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Scrum Master – Is It the Right Career for You?

Job in Tech

If you’re a software developer or have any interest in Agile methodologies, you’ve likely heard of Scrum Masters. They have become a critical component in modern Agile software development and many other fields as well. But who are Scrum Masters? What are their responsibilities, necessary skills, and job prospects? Read on to learn more!

What is Scrum, and how does it work?

Introduced to software development by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber in the early 1990s, Scrum is now widely used by organizations and teams across all disciplines. So, it’s no longer only software development that finds Scrum useful. Other fields, including project management, marketing, product development, financial services, and many more, have also turned towards Scrum.

The origins of Scrum – why is it called this way?

To understand why Scrum has become such a popular framework, we need to closely examine its origins. And that brings us to the rugby field. That’s right, you’ve read it correctly – rugby. So, what does rugby have to do with Scrum?

More than you might think. In the game of rugby, the concept of “scrum” refers to the process of restarting a game after a minor rule is broken by players. It involves players closely packed together with their heads down, trying to get control of the ball. 

Scrum in rugby is all about operating as a cohesive team and working towards a common goal. Each player has a specific role to fulfill, and whenever he can’t execute the task, others are stepping in to help. Thanks to the group mindset and teamwork, the ball gets passed back and forth within the team, which tries to move up the field as a unit.  

This holistic or rather “rugby” approach is full of support, frequent communication, commitment to the cause, and realistic goals. No wonder that by adopting it, modern companies try to achieve something similar to rugby teams. But, except for moving the ball forward, teams come together to move the product forward and make the entire process faster and better.

Scrum – what is it all about?

The Official Scrum Guide defines it asa lightweight framework that helps people, teams, and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.”

Simply put, you should think of Scrum as a way of getting things done as a team in small chunks at a time (sprints). The team breaks down larger projects into more manageable tasks. At the same time, they continuously experiment and use feedback loops to improve the work, make appropriate adjustments where necessary, and, in turn, deliver value to the customer. The process is incremental and collaborative, and the team works together to achieve the desired outcome.

As an agile framework, Scrum provides enough structure for development teams to handle work with changing deliverables, unknown solutions, and frequent contact with clients. Unlike the Waterfall model, where a team delivers all the features of a given product at once, as a complete package (e.g., a year later), Scrum is more flexible. It’s a perfect framework for complex and ever-evolving products.

Scrum is an empirical process where everyone makes decisions on the basis of observation, experience, and experimentation. We derive knowledge from experiments with specific and observable results. However, making good observations requires three things: transparency, inspection, and adaptation – the three pillars of Scrum.

What do they mean? Thanks to transparency, everyone in the team clearly understands common goals and their individual responsibilities. Inspection is all about checking on the progress to detect any undesirable variances. The third pillar, adaptation, ensures that the process is adjusted as soon as possible in order to avoid deviation or issues.

What about the team that works in Scrum?

The size of a Scrum team is rather small as typically there are no more than 10 people. However, thanks to that, it is nimble and large enough to do significant things within a sprint. There are three specific roles within every Scrum team: the Product Owner (PO), Scrum Master (SM), and developers.

The Scrum process framework – artifacts and events

Scrum process

In Scrum, the word “artifact” has taken on a different meaning than that referring to archaeology. In fact, Scrum artifacts are pieces of information and tools that help keep track of progress in a given project. The Scrum process relies on three key artifacts: 

  • Product Backlog – it’s a prioritized list of product-related tasks which a Scrum team must complete to deliver the product. Product Backlog includes new features, bug fixes, changes or enhancements. Nevertheless, it’s a living document that must be continuously updated throughout the project lifecycle by reorganizing, adding or removing items.
  • Sprint Backlog – it’s a list of tasks that a team aims to complete within a single sprint. These are taken from the Product Backlog during the Sprint Planning session. Although the Sprint Backlog can evolve during the sprint if the Product Backlog is updated, the sprint goal must remain fixed.
  • Increment – it’s an end-product of a sprint. Increment represents the sum of completed items over the last sprint, plus everything built previously. It’s integrated, verified, and ready to be released.

