Scrum Masters: Top 8 Career Paths

8 Exciting Future Roles For Scrum Master

Ilam Padmanabhan
Career Guru

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Scrum Masters: Where is you career path taking you to — Photo by Mitchell Luo

Congratulations! You’ve become a Scrum Master!

A few years later…

Where are you now?

What’s your next job?

A Scrum Master plays a key role in the Agile world. Almost anyone can become a Scrum Master with the right training and experience (& a scrum master certification).

The true career challenge is what happens after.

What are the potential career paths for Scrum Masters?

Just before we get there..

The world of Waterfall came with very well-defined career paths for most roles.

A developer becomes a senior developer, a tech lead and some sort of delivery/engineering manager.

A tester becomes a senior tester, test lead, test manager, program test manager and so on.

One of the disadvantages of working in organizations following agile methodologies is the unclear career paths.

This post will explore seven potential career paths for Scrum Masters. We’ll discuss each path and what it entails so you can decide which one is right for you!

If you are a Scrum Master, this is where you are most likely headed.

Note:

I googled ‘career paths for a Scrum Master.’ Some of the top results indicated a Scrum Master could become a CIO. Sorry, I’ve not seen a single scrum master become a CIO immediately after playing a scrum master role.

Dear Scrum masters, yes — you can become a CIO, but it is unlikely it’ll be your next job. You’ll most likely become project managers or play another traditional management role before getting to CIO roles.

Eight Career paths for Scrum Masters

Scrum Masters to Agile Coach/ Enterprise Agile Coach:

In a typical scenario, an Agile Coach is an ex-Scrum Master who has moved into a more senior and strategic role. They work with multiple teams and stakeholders to help them implement agile methodology effectively.

Agile Coach helps a lot of agile teams become better! Photo-Pexels

A coach reminds that a scrum master serves the team, and the interest of the scrum teams outrank their personal desire & ambition. A professional scrum master is expected to keep this at heart, but scrum practitioners know it is easier said than done.

In this coaching role, you will also be responsible for coaching and mentoring other scrum masters in the chosen Scrum framework & agile methodologies.

You will need excellent communication, facilitation, people skills, problem-solving skills, and a deep understanding of Scrum principles. It is often one of the most rewarding roles, as you help others to grow and develop in their careers.

A Scrum master who grows into this role works with multiple agile teams to help them improve their scrum process and overall delivery. In some cases, they may also work with teams following traditional delivery processes & help them in adopting Scrum or another agile framework. It could mean coaching some of the colleagues from non-scrum teams to understand agile frameworks & scrum master responsibilities.

Is this for you?

  • Do you enjoy coaching others & build self-organizing teams?
  • Do you like being strategic & aim to continuously improve the overall organization?
  • Do you want to work with more than one development team?
  • Do you want to help others learn and grow in agile methodologies & principles?
  • Do you want to assist in conflict resolution of the agile vs. waterfall conversations at a senior stakeholder level?

Product Owner/Product Manager:

You will define the product roadmap and features as Product Owners or Product Managers. This role requires excellent strategic thinking, problem-solving skills, and a deep understanding of the business. You will also need to effectively communicate with stakeholders and the agile team.

When a scrum master focuses on delivering business value, someone in the management or product will inevitably notice.

A switch from Scrum Master to Product Owner/Product Manager is possible if you have the right depth in the business/domain.

You’d likely become an expert without realizing it when you are consistently curious. When you proxy your PO consistently, it is a sign that you are already an expert and the next step is to take on the actual role.

Every scrum team member knows they can rely on you for details in the absence of a Product Owner.

Is this for you?

  • Do you like influencing the future of your product?
  • Do you like working with customers/stakeholders directly?
  • Do you want to work closely with the Scrum team?
  • Do you want to be the expert in your domain/business?

RTE (Release Train Engineer) or STE (Solution Train Engineer):

More about RTE below

An RTE or STE is responsible for leading a Scrum of Scrums and ensuring that all teams in the program are synchronized and delivering value. This role requires excellent coordination, communication, and facilitation skills. The RTE/STE also needs to have a deep understanding of Scrum principles and practices.

A Scrum Master can move into an RTE/STE role if they have experience working with multiple teams and stakeholders. This role is often suitable for people who enjoy working in a more strategic and cross-functional role.

Typically, a certification from recognized institution can help the transition as people can see that you have acquired the skills needed to be a RTE.

