I was at the Scrum Gathering in Seattle, where I got to participate in the CST Retreat followed by the three-day conference. As almost every attendee agreed, this was one of the best conferences I’ve attended so far. Kudos to Bryan Stallings and the entire team at the Scrum Alliance for putting together this show.
In this post, I want to focus on my experience of becoming a CST (Certified Scrum Trainer).
The CST Interview Process
After contemplating becoming a CST for years, I eventually applied and was rather surprised by the process — the CST certification process happened two days before the retreat.
The CST application process is one of the widely debated topics in the Scrum world. But in all fairness, I felt that the process I saw was a fair one and something I am proud to have participated in. The theme of the CST approval process was “Raising the Bar”. I had a fairly intensive application process that got reasonable follow-up by Scrum Alliance. Although at times I felt I I didn’t know where the application went, when I sent an email to the Alliance there was a quick response.
A few days before the interview, I got an email from the Scrum Alliance that listed a series of topics that we may be asked to speak about. One that was of particular interest to me was “Scrum and Infrastructure”. My rule was if I wasn’t already prepared for all the topics, then I should not even have qualified. Still I spent a day or so, thinking about these topics and writing down key points that I would address if that topic was chosen.
The panel consisted of well-known coaches and others whom I highly respect and some I had never met before. Even the CST review committee admitted they were very tense as they were not very clear how exactly they would proceed. They had done their homework well and were prepared to scrutinize us. Some of the reviewers recused themselves, since they knew me too well. On the day of the interview, I felt the way I did when I went for my MBA selection interview at the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Business in 2003. I am not sure why, but that is how I felt.
First session: An informal chat with a group of CSTs
We sat down and I was asked a series of questions. This session was meant to break the ice. Many in this panel had read my application, my blog, etc., but had not met me. I did not even know many of these CSTs. I think this part put me a bit at ease. One particular question I remember was “ What makes you a different type of Scrum Trainer?”.
Second Session: Presentation
I left for a walk with another CST applicant to see Pike Place Market. Whenever I’m in Seattle and visit the Market it always puts me in a good mood — may be it’s because I like seafood. I came back post-lunch (with what I would describe as a strong dose of Starbucks coffee) to the afternoon presentatation. I waited out for my name to be called, and I felt like I was walking into completely unknown territory.
I was given a topic, and the CSTs were listening to me talk and try various techniques to keep the group interested. The time flew by really quickly. I remember coming out of it tired and still tense.
Evening came and it was time for the decision. There was an odd silence in that room. Many applicants were rejected; only two of us got through. Like any other Scrum session, there was a retrospective done to see how this process can be improved.
I am quite aware that there are ways that things can always be improved and I am positive that the Scrum Alliance is doing all the right things to make the experience a great one for all future CST candidates.
I was very excited to attend my first Scrum Gathering in Seattle. I wore two hats: Marketing Communications Manager for SolutionsIQ, the platinum sponsor of the event, and Official Tweeter (if there is such a title) for the Scrum Alliance. Bryan Stallings, my colleague at SolutionsIQ, was the conference chair for this fun and educational conference. It was a great experience!
From the moment I entered the Grand Hyatt in downtown Seattle on the first day, long before the opening keynote, there was Agile in the air – people were happy to be there and they quickly began introducing themselves to one another and talking about their backgrounds. As more participants arrived, the buzz increased dramatically and everyone was really looking forward to the beginning of the day’s events.
Once the Gathering was underway, I was more and more impressed with everyone’s willingness to participate, learn, share stories about how they implement Scrum at their companies (or not), and help each other solve problems – it was very inspiring! I attended all three keynotes and as many sessions on Day 1and Day 2 as I could, tweeting about the presentations and about the very engaging Un-Conference Open Space meetups on Day 3.
There was a special Twitter hashtag for the Gathering, #sgsea, and the Twitter-savvy attendees were constantly commenting and sharing their thoughts, which I followed with great interest. The tweets ranged from sharing speakers’ quotes to whether they agreed/disagreed with the speakers to comments about what they liked/disliked about the conference. (Twitter apparently doesn’t keep old tweets anymore, or else you’d be able to read all of them.) By a wide margin, the #sgsea Tweeters were very happy they attended, and I saw nothing but praise for how the conference was executed (lineup of speakers, food, and lots of time between sessions to talk to one another, among other things).
I could easily write a long article about the fantastic Open Space on Day 3 – it was amazing to see how passionate everyone was about creating sessions around Agile/Scrum topics and how eager participants were to listen, share information, and delve more deeply into the situations they encounter on a daily basis. There had been some trepidation before the day began – during the first two days of the Gathering, I overheard quite a few people discussing the upcoming Open Space sessions: “What are they?” “Sounds weird, there are no scheduled sessions, what’s that all about?” “I don’t think I’ll get anything out of it, but I’ll go anyway to see what happens.” As it turns out, there were raves about the Open Space on Twitter, with countless tweets indicating that it was the best day of the conference.
All in all, Scrum Gathering Seattle was a huge success, both as a conference and as a topic of Twitter conversation. I lost count of the number of Gathering-related tweets – there was a seemingly endless stream. The unanimous verdict was that the Gathering was the best conference participants had ever attended. Be sure to follow the Scrum Alliance on Twitter to learn about all upcoming events!