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Being a scrum master at Essent

Annelies van Dijk
7 minutes

This past August, there was an offsite event for the scrum master community of Essent IT. To already get a nice insight in the beautiful day we had together, watch this video. But before I continue telling you about this awesome event, for those new to the term: a scrum master here at Essent ensures that all communication and collaboration between their team members and clients run smoothly for a successful outcome.

A scrum master's duties usually vary depending on the type of work or day. These duties can include supporting the team with their tasks, facilitating open discussions, driving the improvement cycle, and also resolving any conflict within the team. They ensure that planning sessions, reviews, and meetings related to the work of the teams take place.

Now hopefully that's cleared up. Our offsite event for the scrum masters at Essent IT was held so that there could be an in-depth discussion about quality and the type of impact scrum masters can have. There also was room to practice facilitation skills. In addition to that, the group also enjoyed a Q&A with Pascal Quist and Yannick van der Wende about their scrum master role within ASML and Lightyear which really challenged the group's perspectives.

To give more insight on scrum masters at Essent we held interviews with five scrum masters; Pouja Nikray, David Festen, Tom Voigt, Revathy Umapathy, and Vasavi Mosali. They told us about how their experience was at the offsite event and what it means to be a scrum master.

What does the term scrum master mean to you?

“A scrum master to me is someone who facilitates the process within a team. Such as doing the daily stand-ups, making sure that there is sprint planning and making sure that everyone follows the same process. Also helping with any conflicts within the team or between teams.”- Pouja Nikray

¨Scrum masters make sure that the team is well functioning and if the team is struggling you try to ease that and help them. This can be done by providing them with the right tools so they can do their job such as if they have a slow laptop you find a way to get a new one or if the team is feeling like the work pressure is too high you make sure that there is some leisure going on. With my team, we play Fussball every other day.¨- David Festen

Why did you choose to become a scrum master?

¨It wasn't exactly something I chose to be. We had a scrum master and he joined a new team in Essent and that left a gap within our team. So I volunteered to be the new scrum master for the team. I chose to volunteer because aside from building products, I enjoy working on the process and building the process within the team. In my opinion, the best way to achieve quality products is to do it together as a team.¨- Tom Voigt

How long have you been working in a scrum team?

¨I've been working with scrum teams for a while but never got the chance to look into the theory. There's a bonus because Essent IT is investing in the scrum master community with agile coaches. This is cool to see because I wholeheartedly believe the best way for us to grow is to have these self-steering teams that can make decisions for themselves which would contribute to a larger goal. Instead of passively waiting until stuff comes our way.¨- Tom Voigt

How does Essent support and encourage you as a scrum master?

¨With the agile coaches and also just with investing in the scrum master community. Having the offsite day itself makes you feel supported because of the investment and it contributes to feeling like you have a community.¨- Tom Voigt

How was your experience at the offsite event for scrum masters?

“I’m quite pleased with the offsite. I was a bit worried that it would just be a four-hour presentation however there was active participation such as workshops and exchanging ideas and opinions with fellow scrum masters.”- Pouja Nikray

¨The scrum master community has been helpful and supportive. If I had any doubts they stepped forward and helped me figure out what I can do. There were sessions and meetings where I got to meet and connect with different people since this is new for me and I could go back with what I learned to my team. In conclusion, it was a good experience.¨- Revathy Umapathy

¨It was quite nice to be together with the scrum masters in another setting that in a way we aren't usually in. We also had in-depth discussions on certain stuff and also checked in with other teams on how they are doing. With this, I had this feeling that there is this community of scrum masters. We also had a nice boat ride.¨- Tom Voigt

¨The offsite event was great exposure. We had an introduction presentation from the CEO of rockstars and he showed how their leadership is and how they make sure employees are valued. If we take that back to Essent and show our teams how they are valued then they will be satisfied completely and it would be beneficial to the company.¨- Vasavi Mosali

¨It was great. The scrum master function at Essent is quite special. There was a change. Before it was a full-time function however now it is a role for typically a developer so it is a part-time job. Since the developers are scrum masters now, they needed to learn some techniques. How the offsite event was set up there was something for everyone.¨- David Festen

Do you have any final words for future scrum masters of Essent?

¨The scrum master's goal should always be bonding, merging, and helping the team out. So people who are interested I would tell them just keep going and support the team. Without your support, the technical things will not be in place and the team connection will not happen.¨- Revathy Umapathy

¨Be bold and don't be scared! Read up on as much theory as you like and don't forget to put it into practice. The hard conversations in my opinion lead to the best outcomes. If you aren't sure what to do, ask the agile coaches what to do. They are there to help us but also reach out.¨- Tom Voigt

¨Ultimately we feel like it's a team's responsibility, not just the scrum master. If we as a team are facing an issue it shouldn't only be the scrum master resolving it. We as scrum masters can take it to the next level and take any help so the issue is resolved and we as a team could work on it together. In the end, it's all the team's work.¨- Vasavi Mosali

¨Know what you're getting yourself into, it's both a wonderful and fulfilling role but at the same time, it can be overwhelming. It's not just about you but it's about the whole team and if the team doesn't feel encouraged it is not going to work. It's not about how good you are at doing your job but about how good you are at helping others. As a starter, it can be a bit overwhelming but once it all works out it can be very encouraging and you feel really great that things are smoothing out, also seeing your colleagues happy makes you feel good.¨- David Festen

Thank you so much to the scrum masters for giving such insightful and honest answers. Hopefully, this gives you an idea of how it is to be a scrum master at Essent IT.

Annelies van Dijk

Agile Coach

Annelies is the driving force behind the Scrum Master and Technical Competence Lead communities. She works as an Agile Coach in the Lean Agile Center of Excellence. 

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Comments on this article
Ony 04-10-2022 | 15:29 This is cool
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