The Technical Scrum Master: Competing in a World Where Technical People Now Want Your Job

A chemistry teacher, a mental health counselor, a customer support agent, and a scrum master walk into a bar.... the punchline sets the stage for a straight talk discussion on the great debate over the need for technical scrum masters. Aristotle once said “Change in all things is sweet.” No offense to Aristotle, but I’m not sure he would say that after jumping head first into supporting teams working on cutting edge Machine Learning and AI products with little to no knowledge about the technology. Here at Capital One, we’re not just disrupting banking, we’re disrupting the way we serve teams in our agile transformation journey by increasing the technical chops of our scrum masters. In fact, companies including Capital One are starting to open job requisitions for actual technical scrum master roles. Before you sign me up for Agile court, hear me out-

The industry is seeing an increase in developers and engineers making the switch to a career in Agile. As they come into the servant leadership role, they have unique challenges that exist from trying to balance the grey area between their technical abilities and the traditional job description of a scrum master. These converts however have a leg up on us non-technical folks that we really should acknowledge. The industry is changing. I’m going to lay out four solid points (with real life examples) to make my case to you as to why increasing your technical chops already does fall into the agile principles. And if you still leave this talk on the fence, you’ll at least get to hear about some hilarious “fail fast” stories from a small town girl leading a team of PHD engineers.


Outline/Structure of the Talk

  1. Introduction
    1. Set the Stage- Real Examples from a Struggling Scrum Master
      1. Hear the stories of scrum masters struggling to support research and development teams building solutions they don't quite understand.
  2. How the Industry is Changing
    1. Real Job Requisitions- What's seriously going on out there? Are there really jobs dedicated to the hiring of technical scrum masters and what is it they are asking those roles to achieve? Where do they fit in?
    2. New changing requirements
    3. A push for AWS/Azure Certifications- why companies like Capital One are pushing for certifications for all roles, even Agile ones.
  3. Four Main Technical Capabilities
    1. Team Language (Examples)
      1. Do you understand your teams lingo? Are you able to help with impediments that bridge gaps between architecture/compliance/ etc? Are you able to effectively communicate to your team and stakeholders while understanding what it is you're trying to say? We'll dive into just what you can do to fill this gap if you couldn't answer yes to all of these questions.
    2. Technical Productivity Tools (Examples)
      1. Do you know how to use the tools that your teams use in order to help provide them effective improvement opportunities? Do you know where to find basic documentation and communicate that to your product owner and stakeholders? Are you able to use these tools to your advantage for metrics/reporting? If your yes's are shaky here, I'll give you some basic suggestions on how to bolster your toolbox to help you best serve your teams.
    3. Basic Architecture (Examples)
      1. Can you talk the architecture talk? Do you know how to facilitate conversations in order to achieve productive meetings with your technical stakeholders and partners? Are you able to ask powerful, thought provoking and relevant questions of your team in order to help problem solve? If not, I'll set you up with a guide to set a strong foundation in order to help facilitate these conversations with your teams.
    4. Well Managed Processes (Examples)
      1. Do you understand all of the requirements your teams must complete and help anticipate/mitigate risks and impediments? Are you able to help guide your team through required business processes with confidence? I'll provide some real life examples as well as some potential areas of personal development that you might consider to add to your resources in order to help you serve your teams more effectively.
  4. What can you do (Actions)
    1. We'll follow up with some concrete actions/experiments for you to take back with you to start improving your team communications and representation
    2. I'll follow up by providing you one more humiliating story of a non technical scrum master trying to survive her first week in Machine Learning
  5. Closing/Q and A

Learning Outcome

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the four main technical capabilities needed to provide efficient servant leadership to your technical team
    • Ability to speak the teams language/vocabulary in order to help teams recognize and overcome impediments, address their issues, and communicate effectively to stakeholders
    • Leverage technical productivity tools to influence the way teams radiate information and use these tools to identify improvement opportunities
    • Understand the basic technical architecture in order to help team problem solve more effectively by asking more powerful, relevant questions and identify the best opportunities for teams to deliver against their architectural runway improvements
    • Better support well managed processes by understanding technical or compliance processes and the desired outcome of implementing those processes.
  • Hear real case examples and scenarios from this implementation at the Center for Machine Learning at Capital One and how our journey to Scaled Agile implementation also included the growth of our scrum masters to both leadership and technical roles
  • Leave with concrete action items and suggestions of how to better improve your servant leadership to your team

Target Audience

Scrum Masters, Agile Practitioners

Prerequisites for Attendees

  • The Basic Principles of the Agile Manifesto
schedule Submitted 8 months ago

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