On my Facebook travels between agile groups, I have found an interesting discussion that got me thinking.
What are your thoughts about certification vs experience?comment on Facebook
This is a super interesting question. My first reaction was experience, but then certification. After another minute of thinking, experience. In the end, I entered a rabbit hole, so I thought. It’s best to put this in writing and gather my thoughts.
Years of Experience
I have been a Scrum Master/Coach for a couple of years, does that mean I have experience?
In the military, service time equates to experience. In a leadership role, I am not that sure.
Part of being a Scrum Master/Coach in a growing company is that you end up doing SM interviews. You get presented to all sorts of CV’s, ranging from people that did Scrum even before Jeff Sutherland and Ken Swabber, to others with just a couple of years. So the question is always, does 18yrs as an SM equate to being an awesome SM?
Well, yeah. No. I don’t believe that. It doesn’t mean anything at all. You could have been doing waterfall project management since the ’70s, that doesn’t make you a good project manager.
Although years of experience mean nothing. Proven experience means everything. Let me explain.
You have someone in your interview process and you are talking about estimation. One SM has 10 years of experience, the other has 2. This is the question.
How do you estimate the work you have to do and communicate deadlines?
We do Story Points. The teams use the Fibonacci sequence and we have standardized across all teams that 8 SP’s is the max for a developer per sprint. Then we sum up the epic, divide by 8 and that gives us the amount of sprints.10 years Scrum Master
We use Story Points. The PO explains the item and if it is clear the team votes on the effort using the Fibonacci sequence, we have some reference stories from prev. sprints that we use as a guideline. After all, that is estimated we use yesterday’s weather to try and predict how many sprints it will take. We keep on and adapting our estimation depending on the new sprint velocity and if there are any required changes. As a team, we always give a confidence level to our “amount of sprints” estimation.2 years Scrum Master
Is certification important? I have to say yes, but not for the reasons that you may think. I consider certification important for you and me, not for our CV.
For me, certification is a standard. It allows me to understand if the knowledge I acquired is correct or not against what the community thinks. It makes it more objective instead of subjective, meaning, if I get a PSM II, I am confident that according to the scrum.org standards, my knowledge is at that level. If I fail the PSM II, like I did my first time around, I know that my knowledge was not enough. And that was correct. I made a goal to study more and learn more about agile leadership and being an SM.
In the end, the certification helped me understand where my limitations were. Saying this, certification is not everything. Like Jeff Sutherland said to a couple of colleagues of mine during their SM training.
Being certified is like taking your license. It means you can drive, doesn’t mean you are good at it.