Once the Product Backlog has been built, the development process can begin. This process consists of several sprints. And these are time-boxed periods (1 – 4 weeks) when a scrum team must complete a set of specific tasks. Sprints are at the heart of Scrum and allow teams to deliver high-quality work faster and easily adapt to change. Each sprint has several phases, also called Scrum events:

  • Sprint Planning
  • Daily Scrum
  • Sprint Review
  • Sprint Retrospective

Scrum Master – tasks and responsibilities

At last, in comes the main hero of this article: the Scrum Master! 

Though holding a position relatively narrow in scope, Scrum Masters have a broad influence across the whole organization. They are both facilitators and coaches who help teams and organizations understand and apply Scrum values. Scrum Masters also act as a liaison between Scrum teams and Product Owners and make sure that work progresses smoothly.

While their responsibilities might slightly differ depending on the unique needs of each business and team, Scrum Masters provide services to the organization, the Product Owner, and the team.

How does the Scrum Master serve to the organization?

Scrum Masters’ responsibilities to the organization include:

  • Coaching stakeholders – Scrum Masters coach customers, C-level, and senior management about Scrum practices. They also facilitate workshops to make it easier for stakeholders to interact with Scrum teams.
  • Participating in planning Scrum implementations within the organization.
  • Collaborating with other Scrum Masters to enhance the effectiveness of Scrum implementation in the organization.

How does the Scrum Master support the Product Owner?

Scrum Masters guide and serve Product Owners by:

  • Supporting Product Owners in prioritizing work on the Product Backlog – they help to choose items on the Product Backlog and break them down into clear tasks. By doing so, Scrum Masters make sure that the work prioritized on the backlog is doable within a given time frame.
  • Sharing techniques, practices, and tools with Product Owners to improve the team’s work.
  • Helping to establish and maintain good relationships between project stakeholders and the Product Owner.
  • Supporting the Product Owner in overcoming obstacles.

What is the Scrum Master’s service to the team?

Apart from having responsibilities to the organization and the Product Owner, Scrum Masters serve the team by:

  • Coaching team members – Scrum Masters serve as coaches for Scrum teams and Product Owners. It’s their job to make sure that everybody understands Scrum processes and has enough knowledge and skills to execute them effectively. It’s fair to say that Scrum Masters are like coaches on a sports team – they’re always on a mission to help boost their teams’ productivity and performance.
  • Keeping the Scrum team on track and productive – it’s up to them to ensure that team members pull their weight and achieve specific goals each sprint. In an effort to maintain teams’ productivity, they facilitate Scrum events.
  • Ensuring that meetings (e.g. Scrum events) take place – it’s especially important in the case of tensions, deadlines or conflicts in the team.
  • Hosting Scrum events: Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums, Sprint Reviews and Sprint Retrospective – Scrum Masters conduct short team meetings to plan the workload, discuss teams’ progress, accomplishments, or any problems that got or might get in their way. By doing so, Scrum Masters can get updates, address potential roadblocks, and ensure that everything stays on track.
  • Increasing the team’s performance by introducing day-by-day improvements, sprint-by sprint.
  • Removing roadblocks – Scrum Masters are responsible for eliminating any roadblocks that can hamper the work of their Scrum teams. For example, team members might be out sick, there might be some unresolved conflicts within the team or there may be too many unimportant meetings to attend. All of this can hinder progress. Scrum Masters are those who must remove them on behalf of their teams.
  • Reducing potential conflict situations and taking preventive actions to minimize them.

What skills do you need to become a Scrum Master?

It’s time to dive into the skills Scrum Masters must have to do their job well. Since the list of their responsibilities is exhaustive, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both hard and soft skills play a crucial role in determining whether somebody is a good fit for the role of a Scrum Master or not. 

Hard skills

If you’re thinking of becoming a Scrum Master, the following hard skills are a must:

  • Scrum knowledge – Scrum Masters must have a solid understanding of the fundamental principles of Scrum and Agile. After all, they’re the ones who coach others on Scrum values and direct Scrum teams on the job. Therefore, becoming a certified Scrum Master is something worth considering here. Professional Scrum Master (PSM™) or Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®) would surely expand your knowledge and help you reach the level of expertise.
  • Coaching skills – a significant part of the Scrum Master’s role revolves around being a mentor/coach to the Scrum team and other stakeholders. So, it’s really important to know how to impart knowledge to others and ensure that everyone applies Scrum in practice properly. Teaching skills will definitely come in handy.
  • Project management – it’s good to have some knowledge of project management concepts and practices. Understanding concepts such as planning, scheduling, risk management, and stakeholder management can help perform Scrum Master roles effectively.
  • Technical skills – while Scrum Masters are not typically required to have deep technical expertise, they should have a good understanding of the technical aspects of the products or systems their teams develop.

