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IT career roadmap: The journey to certified scrum trainer

Sharon Florentine | Aug. 2, 2016
Angela Johnson took the long and winding road to her current career, but her varied experience and love for teaching opened up limitless possibilities as a certified scrum trainer.

"When I founded Collaborative Leadership Team (CLT), I wasn't a CST yet, but I had my own training materials and I was coaching organizations as a scrum master and an agile coach helping them make the transformation. I really wanted to be in the position where I could 'train the trainers,' and that took me three years," Johnson says.

Like Johnson, many professional agile coaches and scrum trainers came to the role with a background in technology, computer science, management and/or education. But until recently, scrum wasn't emphasized in college computer science curriculum, says Heidi Ellis, professor of computer science and information technology, Western New England University.

"We've been teaching scrum as a stand-alone class the last few years because we know businesses are using it. But a lot of programs integrate it with core courses, like data structures, introduction to programming and basic software development courses. Either way, it's important because technology changes so quickly, and because it introduces a collaborative environment early on, and teaches you how to prioritize, communicate and iterate," Ellis says.

Johnson's clients are all over the spectrum: software, hardware manufacturers, IT companies, but as a CST certified by The Scrum Alliance, she also trains coaches and does her own coaching for clients outside of the technology space.

Scrum.org also offers professional training and certification in the Scrum and agile methodologies, as well as a Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) designation, but at Scrum.org, offerings are specifically focused on the software industry and software craftsmanship and delivery, says Dave West, product owner, Scrum.org.

Most agile and scrum coaches operate as consultants, moving from client to client and helping them achieve agile transformation. Many CSTs and PSTs work with clients and deliver training classes for potential trainers while also keeping their technology skills sharp by writing code or working on side projects, West says.

"We have PSTs who are still writing and developing code, of course, and many who split their time among all these areas. They're coding, they're working with clients on coaching, they're out delivering training classes, but they all have a deep technical background. That doesn't exclude someone who doesn't have a degree in engineering or computer science. I know one particular PST in the Boston area whose undergraduate degree is in music -- but it certainly helps," West says.

Validation needed

Without a degree, real-world coding experience or other technical acumen is a necessity, as is communication, teaching skills, negotiation, collaboration and teamwork, West says. To reach the CST (or PST) level requires not just extensive experience, but validation to prove that you'll excel at the role, he says.

"If you want to become a PST or a scrum trainer or expert, it's critically important to gain experience, work in the industry and learn from those above you, and then start giving back to the community. And that will validate your learning, and give you the tools you need. You can write blogs, help other people with their craft, and then over time you'll build your brand and your reputation," he says.

 

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