Do you like managing larger teams? A RTE/STE may be for you! Photo — Pexels

A typical RTE covers up to 150 people (size based on Dunbar’s number). An STE typically covers teams 2–4 times the size of an RTE in the organization.

Is this for you?

  • Do you like working with multiple teams?
  • Do you like coordinating and synchronizing activities?
  • Do you want to work in a more strategic role?

Project Manager / Agile Project Manager:

Even though it might appear that agile has taken over the world, a project manager role still exists in many organizations. Some organizations have named the role Agile Project Manager. Sounds better with an ‘Agile’ in it, right!

The Project Manager role is responsible for a project’s overall planning, execution, and delivery. This role requires excellent coordination, communication, and facilitation skills. More importantly, it needs a relentless pursuit towards getting things done.

They don’t need to have a deep understanding of the Scrum framework or principles and practices. However, in many organizations, the agile & the non-agile parts collaborate frequently. It helps if they have a good understanding of Scrum so they can be more effective when working with a scrum team.

A Scrum Master can move into these roles if they have experience leading Scrum teams and delivering projects. This role is often suitable for people who want to be more involved in the overall delivery of a project.

Is this for you?

  • Do you want to be responsible for the overall delivery of a project?
  • Do you like coordinating and synchronizing activities?
  • Do you want to work with stakeholders?
  • Do you like to manage risks/report to management?

Stakeholder / Sponsor/Business Owner

Scrum teams don’t come from trees. They need someone to invest in them. This is where the role of a stakeholder or sponsor comes into play. A Scrum team needs a stakeholder or sponsor who provides funding, resources, and support.

A Scrum Master can move into such roles if they have experience working with Scrum teams and stakeholders closely. This role is often suitable for people who want to be more involved in the overall delivery of a project at a strategic level.

Usually, an RTE/STE has a better chance to move into these roles as they are more exposed to the different stakeholders and manage many teams within the organization.

Is this for you?

  • Do you want to influence the direction of your product/project?
  • Do you want to provide funding, resources, and support to Scrum teams?
  • Do you want to manage stakeholder-level politics?

Transformation Consultant

Are you the go-to person when it comes to Scrum? Do people in your organization look up to you for Scrum advice? If so, then a career as a Transformation Consultant might be the right path for you.

A Transformation Consultant is responsible for helping organizations adopt Scrum and transform their businesses. This role requires excellent facilitation, communication, and coaching skills. More importantly, it needs a deep understanding of Scrum principles and practices.

Do you want to help change the organization? Photo — Pexels

A Scrum Master can move into a Transformation Consultant role if they have experience working with multiple Scrum teams and stakeholders. This role is often suitable for people who enjoy working in a more strategic and cross-functional role.

Is this for you?

  • Do you want to help organizations adopt Scrum or agile methodologies?
  • Do you like moving from one assignment to another frequently?
  • Do you have a deep understanding of Scrum principles and practices?

Scrum Master

Yes, Scrum Master is one of the potential career paths for a Scrum Master. Scrum Masters play an important role in facilitating the flow of work in Scrum teams and helping them deliver value.

If you enjoy working with Scrum teams and helping them succeed, you can stay in this role for as long as you like. There is no need to move into another role.

I know people who have retired from this role. They seemed to really enjoy what they were doing.

Is this for you?

  • Do you want to help Scrum teams be successful?
  • Do you have fun being a Scrum Master?
  • Do you like working closely with your scrum team members?
  • Do you want to stay in this role for a long time?
  • Do you like running scrum events/scrum ceremonies like sprint reviews and retrospectives?

Line Managers

Line managers are responsible for hiring and coaching scrum masters in the organization.

Line Managers keep the chain strong! Photo — Pexels

They also manage the careers of Scrum Masters by supporting them in the day-to-day affairs and helping them move into another project if needed.

Conclusion

There are many potential career paths for a Scrum Master. If you want to move into another role, many options are available. Scrum Masters often move into Agile Coaching, Product Owner/Manager, RTE/STE, Project Management, Stakeholder/Sponsor, or Transformation Consultant roles.

It all depends on your interests, skills, and experiences. The most important thing is to enjoy what you are doing.

What are your thoughts? What other career paths do you see for Scrum Masters?

Please leave your comments and questions below. I would love to hear from you.

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Ilam Padmanabhan
Career Guru

Love to read and write about Software Engg, Agility, QA, Future of Humanity, AI, Books, Travel, Politics, Climate Change, Personal Finance, Writing & Life!