Conversations with Coaches: Vijay Bandaru
The journey to training and coaching can begin early in the Scrum certification process. Foundational certificants often plan for this path when they first hear about the option. For some Scrum practitioners, however, the road is a little less defined. What does it mean to be a good coach, and what’s involved in becoming one?
Coaching is a challenge. And it’s not one that everyone is ready for. To help certificants prepare for this rewarding path, Scrum Alliance® spoke with Vijay Bandaru, a recent recipient of the Certified Team Coach℠ (CTC℠) certification.
In this interview, we ask about his journey and what part the Agile community has played in his success.
Scrum Alliance: When did you first become interested in coaching?
Bandaru: That was the year 2011. I had come to know that in my city (Hyderabad), Jesse Fewell was conducting PMI-ACP training and I was already a PMP since 2008. I wanted to get familiar with Agile, so I attended the training. Coincidentally, I changed my job in 2012, and the new company that I joined had plans to transform to Agile. They sent me to attend CSM training. During the CSM training, I got connected to the "servant leadership" role. As part of the transformation, I got a chance to start my coaching career as an internal coach, and worked with experienced external coaches.
During that period, I worked with several teams, starting with two days of Agile and Scrum training and helped them through six to eight sprints. Working with those teams was a great experience; every day was a new day, and a lot of learning was involved through collaboration and observation. I decided to continue my journey as a coach and trainer, so I continued with next level certifications: CSP® in 2013, and CTC in 2016.
Scrum Alliance: Can you talk about some of the experiences that helped develop you most as a coach?
Bandaru: I attended various Agile conferences such as Agile India, Regional Scrum Gathering, Lean India Summit and Global Scrum Gathering, and I have connected with enterprise coaches Jeff Lopez-Stuit, Jerry Rajamoney, Madhur Kathuria, and some CSTs include Zuzi [Sochova] and Nanda Lankalapalli. Listening to their experiences and challenges they faced helped me to get a deeper understanding and to improve in a few areas such as leadership coaching and enterprise agility.
At the recent Global Scrum Gathering at Bengaluru, India, I was one of the facilitators for the "Coaches Clinic." This also has helped me get a different perspective on coaching, as it involved giving coaching advice based on specific questions by the participants.
Also, I have been managing a user group called "Universal Scrum Master Community of Practice" (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8305379) through which I encourage brainstorming on various real-time problems from Scrum practitioners. This has helped me to get wider experience as a coach.
I also have undergone ICF training through which I have learned more about the core practices of coaching.
Scrum Alliance: What advice do you have for anyone who is interested in becoming a coach but has not yet started on the journey?
Bandaru: Coaching is more about "asking" rather than “telling.” A coach enables the people to identify improvements by asking powerful questions. So anyone who is interested in becoming a coach should be clear on the coaching role. In order to be a successful coach, one should have patience, good listening skills, observation, and communication skills.
Those who are interested in becoming coaches should work as ScrumMasters first and should have in-depth understanding on Agile values, principles, and the Scrum framework. It will also be helpful to participate in user groups, forums and conferences, and work with existing coaches and take their mentorship.
I will be happy to provide my support and help to those who are interested, and I have already been doing so.
Scrum Alliance: In what ways do you feel community involvement has helped you develop as a coach?
Bandaru: Community involvement certainly helped me a lot. I participated in various conferences as speaker, volunteer, and organizer, through which I connected with experienced coaches and trainers. Conversations with them always help me find something new about Agile and Scrum.
I also have published some articles [on ScrumAlliance.org] based on my coaching experience. Comments received on these articles also help me to inspect and adapt.
I was also part of the local groups Agile Hyderabad and ISEC (India Scrum Enthusiasts Community). Through these I have been organizing local meetups, sharing knowledge, and learning from others.
Scrum Alliance: What has been the most challenging aspect of your coaching journey so far? The most rewarding?
Bandaru: Coaching the leadership teams has been the most challenging aspect. Generally, they don’t have a lot of time to give to the process, so it is difficult to fully involve them in a coaching experience. Another area of challenge is converting teams from “doing” Agile to “being” Agile. Most of the time, they stop at “doing” Agile.
The most rewarding aspect is when I see that the teams I coached are working on their own by demonstrating self-organization, showing courage, and implementing Agile values and principles to the benefit of organizational growth.
Scrum Alliance: In your opinion, what makes a good coach?
Bandaru: Anyone who wants to be a good Agile coach should have an Agile mindset. On top of that, he or she should have a thorough understanding of Agile values and principles. Periodic inspection and adaption also helps them to have validated learning. Coaching is a journey, so continuous learning through reading, brainstorming, and discussions will help improve their knowledge.
It is also very important to understand various coaching models such as Powerful Questions, Grow, and ADKAR, and use them appropriately.
Thank you, Vijay, for your thoughtful and in-depth responses!
Vijay began his Agile journey in 2009 and since then has received many certifications throughout the Scrum and Agile frameworks. As a trainer and coach, Vijay has facilitated sessions in Scrum Framework and Engineering, Foundations in Agile, Release Planning and Agile Estimation and many others. To learn more about Vijay Bandaru, visit his Scrum Alliance profile or his website at VijayBandaru.com.