Getting Hired as a Scrum Master or Agile Coach
TL; DR: Getting Hired as a Scrum Master or Agile Coach
Are you considering a new Scrum Master or Agile Coach job? However, you are not sure that it is the right organization? Don’t worry; there are four steps of proactive research to identify suitable employers or clients for getting hired as a Scrum Master and avoid disappointment later.
I have used those four steps for years to identify organizations I would like to work with, and they never failed me. Read on and learn how to employ search engines, LinkedIn’s people search, reach out to peers in the agile community, and analyze the event markets in the quest for your next Scrum Master job.
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The Scrum Master Job Market Is Challenging
We have all heard the news that organizations question the usefulness of employing Scrum Masters and cutting back on offering job opportunities. In some cases, they even laid off all Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches. Times are challenging, and many peers must make ends meet, considering more “tolerance” regarding job opportunities. While I understand the approach, I like to advocate for preparing yourself properly in advance of getting hired as a Scrum Master to avoid future disappointment with new clients or employers.
Therefore, if looking for a new Scrum Master job, consider two questions:
- Do I want to work for a developing agile organization (of the late majority) where my work will likely be met with resistance at multiple levels?
- Alternatively, how do I identify an organization that established agile practices compatible with my mindset?
The two questions are relevant to applying to available positions and identifying suitable employers or clients for a proactive application.
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How to Get an Idea of an Organization’s Maturity Regarding Scrum or “Agile?”
While it is impossible to assess an organization’s “agile maturity” — if there is such a thing — solely from the outside, it is possible to acquire enough of an understanding of its agile practices this way. That understanding would allow for asking the right questions at a later stage, for example, during an initial job interview. Or, you may conclude after your research — thus early in the assessment process (see below) — that the organization is not compatible with your expectations of a future employer or client. (Consider the popular saying: There is no job interesting enough that you just couldn’t walk away from it.)
The good news is that all organizations that genuinely embrace agile practices are usually openly talking about their journeys (unless they need to honor compliance rules) and are transparent and actively supporting the agile community. The reason for this support is simple: Being transparent and supportive is the best way to pitch the organization (and its agile culture) to prospective new team members; the war for talent is even more imminent for agile practitioners.
The necessity of critical information is the basis for all research activity during the three distinct phases of your assessment process prior to getting hired as a Scrum Master:
- Proactive research
- Job advertisement
- Job interview.
Getting Hired as a Scrum Master: Phase 1 — Proactive Research
The proactive research comprises four elements: Search-engines (Google, Bing, Youtube), LinkedIn people search, reaching out to peers in the industry or communities, and analyzing the event markets:
Source 1: An Opportunistic Search via Google, Bing, or Youtube
As a first step, always search the organization’s name in combination with a variety of agile-related keywords, such as:
- Scrum Master
- Product Owner
- Continuous integration
- Continuous delivery
- Design thinking
- Lean startup.
Tip: Use additional search parameters to narrow down the search results. For example, the query “scrum master” site:age-of-product.com will return all articles on Age-of-Product.com that include the term “scrum master.” (Learn more about advanced search on Google.)
The purpose of this exercise before getting hired as a Scrum Master is to discover an organization’s use of agile practices and the associated fluency level by shedding some light on questions as:
- Scrum, Kanban, XP, Lean UX, Design Thinking — What are they practicing?
- Are the current Scrum Masters or Agile Coaches working at the organization?
- How many engineers or engineering teams are working for the organization?
- What is the size ratio between the product management and engineering teams?
- Is the organization practicing continuous product discovery?
- Is the organization practicing DevOps?
The initial search results will provide a first impression, directing further searches of blog posts, videos of conferences or local meetups, slide decks, podcasts, or threads in communities. A truly agile organization will leave traces of a large variety of content.
The mere quantity of results, though, does not signal that the organization in question has already passed the test, so to speak. There is no way to avoid checking the content. Here’s an example:
InfoQ — a community news site facilitating the spread of knowledge and innovation in professional software development — has a rigorous editorial process and focuses on delivering quality content to its audience. Contrary to InfoQ’s standards, there are quite a few articles on Medium.com, for example, that could raise eyebrows for scrutiny.
A good rule of thumb when scanning search results is noting the diversity of sources. If you find content only on the company blog, and it has barely been shared or commented upon, it might hint that the content is not relevant enough to be of interest within the Agile community.
- Search for the title of a particular content piece on X or Twitter and have a look at the search results: who from the agile community is sharing this content?
- Use sites like BuzzSumo for content research. While BuzzSumo is a paid service, they offer a generous 30-day free trial period. (This is an example for the phrase “Scrum Master.”)
Source 2: LinkedIn’s People Search
Another good source for research on the target organization before getting hired as a Scrum Master is LinkedIn’s people search. You can list results by search term and then filter them, for example, by company name and location. (Here is an example of Scrum Masters working for Accenture in North America which lists currently about 2,800 results.)
And while you’re at it, why not reach out to someone listed in the search results who is in your LinkedIn network? Or ask someone from your network who may introduce you to a person from the target organization you would like to interview about their Agile mindset?
Please note, though, that internal job titles may differ from your vocabulary and impact the accuracy of the search results.
Source 3: Ask Peers for Help via Reddit, Hacker News, the Hands-on Agile Slack Community & LinkedIn Groups
The archive of HN is of particular interest. It is not just because of the sheer number of available articles or threads there but also the partly heated discussions going on in the comments. Be aware, though, that ‘Scrum’ as a concept is challenged by a lot of outspoken community members (namely, independent developers) both on Reddit and HN.
