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How did mentorship change your career trajectory and why?

How did mentorship change your career trajectory and why?

Mentorship changed my entire career trajectory completely. It created a significant amount of lift and put me on the path to mastery significantly faster and mor effectively than if I had stumbled around in the dark by myself.

Why did mentorship change my career trajectory?

Back in the days, I was a developer.

A solid developer that loved what I did for a living, loved solving problems, and appreciated the financial rewards that came with being good at my job.

I worked on interesting projects and products in a variety of industries, from healthcare to energy to finance. Challenging, interesting, and rewarding.

Without the intervention of a mentor, I would more than likely still be a developer today.

As part of my responsibilities as a developer, I also took on the accountability of a scrum master for the team and I enjoyed the role. I liked working with people, I liked helping them become better, and I liked the responsibility of helping the organization become better at product development.

Scrum Master Certification / Coaching.

To advance my scrum master skills and capabilities, I opted to attend the Certified Scrum Master course from Scrum Alliance, and I was blessed to have Jean Tabaka as my Professional Scrum Trainer.

She proved to be my first mentor in the agile world and had a significant impact on my personal and professional life. A highly skilled agile expert and agile author that helped me find my feet and calling as a scrum master and agile coach.

Over the few months that Jean was my agile mentor, we had a fair number of conversations about my career and aspirations. She asked me pointed questions about what I was doing, why I was doing it, and helped me explore the options available to me.

At one point Jean turned around and told me that I was no longer a developer.

She helped me map out a new career path as a scrum master, agile coach, and scrum trainer. It helped me understand that things had shifted in my life, and that a new opportunity to grow and evolve was presenting itself to me.

I simply needed to take advantage of it and commit to the new opportunities in my life.

Committing to the team.

I was fortunate to work with a great team, and making the shift from developer to scrum master was an interesting one, but ultimately a very rewarding and fulfilling shift.

The team were more than happy for me to slot into the full-time scrum master role, and work to progress my skills, competence, and capabilities in that role. The timing was great, and people were happy for me to have a crack at it and help me become more effective as a scrum master.

As I became more embedded as the scrum master, I made mistakes and tripped a few times. I would touch base with Jean via email and walk her through what was happening, where I was stumbling, and seek her advice and mentorship to become better.

This short-term mentorship arrangement transformed my career.

Jean was exactly the right person, at exactly the right time, to help me reshape my career and embrace a new journey into a world I had never considered before.

Training. Coaching. Consulting.

Jean helped me recognize that being a scrum master and agile coach was not only something I could do, but it was something I could do incredibly well, and focus on achieving mastery for the future.

Apprenticeship to Mastery

As I worked in the environment, my skills and capabilities improved.

  • I could facilitate great meetings and conversations.
  • I could facilitate great events and shape the space to produce great outcomes.
  • I could help the team work through conflict and disagreements effectively.
  • I could coach the team through agile and scrum effectively.

And so forth.

Practise makes perfect, but deliberate practise combined with coaching and mentoring raises the bar to a whole new level. I simply couldn’t have achieved the level of mastery I did, in such a short space of time, without the help and interventions of great agile coaches and mentors.

The truly transformative experiences in your life, in my experience, are the quiet moments.

The truly powerful, shape shifting conversations that impact your life in significant ways are not always long, loud, and stirring. They can be short, sharp interventions and discussions that illuminate the way forward with clarity and enthusiasm.

Simple. Powerful. Effective.


The power of a great mentor lies in the fact that they have already walked the path that  you are on, and they have excelled in that journey.

You don’t need to learn through stumbling in the dark, you can learn from their mistakes and you can learn from their success.

A great mentor gives you the space and freedom to experiment, cocreate, and collaborate with others to success but also plants you firmly on the right start, and provides guardrails and food for thought as you progress along your journey.

Yes, there is value in coaching to discover the right answer, but there is also significant value in speaking to someone who has the answer to your questions and problems. Someone who knows what is most likely to resolve your problem and lead you back onto the path of success quickly and effectively.

They can help you reflect on why their advice was so powerful at a later point, but in the moment, it really helps to have someone that can guide you in the right direction and alert you to what you need to keep a look out for. The red flags that you shouldn’t ignore.

So, that’s how my mentoring experience started and I have had great mentors and coaches all the way through. From people I worked with to people I recruited as a mentor outside of my work environment.

I would highly recommend that you do the same.

About John McFadyen

If you are interested in becoming an agile coach and value mentored, coach-driven skills development in your journey to mastery, visit our Growing Scrum Masters website.

For more information on John McFadyen, connect with John on LinkedIn at

If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master and want to achieve internationally recognised and certified accreditation as a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master (CSM) course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill to a more advanced level of knowledge and agile coaching capability, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM) course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master (CSP-SM) course page.

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