Helping others. That’s been my purpose in life at even an early age. When I saw somebody in need, I was there to help. When a fellow student didn’t understand an assignment or how to apply something new that they learned, I was usually there helping them figure it out. As a developer starting out my career, I often paired with other developers and worked through solutions, well before agile came into being. As a manager, the chance to mentor others and improve processes to make life easier for others was the parts of the job I enjoyed the most. I guess you could say I was destined to become a coach, it seemed to be part of my DNA.
After learning and applying Scrum to an organization where I was the Chief Technology Officer, I realized that I needed to help other organizations as an external coach. Some thought I was crazy, giving up a key position in a stable company in very unstable times. Though there have been risks, the rewards that have come with coaching far outweigh them. I have been involved in both small and large organizations, with various size teams across many locations throughout the world. There is no better thrill than when a person comes up to me and says, “I now know what you have been talking to us about and I get it.” My goal for every company is to reduce the pain of delivering software and bring the fun back so people enjoy their jobs. My greatest joy is when my coaching makes a difference to the operations and bottom line of the business. It is these situations that drive me towards continual growth and improvement in my role.
Which brings me to certification. I admit I haven’t always been a fan of certification. Too often, people claim to be experts in a particular field because they are certified, when in actuality, they only have book knowledge and little experience. In recognition of this problem, several years ago the Scrum Alliance introduced two new levels of certification: Certified Scrum Professional and Certified Scrum Coach. Having these new levels of certification changed my mind on how I viewed and accepted the idea of certifications. Here’s how I see the three levels:
- Exposure: Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) – A course that offers exposure to the Scrum framework and the mindset change needed to accept agile principles. The certification acknowledges that a person has been shown how to function as a ScrumMaster on a team.
- Experience: Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) – Requires at least a year of experience, documented through a case study. This certification acknowledges the experience that a person has had applying the Scrum Framework.
- Competence: Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) - Requires at least 1500 hours of experience, with completion of an extensive questionnaire form and several references. This certification acknowledges the competence that a person has in applying the Scrum framework across many types of projects, teams, and even organizations.
I applied for my CSC in February of this year. Colleagues warned me that the process would be intense, require considerable time and thought to complete the questionnaire, and that the acceptance rate of new applicants was around 70%. They were right. It was tough. But several months later, I was accepted as a Certified Scrum Coach. Though it was a grueling process, it's the best way to ensure that only qualified people are acknowledged as CSCs. Looking back, it was well worth the effort to gain that recognition and join others in the coaching community.
Recently, I attended Agile2010 and had a chance to meet several fellow CSCs in person. I was immediately impressed with the knowledge and experiences within the group, but also appreciative that the group didn’t have the enormous egos and hidden agendas that can come with people of that caliber. These were genuine people of the highest integrity whose goals and outlook on coaching were similar to mine. People that share the passion of the Agile Manifesto and the Scrum Alliance. People that genuinely desire to help organizations learn a better way of developing software by applying the Scrum framework.
Our goal is to find more coaches; we don’t want to be an exclusive club with limited membership. If you can identify with this article, you should consider becoming a Certified Scrum Coach and be an external or internal coach helping organizations. We need your help. Organizations need people with competence to guide them through the major organizational change that comes with adoption of Scrum. Please join us in helping others make Scrum a reality.