9 Reasons Why I Decided to Become a CSP®

In no particular order, because any one of them was enough

Jon Jorgensen, CSM®, CSPO®, CSP-SM, CSP-PO, CAL1, CTC

The List:
  1. Attract more recruiters with real jobs in Scrum, to command a higher rate of pay
  2. Show off your competitive differentiation in the job market
  3. Establish a gateway and milestone toward becoming CST or CSC
  4. Build prominence as a candidate worthy of grooming
  5. Build T-shaped knowledge and skills (focus while branching)
  6. Lead by example, as a hiring authority expecting more from job candidates
  7. Influence others by taking a public stand, inspire others, and build awareness of the need for Scrum
  8. Experience greater fulfillment in life and career: learn by doing and grow by sharing
  9. Become an expert in something (Scrum) that does not grow obsolete or out of style
Knowledge of the theory of how the Scrum framework is supposed to work to create value in large entities, such as large corporations, start-ups, government agencies, or outsourced development shops, is not such a rare thing in the labor pool anymore.

In contrast, people with substantial firsthand experience with the myriad of pitfalls, growing pains, rabbit holes, decoys, and quick wins that await a Scrum practitioner are much less ubiquitous in the world of work than the theoretical knowledge holders. (The ratio of CSMs to CSPs is 102:1, give or take a few, according what is visible from the Scrum Alliance Member Directory.)

Attract Recruiters

Needless to say, there's nothing like real-world experience. Employers and clients will almost always pay a premium for the professional with some hands-on experience over those with none, and exchange even larger value for experts with vast experience over those with a little. The rapid growth of Scrum in the project management arena is expanding mindshare among executives, and there is empirical evidence of Scrum's benefits to stakeholders, so the search is on for the few CSPs that exist today. Recruiters are beating down the doors of CSPs even as you read this article.

Having been in transition before, I can tell you that there's nothing nicer than to have experience in a role in high demand. In knowledge work or project work, I've often found my next employer through a recruiter or employment agency. Starting in 2008, it got harder to make recruiters ring my phone. The deafening silence of my phone may have been a veiled message from those talent brokers: "Don't call us, we'll call you."

When I put my Scrum certification in my profile on LinkedIn, however, I noticed a change. Recruiters seemed to have a renewed interest in talking with me. Perhaps you've heard the adage, "Dig the well before you get thirsty." The CSP is a recruiter magnet. I figured it would behoove me to have one, just in case.

Show Off Your Competitive Differentiation

As the saying goes, "If you've got it, flaunt it." I must signal to those with the greatest need for the value I create, to ensure that my efforts are directed toward groups wherein I can bring my value to bear the most, thereby enriching all parties. In the job market, the CSP designation accomplishes this competitive differentiation and distinction above all others in Scrum, save the CST or CSC.

Establish a Milestone Toward Your CST or CSC

Speaking of CST or CSC, the CSP is a milestone achievement required before submitting an application for these titles. The CSP is not merely some clerical, perfunctory administrative step. Rather, it sets me apart in the eyes of potential mentors, from whom I will certainly need assistance as I prepare for greater responsibilities and more demanding professional duties in "changing the world of work" -- which is essentially what we do by leveraging the Scrum framework for the benefit of our future employers, clients, or pro-bono work beneficiaries.

Build Prominence as Being Worthy of Grooming

Like you, a CST or CSC is a very busy person trying to change the world, further deepen their skill set, and share their knowledge in a sustainable way. By injecting myself into the CSP approval process, I convey to these potential mentors that I am planting my flag in Scrum Alliance, enrolling in its shared cause, resolving to remain coachable, and intending to continue growing. The CSP community is not a realm of fence-sitters and toe-dippers. I know that Scrum is simple, not easy. There's nothing casual about "walking the talk" of Scrum -- but I'm still in it for the long haul. When a CST or CSC notices (via my CSP status) that I'm ready to be molded, they are more likely to respond positively to a humble request for some mentoring. That, alone, is merit enough to me.

Build T-shaped Knowledge

On my road to becoming CSP, I started to acquire specialty skills that get bundled into the role of ScrumMaster, including an uncommonly deep understanding of:
  • Facilitation
  • Training design
  • Change management
  • Critical thinking
  • Communications
  • Psychology
  • Needs analysis
  • Process engineering
  • Theory of constraints
  • Coaching
  • Systems thinking
  • Test-driven development
  • Continuous deployment
  • Team building
  • Organizational behavior
  • Gamification
  • Culture change
  • Root-cause analysis
  • Continuous improvement
. . . and that's to name just a few.

Voracious reading, experimentation, and learning were my path to the CSP. Sometimes I would skim the surface of many of these knowledge areas, and at other times my team's situation demanded that I drill down as far as I could go in just one area, resulting in T-shaped knowledge.

Influence Others and Lead by Example

You don't have to wear a red cape and leap over tall buildings in a single bound to become a CSP. By being one of the first few people in my company, community, or peer group to earn the certification, I inspire others to do it for themselves. They know I'm a mere mortal just like they are. They can do this too, if they want to grow.

By talking with people about my reasons for becoming a CSP, and how I did it, they begin to envision themselves doing it too. It's a great topic to present in an industry association meeting, a gathering of professionals, or in a book, blog, or podcast. This is one more way that I am helping to change of the world of work: by being a leader -- which is, by definition, simply the person who goes first. When others follow, I simply become the opinion leader by default. Can that be a bad thing? I think not.

Experience Fulfillment by Learning and Sharing

My experience has been that people want to hear my opinion of the vocational situation they face, and I want to hear theirs. My approaches to challenges at work are relevant to peers, because I've probably seen something like their issue before and my sharing insights might help them. Two heads are often better than one, right?

It's not credibility per se among peers that I'm pointing to. Rather, I see value in the conversations I have with peers about what happens in the real world, and what options are available to us, because those conversations trigger further learning in me. I can vicariously learn through them, even if everything doesn't apply to what I'm dealing with -- because one day it will.

Because Scrum Alliance has applied the label of "practitioner" to me, that has triggered others to open the door to sharing their experiences with me, to collaborate on urgent topics, and to evaluate results that sprang from our joint decisions. We learn together. It's silly that three letters near my name might be the catalyst for that interaction, but truth is stranger than fiction.

We're all human, and sometimes we look for icons (such as a "practitioner") to open our uncertain selves up to peers. Exchanging insights at this level enriches my life intangibly now. In the future, my peer-expanded knowledge base is bound to pay off in terms of better project outcomes for my employers or clients.

Become an Expert

The qualifications for CSP have taken a few turns over the years. Now there are Scrum Education Units (SEUs), which can be acquired in many different ways. It would be nice if I naturally went out of my way to buy and read books, write articles and books, get and give training, create and publish curriculum, volunteer for industry events and organizations, etc., just out of a sense of social virtue or duty. In reality, I need a nudge.

Sometimes it helps to keep score. The CSP approval process gives me that added motivation, beyond my own intrinsic drive and philanthropic ideals, to actually do stuff and grow because of it. The recognition by someone or some external entity leverages gamification elements (read: dopamine spikes) that help me win the prize I set out for in the first place. I'm just happy there is a game board upon which I move the piece and feel the joy of progress while I learn. Yes, it can be an addiction -- in a good way, as a means to an end.

Learning about how to help people practice Scrum is very different from learning to use a new device, OS, programming, IDE, or any other tool destined for obsolescence. It's more like learning how to learn. Things like the empirical method or root-cause analysis never grow obsolete or fall out of style. So I think that learning more about practicing Scrum will be the "gift that keeps on giving" throughout my career and personal life.