From science teacher to Scrum Master

Science teacher to Scrum Master may not seem like a natural transition. Indeed, my friends and family wondered about my recent career switch to Scrum Master at the Concord Consortium.

Screenshot from Zoom meeting of Scrum teams

Let me explain how I got here.

According to Scrum Alliance®, a Scrum Master is “the Scrum team member tasked with fostering an effective and productive working environment and guiding others to understand scrum values, principles and practices. Scrum Masters tend to be people-oriented, have a high level of emotional intelligence, and find joy in helping team members to grow.”

This seems to me a lot like the role of a teacher.

Early in my teaching career, project-based learning (PBL) was gaining popularity in education. I knew I wanted to implement some PBL units in my biology classes, but I wasn’t sure how to start. While researching methods for managing and implementing science projects, I discovered Scrum.

Despite knowing that Scrum is used primarily to develop technology, I signed up for the training to become a Scrum Master in the hopes of utilizing some techniques in my classroom. While the training was heavily focused on how to use Scrum when developing technology, I looked for ways to adapt some of the processes to fit the needs of my students. It wasn’t hard because what I learned from the training was that a lot of what Scrum Masters do is teach!

Scrum Masters are responsible for continuing education about Scrum and Agile for both the Scrum team itself as well as the organization as a whole. Topics include the importance of transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Scrum Masters encourage team members to reflect on how to improve and guide the team in fulfilling their roles, creating and maintaining a shared identity, and self-organizing. Importantly, Scrum Masters remind the Scrum team that they are people first and having fun should be a part of their daily on-the-job routine.

Five values are at the core of Scrum: commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that these values had been instilled in me during the six years I spent in the classroom. As a teacher, I was committed to my students, courageously created a safe learning environment, helped my students focus on reaching their academic goals, demonstrated openness by providing timely feedback, and showed respect by getting to know each student individually and teaching them according to their needs.

After my initial certification training, I spent time implementing an adapted version of Scrum to help my students complete both projects and lab assignments. They truly enjoyed the process because it allowed them to get feedback quickly from me and each other, and adapt their plans and procedures for their labs and projects.

As I saw the success of Scrum in the classroom, I became hooked. And that’s when I decided to apply for a position as a Scrum Master at the Concord Consortium.

Scrum Masters are committed to the development team and I now reinforce this commitment at the Concord Consortium in the same way that I did in the classroom. As the Scrum Master, I manage the sprint schedule and Scrum cycle. My goal is to foster team courage by creating a safe space for team members, focus on our sprint goals, facilitate openness and respect at our daily standups, and provide opportunities for our amazing developers to demonstrate their accomplishments during a sprint review.

Ultimately, educators and Scrum Masters have a lot in common. We focus on people and aim to maximize their potential.