The growing demand for Scrum Masters has created an influx of new Scrum Masters into the role. And while most of those Scrum Masters have loved their new career, many have found themselves wondering what’s next? Even if you’re happy in your role it’s normal to wonder what opportunities might exist beyond that role. In fact, you may find yourself wondering if there even is a Scrum Master's career path. If this sounds familiar then you’ll be happy to know that there is a career path for Scrum Masters…it just might not look quite like you expect.
Skilled Scrum Masters show an incredible amount of versatility, often adjusting their approach to meet the specific needs of their teams. This versatility makes the Scrum Master role an ideal jumping off point to a myriad of other career opportunities. But finding the right career path for you primarily depends on what facet of the Scrum Master role appeals to you most.
Becoming An Agile Coach
Often Scrum Masters are so pleased with the positive effect that an agile approach has had on their teams that they want to bring this approach to their entire organization. If this sounds like you and you’d like to be catalyst for changes inside of your broader organization than becoming an agile coach may be the right path for you.
To be successful, you’ll need to develop the ability to coach at higher levels in the organization than you do as a Scrum Master…often at the executive level. You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with concepts such as business agility to better explain how an agile approach can benefit even the non-technical functions in your organization as well as become well-versed in change management strategies since introducing a significant change to a large organization is not for the faint of heart. Finally, it can also be beneficial to broaden your exposure to agile methodologies beyond Scrum so you have a wider variety of tools at your disposal in your agile toolbox.
Making The Move to Product Owner
Sometimes Scrum Masters find what really appeals to them about the Scrum framework is how it enables them to deliver better products to their users. If you find yourself most fascinated by the end product your team is creating as well as understanding whether that product is actually meeting your users’ needs then the Product Owner role may be the right move for you.
Product Owners who have a background as a Scrum Master can be incredibly empowering to their teams. This is due not only to their deep knowledge of the Scrum framework, but also to the perspective that they’ve gained during their role as a Scrum Master. This perspective can better equip Product Owners to understand exactly what their Scrum teams need from them. This insight can be incredibly valuable as you work to find the right balance between setting a clear direction for your team but also giving them the freedom to identify better solutions as they emerge.
However, remember that each of the 3 roles on a Scrum team are defined as peers. Therefore you should be careful not to consider a move to the Product Owner role as a promotion above the Scrum Master role. In healthy teams, a move between these two roles would simply be considered a lateral move with the benefit of adding another facet to one’s Scrum experience.
Becoming A Manager
Often when agilists think of managers we picture pointy-haired Dilbertesque bosses forcing mundane tasks on their employees without a care for the well-being of those employees. However, while there certainly are managers that fit this description, generalizing all managers in this way would be unfair.
There are many excellent managers who regularly demonstrate a high-degree of empathy for their employees, a well-refined sense of emotional intelligence, and a sincere desire to help their employees grow both personally and professionally.
If this sounds like a path that may appeal to you then many of these same skills that you developed as a Scrum Master will transfer well. Combine this with the team facilitation skills that you’ll also develop as a Scrum Master and you can be well on your way towards a fruitful career as a manager.
Furthering Your Investment In The Scrum Master Role
Finally, it’s important to understand the Scrum Master role doesn’t always have to be a stepping stone into a new career. Many Scrum Masters have found that they enjoy the role so much that they desire nothing more than to simply spend their career as a Scrum Master. In fact, many organizations are now changing how they think about this role to help enable these types of individuals.
For example, many organizations have introduced a Scrum Master career ladder often culminating in a Senior Scrum Master position. As Scrum Masters progress along this ladder they gain more and more responsibility by working with multiple teams, working with teams at different skills levels in their agile journey, acting as an agile advisor to their broader organization, or even serving as a mentor to more junior Scrum Masters.
In addition to this role, many organizations who have endeavored to scale Scrum also have created roles specifically to enable this scaling process. Sometimes referred to as a Chief Scrum Master, this role is often tasked with assuming responsibility for the entire scaled Scrum implementation as well as for identifying and addressing any scaling dysfunctions that may occur as the organization grows.
If you find that you simply really love the act of being a Scrum Master, then either of these opportunities may appeal to you.
Finding The Right Path For You
Becoming a Scrum Master can be the first step in a long and rewarding career that can offer many different career paths over time. Whatever path is right for you, you can be sure that the skills and relationships that you’ll develop as a Scrum Master will serve you well on that journey.
Want to learn more about building a great career as a Scrum Master? Check out my course Scrum Master Fundamentals – Growing Yourself and Your Team to learn more about the career options available to Scrum Masters and how you can plot the perfect career for you.