Career path to Scrum Master


Ever since moving from a development background to Scrum Master and Agile Coach, I’ve often wondered if other professions could transition to Scrum Master for software teams without the technical background.

I have friends in both Teaching and the Police force, who would like a career change and have always thought they could bring a different aspect to the role, as both professions have to be excellent at people management and resolving conflict.

Does anyone have any experience themselves of moving to a Scrum Master or similar role from a different industry?


It would be difficult to effectively serve a software team/org without knowledge of software development.

This doesn’t mean “programming chops,” however.

I see no reason a teacher, police officer, or other human couldn’t be an incredible asset. The context of software development is important to know, beyond that, the desire to learn catalyzes great things.

Unfortunately, the convention of hiring doesn’t think this way.


In line with what @zachbonaker said, I think the person would need context. To become a teacher you need to have both formal training and most states require practical experience too prior to accreditation. Same is true for joining the police force. So that is the minimum entry criteria for me to switch into those professions. As a hiring manager myself (please don’t fault me or discredit me on function :stuck_out_tongue: ), I believe anyone that is looking to work on a team as a scrum master should have more than an interest in the position. Some time learning the craft of software delivery, learning professional facilitation, and learning the underpinning of lean and agile thinking. That does not mean they have to be an expert at all, but an ability to independantly speak to these areas. The worst thing any org can do, is put an ill prepared SM on a team. The team will not trust them, and suffer for it.


I hope that is not too rambling. I started the reply a long time before I posted. Lots of start/stop cycles in that post :-/


I agree a Scrum Master role is definitely not something to just be dropped into. Anyone coming from other industries would have to go through training to understand Software development. Much like a new teacher going through Teacher training, they would require a period of Scrum Master training, shadowing a very experienced Scrum Master to learn the ropes.

However I would hope experienced professionals could run handle the people management side early on, a teacher or police officer running (or helping run) a retrospective would be very interesting. For example, I often find it difficult to facilitate a retrospective, whilst also observing everyone’s behaviour, body language, lack of engagement (I’ve often asked another Scrum Master to help observe these). In theory a teacher is an expert in observing behaviours and engagement, so could add a lot of value.


I agree with what has been posted above. I think its a skill set that not everyone has. How to serve, coach, protect a team is not an easy thing. From my experience as a team member also pulling in my management background it was hard not to assert myself and be more of a servant leader as opposed to more of a dictator… Was not easy for me to just sit back and observe. I think that line of thinking comes from experience. So with that experience I was able to sit back and know when to use the hammer and when to use the velvet glove. So for me balance comes with experience. I think a good scrum master needs a blend of experience… How to be a nurturing parent, how to be a strict parent, how to celebrate success, and how to reflect on failure. Its not always how many tools you know how to use with in the tool box… Its knowing how to use one and using it well.


Spoken like a true CSM :grinning:


This is a great answer BTW.


Slightly left of center regarding the initial question, but I got into IT project management coming from an operations background in a mortgage firm. I had experience with the basic concepts of how to define/build/deploy an initiative (in this case it was working with a vendor to create a custom ERP system for our appraisal/title/flood insurance management and ordering workflow) and I enjoyed the experience, so that led me into IT project management which begat my scrum master/agile experience.

As a hiring manager I am a HUGE “will” guy…if you have the skills thats fine, but do you have the drive? My totally non-scientific inappropriate description question of a candidate is “do they give a shit?”. You can teach someone to code/project manage/scrum master, but you can’t teach the fire inside to do a great job and to deliver and grow. I would hire someone without any IT experience and grow them into a role if they’ve got the right level of devotion. Leadership skills are important and if they have the rudimentary toolkit again I will work with them to develop it.


I have often considered putting together a talk called “Why Your Scrum Master should be Liberal Arts educated”. (Not surprisingly, I attended a liberal arts school… Where I dual-majored in Peace & Conflict Studies and Information Technology. People used to jokingly ask me, “What are you going to do? Mediate conflicts between computer nerds?” Sure enough, here I am, doing exactly that!)

The point @Leanleff made about having a servant leader mindset is absolutely critical. Suppose you had to pick between two imperfect people for a Scrum Master:

  • Person A has incredibly strong technical skills but has low emotional intelligence and has a dictator mindset.

  • Person B is a true servant leader, strong collaborator, easy to engage, and quickly builds trust with anyone s/he meets but has no technical skills.

I would take Person B every time. This person is going to be living the Agile values and principles, and their presence on the team is more likely to drive high performance. If technical issues are blocking the team, Person B is also more likely to ask questions about how the issue can be resolved (a facilitation-based approach) whereas it is possible Person A may be tempted to “do it himself/herself” because s/he already has the technical skills to solve the problem. That may remove the immediate impediment, but it may not help the team become more self-organizing. Also, it is much easier to fill Person B’s gap in technical knowledge through training than it is to change Person A’s mindset and behaviors.


Nicely said @matthewholtry Love the statement. “What are you going to do? Mediate conflicts between computer nerds?” Sure enough, here I am, doing exactly that!) So true!!!


I have a question, first a bit of background. I am currently a Special Education teacher with 6 years experience. I’m interested in becoming a Scrum Master.

This thread was a long time ago, but. Anyone have a recommendation on a technical certification I could get also?