Native Wiring: Servant Leader as Scrum Master

By Matthew Dominici, Scrum Master @ FreshBooks

When FreshBooks made the transformation from waterfall to Scrum, there was one role that we were completely missing any kind of internal expertise in — Scrum Master. We had no project managers in the company, or anyone that seemed like a logical fit to convert their roles to Scrum Master. We knew that every team needed a Scrum Master, and we had five teams… so where were these people going to come from?


Fast-forward two years, and through a mix of internal and external hires, the Scrum Master team is up to 8 people. Along the way, we’ve learned that great Scrum Masters often have a background that is decidedly UNscrum. Amongst our ranks you will find former Testers, Project Managers, Developers — even Sales People! No matter their backgrounds, they each displayed a proclivity towards Servant Leadership — a sort of native wiring that is likely to serve as the foundation of a successful career in agile.

While there are many attributes we look for when selecting potential Scrum Masters, there are 3 in particular we’ve noticed Scrum-Masters-in-the-making demonstrate, no matter what their current role is.

Below are real world examples of our Scrum Masters demonstrating Servant Leadership attributes in their previous lives:

Resourceful:

Removing impediments to the team’s productivity

Vonnell was a member of the Sales team here at FreshBooks, and was counted on to use her resourcefulness to help improve the team’s productivity and decision-making. By recording team decisions and communicating them back to on a regular basis, she had unknowingly taken a Scrum Master’s approach to removing an impediment. Where the team previously lost sight of their goals, they now knew exactly where they stood, every week.

Enabling:

Helping others to be more effective

Prior to becoming a Scrum Master here at FreshBooks, Beatriz was a member of the QA team. As the QA and Development Teams began to grow, she realized that more and more, information about the system and testing environment was siloed within the Development Team. Beatriz empowered the QA team to educate themselves by setting up a section within the company’s internal wiki so that her teammates could extract the information from the heads of developers, and share it with the rest of the team. Soon, development and QA would integrate as part of the transition to scrum, but the wiki pages live on, and are still updated and referred to by Developers and QA alike.

Respected:

Known for integrity — both within the team and in the wider organization

At a previous company, Sean was a mobile software developer who had built a reputation as a highly respected member of the team. He was known to be unambiguous with his teammates, and had a knack for helping his peers reach consensus when it was time to make a decision. He also found that his fellow developers most appreciated that he always treated their ideas with as much respect as his own. Management also took note of this, and when it came time to spin up a new team, he was asked to step in as the team’s full-time Scrum Master. He accepted and hasn’t looked back since.

While they didn’t know it at the time, these three Scrum-Masters-to-be were each living the lives of Servant Leaders. Their talents in these areas lead them to discover agility as a career path, and while they each took a different road, the destination was the same: Each of them are now full-time Scrum Masters here at FreshBooks, and they spend each day developing and coaching their squads towards the path of High Performing Teams.

Matthew Dominici is a Scrum Master @ FreshBooks

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