What Scrum Certification should I take?

A question I have heard a few times in my career “What Scrum Certification should I take?” They ask me most often because I am a Scrum Master.

This question is often from people whose direct role or responsibility is not in Managing Agile teams or even Project Management. I have had these questions come from developers and Business Analysts and QA Engineers. So I often try helping with a counter question “Why do you need a Certification?”

This question often takes me through some interesting learning experience. Here are a few responses I get

  • I get a blank stare like I asked them a question I should not have asked.
  • They look at me like I don’t understand why people take certifications.
  • Some people say they just want to learn more about Agile.
  • Some say better prospects.

I take time to converse with them irrespective of how they respond. It is important to me as an agile practitioner and coach, especially when my purpose is to bridge the gap between certification and execution.

If you are in the Project Management or Program Management role or planning to get into that, a Scrum Master Certification is definitely going to give you that edge. Just like I made my transition over the years. It makes perfect sense if you are planning to transition into an Agile role that is in line with what you have been doing, but in an Agile way. Though keep in mind that a Scrum Master and a Project Manager are not the same in anyway. You will find it as you transition. Though you find a lot of people out their who put out job descriptions like Technical PM aka. Scrum Master and so on. They are either not clear on what they want or want to mix a few roles into one.

You got to be better than them in defining what you want to do and what you are good at doing.

I have spend a good amount of time talking to hiring managers and recruiters when they put out a request for a Scrum Master and most time they just say things like “We want a Scrum Master who can also act as a Technical Project Manager and even write user stories and coach the team and on and on..” To them I would say, “Get realistic on what you want… go figure out and then put out a request”. I have to be honest that it does not always get into the next level of conversation. But you know what, if you land in a role that even your hiring manager is not clear, you are bound to be unhappy. But yes we all make compromises when the bills wait at the door knocking.

But you got to do your own thinking on your role, your present and your future.

I will try briefly explaining a bit into the various roles and certifications. I will do some detailed writing on each in the coming days. Subscribe to blog so they reach you. Or follow me on twitter

There are a several different bodies that offer the Scrum certifications; some more popular than the others. Everyone has their own way of representing their certification values, but I often like to see the certifications from three major roles. The Product Owner, The Scrum Master and the Team Member. I would say four roles if you add the Agile Scrum Coach. But for being a coach you need much more than just a certification and that is why I started this blog. This blog is both my work and my learning and thinking and findings all together.

If you find yourself wanting to make a team effective so they can deliver better products then you ought to be looking at being a Scrum Master. In my personal opinion you can reach there from any point in your career and with any role you are in currently. The need is for you to completely inculcate the core responsibility of a Scrum Master, ‘to coach a team on the Scrum Principles, help them with being an effective Agile team that is self organizing’. More on this later.

If your role has been more closely with working with business and that is how you want to continue, I would recommend the Scrum Product Owner Certification. This would help you understand how you can take ownership of building a product ground up in the Agile way. On how you can prioritize features and functionalities and have that big picture distilled down to releasable chunks as they all connect to a full fledged product by time-boxing those chunks.

Now if you are a developer or QA Engineer and would like to take up Agile I would recommend taking certifications that are tailored to developers. You need to get good at understanding the estimation methods and be able to commit what you can deliver and understand the concepts of continuous improvement, integration and the tools associated with it. You also need to have a firm understanding on the roles and responsibilities of other Agile roles. This will help you be a better team player.

We live in a world where certification acts as the first screening point for many roles. It gives the hiring party a way to filter the candidates they want to talk to. A certification can get you an entry to talk. Is that your intention to getting a certification? If so then get it, Getting certified is not rocket science, if you are thinking of a certification, then I think (without knowing you) that you can get it with some effort. Can you do the job well? I don’t know because that has a lot more than certification. It depends on your experience the person you are and your true genuine professional acumen. This blog is to bridge that gap.

Ultimately think about What makes you happy? To steer the Ownership of a Product, To help teams or to build a product. I like to help teams and that is why I am a Scrum Master and a Coach. And I have found that over time, I have been able to coach and mentor product owners, developers, QA Engineers and Managers by adding value through a 360 degree understanding of the Agile Scrum Methodology and an ongoing thirst for learning. All coupled with a personal agenda of continuous improvement, something I learned when I entered the Agile framework and chose that as my professional trajectory.

My recommendation would be that take a certification with a definite purpose in mind. See if that certification aligns with your professional aspirations and let it give you that entry in the door. But be aware that continuos learning is the key and not one certification after another.