Many people have never heard the term “Scrum Master” before, but ultimately it’s just a certain form of a project manager. The SM does not act as a classical boss or supervisor, but rather assumes the role of team moderator and team leader.
What is a Scrum master?
A Scrum Master is usually an experienced professional with several years of experience under his belts. They are responsible for the agile development team and need to make sure that the team works well as a whole and that everyone understands the Scrum methodology: its rules, practices, and values.
A good Scrum Master has generally extensive project and team management experience that is needed to ensure that the team performs at its best possible level. Often this role is filled by former IT lead developers or project managers who will be serving everybody in the team, from top to bottom.
Scrum is a methodology that allows teams to react quickly following the agile development principles, and the Scrum Master is responsible for promoting its values to the team to maximize the team’s results.
If you are wondering which fields have the highest demand for Scrum Masters, the answer is that they can be found in all industries, but primarily in software and product development. Being a Scrum Master is not a job title, rather a role. Consequently, extensive experience in the field in which you are working is a big plus, no matter the industry in which you move.
What are a Scrum Master’s responsibilities and daily tasks?
Scrum Masters are responsible for the Scrum process; that means working in a team with flat hierarchies and no real “leaders.” They are more like moderators and mediators, and as such, they drive the development process forward and ensure that it does not come to a standstill.
They use their technical knowledge, experience and communication skills to ensure a smooth flow of information between clients and the team, as well as the main stakeholders.
To create a productive working environment, Scrum Masters need to define the rules for cooperation and monitor their compliance.
Please note that a Scrum Master is not a leader and has no authority over the team, rather holds authority over the process. Having this in mind, let’s see which tasks Scrum Masters are responsible for.
What is the role of a Scrum Master?
- Moderation and mediation in the Scrum process
- Ensuring everyone understands goals, scope, and values
- Ensuring a smooth flow of information
- Establish and ensure rules for collaboration in the team
- Organizing scrums (or daily review progress meetings)
Generally, the team meets together on a daily basis to review what everybody completed the day before and what they will do today. The Scrum Master will ask if there are any hurdles in everyone’s process and handle them accordingly.
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Which skills do you need a Scrum Master?
The Scrum Master is not the typical manager, rather serves as an intermediary. That’s why Scrum Masters must have a broad, in-depth knowledge of applications in the areas of database systems, communications and generally, computer science to be respected by the team members.
The most important soft skill here is strong communication and mediation skills. In addition, comfort in assertiveness is needed to give mediate in the team. Although they are working in a team, Scrum Masters need to be able to work on his or her own responsibilities and think analytically while managing the team’s process.
What does a Scrum Master have to be able to do?
- Good knowledge in computer science (including databases)
- Strong sense of responsibility
- Analytical thinking
- High communication talent
- Good listener
- Competent with other agile methodologies (Kanban and Lean)
- Autonomous work and self-organization
Looking for a Scrum Master?
Background and experience
As mentioned before, the job offers seeking for Scrum Masters almost always require the previous working experience of several years. In terms of academic background, holding a Computer Science degree is an advantage.
If you are familiar with the Scrum methodology and you understand its implementation, you can potentially have a good chance of getting a job as a Scrum Master. The way to get there is quite long, and experience working on a Scrum team is highly appreciated.
In addition, you can get a Scrum Master certification (CSM) that also serves as an advantage in the job market. There are also many resources online with which you can learn more and better understand Scrum principles and practices.
How much does a Scrum Master make?
According to Payscale, the median salary of an Scrum Master is 85,353 USD per year, going up to 117,144 USD. However, if you search for a certified Scrum Masters who completed an official Scrum Master certification, the salary increases to a median salary of 88,098 USD, going up to a maximum of 121,543 USD.
And freelancers? How much do freelance scrum masters make?
The average hourly rate amongst freelancers working as Scrum Masters is $70/hr. Considering an 8-hour working day, the daily rate is around $420/day (freelancermap rate index as of July 2018).
Real insights from a Scrum Master specialist
Now that we know what it is to be a Scrum Master, we reached out to a specialist in this field to learn first-hand about the role.
We’re pleased to have Mario Lucero with us. Mario is an experienced freelance Lean and Agile coach who used to work as a Software Quality Assurance Lead and with extensive experience in team leadership. He also runs his own agile blog where you can find further interesting insights.
Here’s what he shared with us
What are the biggest misconceptions about Scrum Masters?
One of the biggest misconceptions about Scrum Masters is they are a secretary of team members and they only are useful to facilitate Daily Meetings, Sprint Planning, Review and Retrospective.
Scrum Masters are the guardian of the process and are in charge of spreading the word of Scrum inside the company. They are servant leaders who collaborate and protect team members against disruptions.
Last but not least, managers consider the role of Scrum Master as a part-time job because they can’t understand the number of daily duties that Scrum Masters have to do. It’s a lot more than it seems.
Can anyone become a Scrum Master? What is the typical background of the best Scrum Masters?
The best background to be Scrum Master is having experience as a developer or in testing or business analysis. It is necessary to understand the development concepts in order to help everyone involved in Scrum.
Do you think it is a must to be a certified Scrum Master?
No, I don’t think so. I prefer someone with experience dealing with different Scrum teams instead of someone with many certifications. Indeed, one of the biggest problems right now is that there are a lot of certified Scrum Masters, but few great Scrum Masters who understand the core ideas of Agile and Scrum.
What advice would you give to those aspiring to be a Scrum Master?
My best advice for those aspiring to be Scrum masters is to understand the values and principles of Scrum instead of focusing only on Scrum ceremonies.
Secondly, future Scrum Masters have to focus on serving the product owner and team members in order they reach their goals. There is no place for the ego as a Scrum Master.
Would you say being a Scrum Master is a good niche for freelancers?
No, at this time most companies prefer to hire a Scrum Master as a regular employee. In fact, I have found only one freelance position for Scrum Master on LinkedIn, and I checked every day for a while.
Is it possible to be a remote Scrum Master?
It depends on the level of maturity of the Scrum team. For instance, for a new Scrum team, the best approach is to hire a local Scrum Master. However, as team members gain knowledge and feel confident with the values and principles of Scrum, the needs of Scrum Master decrease so it would be possible to have a remote Scrum Master.
Have you worked on a Scrum team? Have experience as a Scrum Master? Tell us about it in the comments below!