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Do I need to be a developer to be a Scrum Master for a Software Development team?

The answer is no. You don’t need to be a software developer to be a great Scrum Master for a software engineering team.

There are upsides to being a developer.

If you are or were a software developer, you are going to have a greater understanding of what kind of challenges the teams face. You will know what everyone actively does for the team and know what kind of impediments and obstacles block progress during each sprint.

That is a good thing.

You will also find that the team respond to you differently because they respect your knowledge and understanding of their craft. It builds credibility if you speak the language and know the challenges they face.

The problem of being a developer.

My personal transition to Scrum Master within a software development environment was tough. I was the lead software developer and was by far the most experienced technologist within the team.

For that reason, when problems arose, I answered the questions and gave direction to the team because I knew the answers. I had faced and overcome those challenges previously and knew how to solve them. For that reason, I became embedded in the details.

But being embedded in the details is not the role of a Scrum Master.

A Scrum Master is supposed to work with the team to overcome obstacles, remove impediments and help the team to achieve a level of maturity and capability where they are responsible for their own progression and take accountability for their own actions.

As a software developer, it was a double-edged sword.

Rather than contributing to the team as an effective Scrum Master and helping to create an environment where others could excel within their roles, I was still playing the role of a lead developer within the Scrum team and actively hampering their efforts to grow and evolve.

The value of being a novice to software engineering.

The role of a Scrum Master is that of a servant leader. It is your job to work with the team rather than actively do things. You aren’t programming. You aren’t designing. You aren’t a member of the development team.

You are an ally of theirs and your role requires you to interact with the Product Owner, stakeholders and individuals within the organisation that can help you remove impediments.

Whilst software developers are often a unique group of individuals that immediately respect other software developers, it does not mean that they do not respect others with different capabilities.

It just takes a little longer.

As a novice to software development, you are not going to get caught up in the detail because you do not understand the problem nor are you aware of the solution. Instead, you are going to work as a coach to the team to help them overcome the obstacles and achieve their sprint objectives.

In other words, be a Scrum Master.

By focusing on the elements necessary for the team to progress and continuously improve, you are going to be an ally that the team look to for assistance, coaching and potentially even mentoring. You earn respect for your role as a Scrum Master.

Working closely with the Product Owner and the development team empowers you to be an active part of creating and developing products and solutions that delight customers, but you are simply doing so in a different capacity than the software developers.

Many of the individuals in the development team do not possess the same skills and capabilities as you do, nor are they positioned within the organization to assist the team remove impediments, gain assets, or achieve specific objectives so you play a critical role in assisting them.

Again. You earn respect in the role of a Scrum Master.

So, in summary. You do not need to be a software developer to effectively lead as a Scrum Master within a software engineering firm. You just need to work on becoming a great Scrum Master.

If you are interested in doing the Certified Scrum Master or Advanced Certified Scrum Master courses, please visit the course pages.

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