Scrum Masters & Tech Leadership

Andrew Weaver
April 19, 2022

We work with ambitious scrum masters from around the world and they generally have some great skills in place to build towards senior tech leadership roles.

A typical career path for a Scrum Master will start with serving one team. After a while that team becomes less time-consuming to work with, as issues are resolved and the team takes on more responsibilities itself.

At that point, a good Scrum Master will seek additional challenges. Often the logical next step is to begin working with multiple teams concurrently or from working with more demanding teams or products.

When developing new Scrum Masters, I prefer to put the person in a position to most likely succeed. That will mean working with a team that has neither any difficult personalities nor unrealistic delivery expectations. But, to go from good to great, the Scrum Master will need to learn to work under more complex conditions.

This leads to the philosophy that success is often rewarded with additional challenges.

Mentor

A Scrum Master who has been successful in a variety of different contexts and teams, might choose to move into a role as a mentor to other Scrum Masters. This will especially be true and feasible as the Scrum Master gains skills and experience.

In many organizations, this role would be called an Agile Coach, with the most common job description being that an agile coach coaches Scrum Masters (and their teams).

Personally, I’m partial to such individuals mentoring rather than just coaching. Much of the benefit these experienced individuals provide comes through them offering guidance (“I suggest you do it this way”). Because of this, I think of these individuals as having become agile mentors.

This is an appropriate path for Scrum Masters who have learned that their true passion is the creative act of developing a product–largely independent of whatever the product may be. Some Scrum Masters enjoy the process of enabling creativity among development teams so much that it almost doesn’t matter what the product is.

Think about the radio DJ who just loves being a DJ and doesn’t care if he’s playing classic rock, the current top 40, or classical music.

The Scrum Master who loves the process more than the product is a likely candidate to follow a career path into becoming an agile coach or mentor.

The Scrum Master Becomes a Product Owner

Other Scrum Masters, however, learn that they love what their team is building more than the act of creating it. Those Scrum Masters become good candidates to become product owners.

I don’t want to imply that a product owner role is above the Scrum Master role in an organization. I consider the roles equivalent in a typical organizational hierarchy.

But some Scrum Masters learn that they care deeply about the thing being built rather than the process of building the thing. And from having worked with a team long enough, some of these Scrum Masters learn enough about the product, industry, users and such to become good product owners.

The Scrum Master Becomes a Manager

Scrum Masters are most assuredly not managers themselves. But through their Scrum Masters duties, Scrum Masters often work closely with those who are. And some will find that work intriguing.

Scrum Masters become adept at guiding teams without much authority to say, “Do it because I say so.” Because of this, many can move into management roles where they could demand compliance but because of what they’ve learned from being Scrum Masters, know it usually is best not to.

Especially if a Scrum Master has retained technical proficiency, moving into a role like QA director or development manager can be a fulfilling, logical step.

We help scrum masters develop their management and leadership skills via online courses, personalised mentoring, supportive community and relevant content. We’ve also written some great content elsewhere about what a CTO is looking for with their scrum master.

Scrum masters are amongst the most engaged community at CTO Academy, as we help them  enhance existing management skills and aim for those senior tech roles. If you’d like to find out more then have a look at the CTO Academy website for more information.

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