Saturday, May 9, 2015

More tips for CST Aspirants

What does it take to become a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST)? Passion and Energy. You should stand out from the crowd!

Aspirant: How high do we have to climb?
TAC: What we really want is someone who can leap tall buildings in a single bound!
The Scrum Alliance Trainer Acceptance Committee held its first ever workshop for CST Aspirants last week at SGPHX, the Phoenix Scrum Gathering. This gave candidates a chance to ask questions and understand what is really expected of a CST to get through the final examination.

The answers to two questions really stood out for me in this workshop:

  • Why do I have to submit my own learning materials?
  • How many students must I have taught?


Why do you have to submit your own learning materials?

Many Aspirants today work for a company that has already created a "deck" for teaching Scrum. I am told that Scrum.org even requires their trainers to train to a standardized deck. Why reinvent the wheel? 

If an Aspirant is using someone else's materials, here is a typical conversation during the final interview:
  • Examiner: What does this diagram on page 35 mean?
  • Aspirant: <dances around the question without really answering it>
  • Examiner: Try again. What does it really mean?
  • Aspirant: I'm not sure. It's something the company put in, but I don't really use it in my course.
A CST must know their stuff! A CST should not be training materials that they do not understand or support fully. If you don't create it, it's almost impossible to learn it well enough to teach from it effectively and without blind spots.

How many students must you teach?

The Scrum Alliance requires an Aspirant to have taught at least 100 students in CSM-like context (2 day course). This should demonstrate that you are capable of doing the job of a CST. 

Does training 100 students guarantee that you will be accepted? No.

The Scrum Alliance wants its trainers to come from the top 1%. That top 1% are the people who motivate and convince others to want to do Scrum and do it well. You're job is to convince the TAC that you belong there already, so all they have to do is recognize your accomplishment!

A CST is not merely a trainer. A CST is an ambassador of Scrum. So the criteria on the Scrum Alliance website are perhaps best to be understood not as acceptance criteria, but as exclusion criteria. If you don't meet these criteria, don't bother applying. If your objective is simply to satisfy the absolute minimum requirements necessary, then you probably haven't understood what being a CST is really about, and are therefore unlikely to pass.

What does it take to become a CST?

Above all else, perseverance! Don't give up. Not everyone makes on the first try. I needed four tries, an extreme case, to be sure, but many need two tries to get through, and some very good trainers even needed three. Passion, energy, and perseverance! 

P.S. To my padawans who came up for evaluation in Phoenix: Congratulations and high fives to Joe Justice! Joe needed two tries to get through. And to Lizzie Morris, I say don't give up! Both of you are awesome trainers who deserve to be recognized as such!

P.P.S. Are you a CST Aspirant? If are on the path to becoming CST, check out our network


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tips for CST Aspirants

So you want to become a Certified Scrum Trainer? What does it take to become a CST? I facilitated a workshop at the Phoenix Scrum Gathering (#SGPHX) on the challenges of becoming a trainer. Several people shared their experiences, including current and former members of the TAC (Trainer Acceptance Committee) and Tirell Payton, a Certified Scrum Coach whose first attempt at passing the TAC was not successful. 

Tirell wrote the following summary, which I thankfully quote:

During the retreat Peter Stevens facilitated a session on the CST process and some of the potential pitfalls the aspirants encounter as they go through the process.

I acted as the scribe and town crier, and as such lots of people have come up and asked me for my list of items.  The items on the list follow 2 key dimensions:  The common items that lead to candidates not being accepted and advice for how to make it through the process with your sanity intact.

For those of you on the list, hopefully these items will be helpful to anyone you're mentoring through the process.  Tomorrow at the gathering if anyone has any questions on these items, I am willing to give advice and share my experiences.

Some of the items that are a challenge for applicants:
  • Knowledge.  Know your stuff backward and forward.  Even better, be able to communicate it clearly and succinctly
  • Community Involvement.  The TAC really likes to see a breadth of community involvement
  • In person techniques.  Context matters, be mindful of the fact that when you are in front of the TAC review, some techniques that work very well in the context of a 2 day training course may not work well at all in your TAC panel session.
  • Personal Statement.  The TAC wants to understand how you will make an impact as a trainer. Becoming a CST is just as much an affirmation of your passion and commitment as well as a platform for you to go on to greater heights.  How will you change people's lives in 2 days?
  • Co Training.  The TAC wants to see very good evidence that you have co-trained with CSTs.  Yes its difficult, yes its hard to coordinate schedules, but its very worthwhile.  Co-training depends your connection with your training community, spreads effective techniques, and provides an opportunity to observe stylistic differences.

Some of the advice from the session:
  • Don't give up.  If you don't get through on the first try, understand you are not the first person that this has happened to.  
  • Be accepting of feedback.  Listen.
  • Treat it like a job interview with the same level of professional discipline and focus
  • Ask and ye shall receive.  Make yourself visible in the community.  Help.  Enlist others to be co-conspirators in your success.