Beyond passively scanning the archives, posting a direct question to peers is an alternative. HN is likely a waste of time, and if using Reddit – choose the Subreddits r/agile and r/scrum for a possibly better outcome.
Note: Don’t forget – haters will hate, and trolls just want to play. Do not take it personally if your search on Reddit or HN is not taking the direction you desire.
You can probably expect more support by asking the 19,000 members of the ‘Hands-on Agile’ Slack community for help on getting hired as a Scrum Master. This is a worldwide community of Scrum Masters, agile coaches, and Product Owners that has proven to be very supportive.
Note: You can sign-up for the Hands-on Agile Slack Community for free here.
There are also LinkedIn groups available that focus on Scrum and agile practices — some with more than 100,000 members. After having joined them, post your question(s), remembering to be compliant with the group rules. Expect your first posts to be moderated, though.
Some recommended LinkedIn groups — in no particular order — getting hired as a Scrum Master are:
- Agile Clinic
- Scrum Practitioners
- Agile World Group
- Agile Project Management
- Agile Coaching
- Scrum Practitioners, Scrum Masters
If posting a question to a LinkedIn group, expect to monitor it carefully and interact with answering members in a timely manner: not interacting with responding group members may be considered rude and possibly lead to being banned from posting in the group again. (Read More: Etiquette in technology (Netiquette).)
Also, try Quora, directing a question on getting hired as a Scrum Master to Quora members active in the agile realm as to whether the organization of interest has an agile mindset. (Note: In doing so, avoid asking anonymous questions — which tend to have a significantly lower answering rate.)
Lastly, the two main Scrum certification bodies — Scrum.org and ScrumAlliance — provide access to directories of certificate holders. In both cases, you need the certificate holder’s email address access to a public profile via the search function. A faster way to access a known individual’s public profile is often the advanced Google search, see above.
Source 4: Is the Organization Sponsoring or Organizing Meetups, Barcamps, or Conferences?
In my eyes, supporting public or virtual events is the highest form of contribution to the agile community by an organization.
There are four different levels of engagement — no matter whether the event is a virtual event or an in-person event:
- Organizing conferences (or Barcamps),
- Sponsoring conferences,
- Providing speakers to conferences,
- Sponsoring local Meetups and Barcamps by providing a venue.
Suppose an organization provides this level of support to the agile community. In that case, the talk about this will undoubtedly be on the company blog, an engineering or product-management-related blog, or in a press release in their public relations section.
In the unlikely case that any reference cannot be found, just contact the Public Relations department who will provide the required information.
A. Browsing Conference Sites for Sponsors
Conference sites are a good ground for identifying prospective organizations when considering applying for a Scrum Master position. Check carefully for two things: sponsors and speakers.
Search for sponsors that are practicing agile in their daily operations. Usually, a larger sponsor package will also include a speaking slot at the conference.
Attending such a session — whether in person or virtually — will provide direct access to the speaker and thus a first contact in the inner circle of that organization’s agile practitioners. This tends to be valuable: People departments often rely on the private networks of the organization’s available agile practitioners to identify suitable candidates for job openings as a Scrum Master. (Accordingly, attending local Meetups can also be a worthwhile investment for job seekers.)
B. Browsing Conference Sites for Speakers
Personally, a more promising approach, by comparison, is to search for non-professional speakers who are aligned with an organization that is not sponsoring the conference. These speakers may indicate a suitable prospective employer or client after already having gone through the selection process for speaking proposals and vetting their contribution for originality.
The same approach can apply to contributions at Barcamps, although a disadvantage is that the critical information is only available during an event. While the speaker list of a conference is available in advance to stimulate ticket sales, it is the nature of a Barcamp that the schedule, and hence the speaker list, is available only on the day of the Barcamp. If you are already planning to attend a Barcamp, it may just be an inconvenience and not a concern. Timing is crucial, though, so please keep in mind that tickets for Barcamps are often sold out within minutes. (For example, the 600-plus tickets for the UXCamp Europe were regularly gone in a few minutes until the organizers switched to a lottery.)
There are numerous conferences regarding agile practices, so here are just some of the listings:
For an additional listing of agile conferences, check the Top 10 Agile conferences to attend in 2024.
Lastly, the big conferences are often considered must-attend events — useful, for example, to gain or improve professional visibility within the agile community. Alternatively, smaller conferences often prove to be more effective by providing information that helps identify a suitable, prospective agile organization. The larger the conference, the more possibility of noise camouflaging that information, complicating getting hired as a Scrum Master.
C. Browsing Meetup.com for Organizers
Meetup.com is a great site to discover which events of the agile community are happening locally and who is organizing them.
There are thousands of meetups worldwide covering the topics of agile frameworks and practices, software engineering, and product development in general. Since the pandemic, many Meetup groups switched to virtual events, attracting more members from outside their original reach. For example, the Hands-on Agile Meetup community has grown from about 1,500 members in March 2020 to more than 6,500 members worldwide in February 2024. The new members from all over the globe — from Vietnam to Brazil to the United States — added tremendous expertise and diversity, making the events more inclusive and a much better experience for everyone. Therefore, Meetup.com is an excellent place to look for answers and peer support.
Conclusion: Getting Hired as a Scrum Master
Suppose you are looking for a Scrum Master job. In that case, it is possible to understand the agile mindset of an organization in advance by applying the research approaches sketched above. Investing a few hours in advance may save you from later disappointment when your Scrum Master job may turn out to be vastly different from what was pitched or promised to you before.
Please stay tuned; we will also analyze Scrum Master job advertisements and turn to trial work and the recruiting process in later posts.
Getting Hired as a Scrum Master — Related Posts
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