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Full Time Scrum Master – a 6 week experiment pt 1

I’m a tester in a small delivery squad at Trade Me. Karen joined our team four months ago as a Product Delivery Manager and in this role she’s the person I report to. She was confused about Trade Me’s lack of dedicated scrum masters. Together we started an experiment to change things. This is the first in a series of blogs documenting one person’s deep dive into an agile experiment.

What was the challenge ?

I’d expressed interest in leadership and agile practises before. But as a tester in a busy squad, I was usually bogged down with the day to day testing work and ended up being a tester who sometimes ran meetings.

One day at our regular one on one catch up, Karen suggested I trial being a full time scrum master for six weeks.

This was confusing, because it wasn’t something I’d ever heard of anyone doing at Trade Me before. The idea was intriguing, but I didn’t know if she’d be allowed to try it. That I’d be allowed to try it. I didn’t understand how or if it would work. Karen, of course, has done this before, and knew that it was generally beneficial.

I was into the idea, but to make it happen we needed a few key things:

  • Support from the delivery team
  • Make sure test practices as established at Trade Me aren’t ignored
  • Support from the wider test guild
  • Guidelines
  • Courage to take it seriously

Support from the delivery team

I’m a senior tester, and the only tester on the team. If I switch roles the rest of the team had to be willing to take over the testing.

To find out if this was something they’d be keen on we floated the idea at a team retro. I’m lucky that this team is a high trust one. They’re supportive of people following their passions and trying new things.

We agreed that everyone would do a little testing. I’d be around to coach, guide and give support but that I wouldn’t do any testing on my own.

Make sure test practices as established at Trade Me aren’t ignored

In the past test practices at Trade Me has been locked down. Only testers were allowed to deploy things, for example. But in the last few years things have relaxed. I checked in with the Head of Test Practices to ensure that we wouldn’t be stepping on any toes. He was fine with it. “As long as someone is there for deploys, it doesn’t matter who.”

I made it a mission to ensure that the team understood the wider context of Trade Me testing. With particular focus on security, risk and quality of the code we were delivering.

Support from the wider test guild

Trade Me has a ‘two weeks in testing’ meeting. A representative from test in each business unit is present. The agenda is open anyone can add anything new or interesting and spend a couple of minutes talking about it. One my first day as a full time scrum master I went to this meeting and told everyone about the experiment.

“So you’ll all understand if you see some unfamiliar names in deploy chats or in test environments,” I said.

“What names should we be looking for?” A tester in another office asked. “In case they need help and we can give them some extra support.”

You know that bit in the Grinch Who Stole Christmas where the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes? That’s how I felt. Not only were the wider test team okay with the idea that my team would be testing, they wanted to support them. It was a huge vote of confidence.


My main guideline was to stop testing. To resist the urge to take a case here or there, and to step back and let the team work. 

I would learn as much as I could about processes, scrum, team building and how to make a team successful.

I also wanted to make my  progress visible by highlighting new processes and ideas to the team.

Courage to take it seriously

This was a personal challenge for me. I’d been a scrum master before, but only alongside also being a tester. It was hard to find time to explore what I could do as a scrum master, and I’d end up being a tester who sometimes ran some meetings.

To get the most out of the experiment, I had to take it seriously. Learn all I could and throw myself into the role.

To start with, I decided to journal the process. Every day I’d write some reflections on how the day had gone, what I’d learned and how I was feeling. This was a commitment to myself to do my best.  It would also be useful when reporting back to the team, my boss and the company on how the experiment had gone.

Adding a scrum master swim lane to our team board helped me be accountable with what I was doing. It helped my clarify my to do list, and it let the team know what I was busy with.

I also tried to say yes more.

When asked to do a retro for another guild with less than an hour’s notice, I said yes. When the opportunity to facilitate a squad kick off for a team in another business unit came up, I said yes. I took the opportunity to be observed running a meeting so I could learn where my weaknesses were.

In conclusion…

With my various ducks lined up, I dived into the experiment and became a full time scrum master.

I’ve got a series of blog posts about the challenges, learnings and surprises I encountered, so stay tuned!