Soft skills

When it comes to soft skills, Scrum Masters need to have:

  • Organizational skills – as a Scrum Master you should be able to manage a wide array of tasks: keeping the whole team well-organized, arranging tasks, scheduling meetings, managing multiple deadlines, tracking progress, and making quick decisions. And these are just a few out of many. So, without solid organizational skills, you won’t go far.
  • Strong communication skills – communication is always the key to success. Scrum Masters act as a facilitator between the development team, Product Owner, and stakeholders. They need to communicate effectively to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Interpersonal skills – Scrum Masters must know how to interact with others, understand others’ perspectives, and build relationships with them.
  • Critical thinking – an essential skill to identify root causes, facilitate effective communication, and experiment with new approaches.

Are you curious what the situation looks like in the case of UX and UI Designers? Check out our article: UX or UI Design – Which Career Is Right for You?

Salaries and job prospects for Scrum Masters

In the current post-pandemic world, more than ever before, organizations have recognized the benefits of going agile. So, like all roles associated with Agile and Scrum, the future for Scrum Masters looks rather bright. 

The need for specialists, who can help businesses go agile, enhance team efficiency, and react to quickly evolving market conditions, has risen significantly. After all, having Scrum Masters on board translates to having better products, shorter time-to-market, and satisfied customers and workers.

The number of job opportunities reflects the importance of Scrum Master roles in modern organizations. It’s one of the most promising jobs at the moment. It’s predicted that by 2026, employment for Scrum Masters will grow at a rate of 24% each year.

How much can Scrum Masters earn? Let’s have a look at some of the largest Polish cities.

Junior Scrum Master Salary

In general, it can be more difficult for junior Scrum Masters to find a job compared to senior Scrum Masters. This is because many companies are looking for Scrum Masters with significant experience and a proven track record of success.

However, there are still plenty of opportunities available for those starting out in their careers. Some companies are willing to invest in junior Scrum Masters. They can provide them with training and development opportunities to help them grow in their role.

To increase your chances of finding a job as a junior Scrum Master, you must have a strong understanding of agile methodologies and the Scrum framework. Relevant experience, certifications, and networking within the industry can help you out a lot too.

Mid Scrum Master Salary

Since the beginning of 2023, mid Scrum Masters can expect average salaries of around: 

  • USD 2500 gross with an employment contract/USD 4000 net with a B2B contract in Warsaw.
  • USD 3400 gross with an employment contract/USD 3900 net with a B2B contract in Cracow.
  • USD 3400 gross with an employment contract/USD 4000 net with a B2B contract in Poznań.
  • USD 3400 gross with an employment contract/USD 4200 net with a B2B contract in Wrocław.

So far, there have been around 12 job postings for mid Scrum Masters in each of the cities above.

Senior Scrum Master Salary

When it comes to Scrum Masters having the highest level of expertise, they could expect around:

  • USD 3800 gross with an employment contract/USD 3900 net with a B2B contract in Warsaw.
  • USD 4400 gross with an employment contract/USD 5000 net with a B2B contract in Cracow.
  • USD 5100 gross with an employment contract/USD 6000 net with a B2B contract in Poznań.
  • USD 3700 gross with an employment contract/USD 4400 net with a B2B contract in Wrocław.

As for job openings for senior Scrum Masters, there have been slightly fewer than for mid positions, around 7 in each city above.

Final thoughts

The demand for Scrum Masters has been increasing in recent years, and it is expected to continue to grow in the future. This is due to the growing popularity of agile methodologies in software development and other industries. 

Scrum Masters have an important role with a wide scope of duties and responsibilities. However, opinions on Scrum Masters differ. Some strongly claim that Scrum Masters have become part and parcel of modern product development. On the other hand, there are those saying that it’s quite the opposite – it’s needless to have a Scrum Master on the team.

Scrum master meme

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