The role of a Scrum Master
You could say the Scrum Master role was introduced to mentor and empower the team to do things themselves. When you set up a new team on a new project or, have a team that has not worked in an Agile way before, these are scenarios where a Scrum Master comes in to play.
As a Scrum Master I’m the person who takes care of the delivery of a project, from requirement gathering to planning the work for the teams (internal, development and testing) to ensuring everything goes through a development cycle and then planning the release for that cycle and getting it released. I also act as the Agile coach or mentor for the team, helping them understand our scrum processes and enabling them to follow the Agile way of working.
Adapting with Agile
Agile is basically being open to adapt or being ready for new things coming into the picture. If we take the software development cycle, you do a requirement analysis, then when you have all the requirements you move on to the planning and then you present the part of the product that’s going to be produced and, show how you are going to develop it in a certain number of days.
So, as an example, you are building a website where there will be a homepage and a few other pages. You know beforehand the full requirement and you go and do all the development and then release the entire website. But what if during the development cycle there was a new requirement to add additional functionality to the site – maybe a map? This means you would have to redo everything again from the start because the development cycle had not allowed for add-ons. That’s why Agile is the way forward as it’s a continuous cycle of developing a requirement but in much smaller pieces. So, you are continuously delivering small iterations of the website which makes it easier to add new requirements as you go along. That’s what Agile is about. It’s not a set of rules. It can be a mix of lot of things coming together.
Becoming a Scrum Master
When I started at Accenture (in 2014) I was hired for a specific project and when that project ended after a couple of years, I was lucky to get on to a new project with a retail company. They needed a solution architect and someone who had experience in web domain - which is where my skills were embedded. It was a small implementation which was ideal because I was about to go on maternity leave after three months. During that time, in collaboration with a third-party, I implemented a reviews and rating system on the client’s website. It was a great opportunity because it was not a pure coding and development role – they wanted someone who could also interact with the business, understand all the requirements, interact with the third-party and bring everything together for the development team to create the solution. It was then that I realised the work I was doing gave me huge satisfaction – speaking with people, understanding the business requirements and then translating that for technical purposes.
Soon after I returned from my maternity leave, I expressed an interest in taking on a role that had a focus on people and team management and that’s when I got an opportunity to be a Scrum Master. It was challenging because I had never been a Scrum Master before and had no training – I just went straight-in but my reporting manger had every faith in me saying, ‘you can talk Agile, you have experience of Agile so there’s no harm in trying’! I read-up on the Scrum Master responsibilities and what the team should be doing and then after about a year, I got a chance to do the full Scrum Master training and did the certification after that. I’m now trained and certified as a Scrum Master and what helped me to get to that was because I was already doing the role so, all the training made a lot of sense.
A flexible focus
I recently went on an apprentice dinner and one of the apprentices had worked in pharmacies for around 9 to 10 years but wanted to move into technology at Accenture. She asked me what I loved about working here and I was very honest when I told her that there are lots of days where you feel like you should move on but there is something that keeps pulling you back - and that is the comfort and flexibility that Accenture provides. As a company, they are very accommodating and supportive through all stages of your life and your career. It’s about flexibility and the focus on work/life balance – it’s just common ground here.
When I came back from my maternity leave, to start with I was on a very fast-paced project that had a lot of visibility and at the same time my daughter became quite unwell. It was on my first day back when I got a call from the nursery saying she had an infection and that I had to go and pick her up right away. The next two months were very stressful as she was hospitalised but, my project lead was completely understanding and suggested that maybe this was not the time for me to be on that project. He stressed that there was no doubt about my capability and skills, but he thought it would be better for me to find a project that worked for my current situation rather than struggle-on. That conversation really helped me to focus on what was important and helped me to find another project that provided the balance I needed. It was still a busy project but very accommodating; the team could see I was working and delivering and knew that if I come into the office a little late, I would stay late and if I come a little early, I would leave early. There were no questions - that’s what I mean by flexibility – it gave me the space when I needed it to be with my daughter.
Being a mum returner
As a mum returner, Accenture does quite a lot of things for you from groups to buddies to your career counsellor and mine was amazing when I came back. She helped me to figure out my plus points and she made sure that I reached out to people who could help me. I’m thankful to Accenture for having that system - giving you someone who’s not on your project with whom you can have an honest conversation.
My project is less busy now so I’m putting my focus on a side-of-desk project too which is looking at how we can support team members who are ‘on the bench’ (currently not assigned to a project). I’m looking at a study group to help upskill colleagues whilst they are looking for a project to join. The idea is to bring together all these experienced people with a diverse skill set who can give each other insight and advice on upskilling in their area and encourage networking to help find a project. I think being on the bench can be a little daunting sometimes so having that kind of support should be a great help. It’s early days and I’m just scoping it out but it’s something I’m looking forward to bringing to life.
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