through my first year as a SM. They have been compassionate and have always given me great advice. When they didn’t give advice that I so badly wanted, they somehow made me come to the conclusion that was right for me (I still don’t know how they do that!).

I don’t think I’ll ever not need these telephonic touch-points with Scrum Master coaches, since there isn’t a ceiling to what you can learn as a Scrum Master. Where Project Managers get satisfaction in getting a job done, a Scum Master gets satisfaction in seeing a job done well, by a happy team. I have finally found an immense passion in my job – my personal and work values are becoming more aligned every day. I couldn’t go back to being a traditional Project Manager – thanks largely to the awesome mentors I have in Karen and Sam.

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