Going from Candidate to Certified Scrum Trainer

A CST shares his advice on surviving the CST application review process

30 August 2010

Michael Vizdos
Vizdos Enterprises, LLC & Creator of ImplementingScrum.com

So you want to be a Certified Scrum Trainer. And to do that, you are entering into the candidate review process. Or maybe you’re just curious as to what it takes to earn the Certified Scrum Trainer designation. Wherever you are on your agile journey, I wanted to take a moment to give you my two cents on the new candidate review process from the CST perspective. We’ll talk about what the process is, what I’ve learned so far, and what it means (and doesn’t mean) for the Scrum community as a whole.

The Process Itself

First, please remember that certifications from the Scrum Alliance, whatever they are (CSM, CSPO, CSP, CSC, or CST), are really just the beginning of a journey for people who receive them.  I received my initial CSM in 2004 with Ken Schwaber, and at the end of 2006 was designated as a CST (also granted by Ken Schwaber). The process has gone through many iterations over the years. While I have watched this happening, I have learned one thing -- the process will continue to evolve.

It must. Over the past six months, the Scrum Alliance has been trying some new techniques for a person to become Certified Scrum Trainer (CST).  The current process, called "V8", is located at http://bit.ly/simple-CST-process-v8. Today, as long as you are a Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) you can follow the five-step process and apply to become a CST. The first part of this process requires the CST candidate to register a statement of intent and have two people from the current CST community vouch for their integrity and act as their champions through this process.

The next part requires that the CST candidate gather three more people from the CST/CSC community to act as sponsors for them. This gives the candidate CST some great opportunities for initial interactions with existing CSTs and CSCs.

If you look at the bottom of the V8 Document (http://bit.ly/simple-CST-process-v8), one of the requirements is that the candidate CST must provide evidence that he or she meets the vision for a CST, as found in Appendix A of V8. This evidence includes:

  • Evidence to indicate the applicant has successfully facilitated a number of Scrum training sessions.
  • Evidence to indicate the applicant has non-trivial experience using Scrum and/or mentoring others to use Scrum in different contexts.
  • Evidence of Scrum and Agile community involvement.

The champions and sponsors then work with the CST candidate to ensure that the evidence is documented, vetted, and ready for the next stage in the process, where the CST candidate receives feedback from the CST and CSC community. If there are no objections from the community within the specified time period, the CST Candidate becomes a CST.

What I’ve Seen So Far

Here are some personal observations about how I see the process progressing to date:

  • Many people are applying
  • Not all people are from one nation
  • Registrations started during a pilot phase (in April)
  • We are out of the Pilot Phase
  • 3 people have been designated CSTs since the beginning of the Pilot Phase
  • 22 people are in the queue as what are called "Candidate CSTs"

What This Process Means for Students

More Assurance of Training Experience

Certified Scrum Trainers vary greatly in expertise and training style.

Those that come out of this process will vary just as widely. But the process, imperfect though it may be, does ensure that they will have co-taught a few courses, have actual experience using Scrum in different contexts, and have found people who are willing to publicly vouch for their abilities.
I remember when I became a CST (remember that the process back then was a nod from Ken Schwaber), I was chosen not based on my training skills but on Ken’s assessment of my knowledge. I was handed Ken’s slides and was told to go forth and teach Scrum.

Gulp.

After all these years, I can admit that in the beginning I sucked as a trainer; however, I have done enough of these workshops now that I feel totally comfortable working with anyone around the world to co-present this information -- or do it on my own.  It has taken me years to evolve my style and I know it will continue to evolve as I learn more with people who attend my workshops.   And, I continue to work with clients internationally to make sure I am not just teaching dogma; it stays real world and current (even as I now have 20+ years of professional experience).

More Trainers in More Corners of the World

Opening the process up allows the Scrum Alliance to vet more trainers in more areas of the world. This means that you are more likely to find a trainer near you who knows about Scrum from both the historical and real world perspectives.

What This Process Means for Potential CSTs

A Clear Path to CST

Many things have changed over the years in order to become a CST.  Today, the process allows for a lot of transparency and a clear path for people who want to become a CST.  It is not an easy process.  It is not meant to be.

An Open Peer Review Process

In order to become a CST, people have to include champions and sponsors from within the Scrum community.  Even after getting that group together, the entire CSC and CST community is encouraged to ask questions and have a dialog with the candidate. This process has introduced me to people I have yet to personally meet, who live on the other side of the world. From experience, I know the world is a very small place and will continue to shrink.

An Opportunity to Grow and Improve

As people become candidates, the entire CSC and CST community is able to reflect and improve on what we each do today; also, the Candidate starts to see that this is not the end of a process. It is just the beginning of a new path to grow and learn as a human being.

What This Process Does Not Mean

The process is not perfect. It will change. It must evolve. We must be agile. We must inspect and we must adapt.

The process will never be able to predict with 100% certainty who will be a great trainer and who will be a mediocre trainer.

And the process will never elevate CST into anything more than a designation, symbolizing strong Scrum knowledge and a talent for training. Becoming a CST is not the end-all-be-all. It is not a money machine. It does not convey high status and respect in the world. If you want those things, you are looking in the wrong place.

Being a CST should almost be a calling for a few people. It should be reserved for those who are gifted at teaching and who want to impart what they have learned about Scrum to those who need to know how to get started.

And being named a CST is only the beginning of a journey. I continue to work at my craft as a CST on a daily basis. I welcome a conversation with you about how I do this (it is an investment of time, money, and talent). I imagine all of us do. As a CST, I know that ultimately the market will decide who among us is good enough and who should be doing something else instead.

You, reader, are the market. Maybe you are out there trying to get better at the work you do.

  • Are we helping you on your journey?
  • How could we do better?

Maybe you think training is the path for you. If so, get involved.

  • Find a user group.
  • Come to conferences.
  • Begin to build your network.

The entire community is here to help you grow into a Certified Scrum Trainer.

Perhaps you are one of the candidate CSTs.

  • Listen to the feedback.
  • Work on the deficiencies that are noted.

I know the application process can be frustrating and can seem opaque. We’re trying to be as transparent as possible. Work with us and help us understand who you are. Remember, your future customers will voice their opinions in much more public arenas and often with less compassion.

Or maybe you’re one of my fellow trainers.

  • Are you staying active in the community?
  • Are you resting on your laurels or actively trying to improve?

As we work to welcome new CSTs into the fold, let’s remember that we, too, must continually improve. After all, that’s the heart of agile, is it not?


Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.



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Comments

Praveena Vemula, CSM, 9/21/2010 6:05:03 PM
Thanks Michael for the interesting article! I want to begin my journey to become a CST and this was a great place to start!
Praveena.
Michael Vizdos, CST,CSP,CSM,CSPO, 9/24/2010 5:39:00 AM
I appreciate the feedback. Good luck with your journey into the process. Remember though... when you "get there" another journey is just beginning :).
Made Mulia Santosa Indrajaya, CSM, 3/5/2011 8:47:03 AM
Thanks for great article about the CST journey
Anonymous, 10/17/2011 10:01:49 AM
Hi Michael

You were the trainer for my CSM course in September in London and this article has given me a good insite into what the CST is all about.

Next month I'm sitting the CSPO and at the end of the year I will be writting the paper to submit for CSP.

After that I will be turing my attention to CST so I might be back in touch for some advice and mentorship!

Regards

Mark

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