I’m a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) – so what?

This is a companion post to last year’s “I’m a Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) – so what?” post.  In that post I spoke about the advantage of using Certified Scrum Coaches over non-certified coaches for agile or Scrum training.  I also wrote a post called “Agile Ponderings: Certification – useful or not?” where I explored what were then the current certifications available from the Scrum Alliance.  In that one I wrote that I was probably going to pursue becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) but I had some misgivings about it because of the cost and also the way the application process worked.  Apparently other people had problems with the process as well, AND the Scrum Alliance listened to the complaints.  A beta process was created and I was asked to be one of the first five applicants to use the new process.  I’m writing this blog entry to detail my experiences with the new process, but also to make people aware of how using a Certified Scrum Trainer could help their organization achieve better results.

I want to start with the process of becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer (and I’ll shorten this to CST from here on because I’m tired of typing all those words).  For the past couple of years the process required applicants to have achieved the Certified Scrum Practitioner (since renamed to Certified Scrum Professional) or CSP designation.  In fact they had to be a CSP for at least one year before applying.  Once you had that in hand you could apply by filling out an application form which asked a bunch of questions about your experience and your involvement in the Agile/Scrum community.  You also had to submit your training materials, at least 2 student references and at least one co-training reference (someone you taught a class with).  Once you did all of this and paid the $100 application fee your application basically went into a black hole.  That’s where the fun started :-(

I’ve been told applications were reviewed by a few current CSTs and they gave a yes/no vote.  If they voted to accept you then you were accepted.  If they voted no, then sorry, try again next time.  This process ran approximately twice per year, so next time would be at least 6 months away in most cases.  In my case I applied in September of 2009 and was… drum roll please… turned down in October 2009.  I’ve heard that only 4 out of approximately 30 applications were accepted during that round.  I felt my experience and success level were appropriate to the certification and asked for clarification of why I was rejected.  I received a lot of correspondence, but the bottom line was I wasn’t accepted.

Then came the Orlando Scrum Gathering where I happened to run into Jim Cundiff who was restarting his role as Managing Director of the Scrum Alliance.  He spoke to a number of us prior to a board meeting where the topic of the CST application process was an agenda item.  The result of the board meeting was the creation of a group tasked with coming up with a new process for CST applications and a few individuals, including me, who were named as the initial beta testers for the process.

The new process was rolled out in April, 2010 and is a LOT better than the old process.  The new process actually requires a CST applicant to PROVE downstream success of their training through endorsements of at least 5 students, and more importantly, at least 3 different organizations!  Then it went a step further and requires at least 5 sponsors from within the CST/CSC community.  In other words you have to have student success, organizational success AND you have to convince at least 5 potential peers of your abilities.

It took me a few weeks to get all of the necessary documents in place, but on April 21 I submitted my CST application.  Two weeks later there were no objections so I was accepted as a CST (the normal 30 day period for objections was reduced to 2 weeks for the beta process).  I feel honored to have been accepted and also humbled by the great things people wrote about me for my application.  I hope to live up to it all!

Now, why is all of this background important?  Simple – just like a Certified Scrum Coach has obtained that status through experience which can help organizations, a CST has some proven abilities as well.  I’ve been asked by others how to know if a trainer is any good.  Net Objectives has a list of questions to ask someone when looking for CSM training.  I don’t like some of their questions because of some assumptions they have made (full disclosure: between September 2006 and April 2008 I worked for Net Objectives so I don’t dislike them, I simply don’t always agree with them).  I also prefer to ask questions about a trainer in general, not just a CSM course!  I’d ask the following questions:

  1. Does the person have significant experience in training organizations of all sizes and types?
  2. Does the person have references for successful training engagements (at lesat 3)?
  3. Does the person have access to other trainers and coaches to help them get answers to difficult questions/problems?
  4. Does the person have experience training the type of course you are trying to get? For example, do they do team based training, role based training, etc?
  5. Does the person lecture or do they facilitate a meaningful training workshop?

You can ask all of those questions, or you can ask just one: Are you a Certified Scrum Trainer?

You can get away with this single question because a CST will have positive and acceptable answers to all 5 of those questions (and MANY more)!  Once you know you have a CST, then start digging deeper around any specific areas where you have concerns.  CSTs are excellent trainers, but not all have the same experiences.  Some will fit your situation better than others so be sure to ask questions.  On the other hand, as question 3 makes reference to, all CSTs have access to the entire CST/CSC community to help them out.  That is access to well over 100 of the brightest trainers and coaches in the world.  There is almost nothing which will stump that group!

Until next time I’ll be Making Agile a Reality® by starting to set up some Certified ScrumMaster courses.  My first one is already listed and is a unique co-facilitation with Roger Brown in San Diego.  Sign up before May 26 and get the early bird discount!

About Bob Hartman

Bob is founder of Agile For All and an agile trainer and coach. He never leaves home without his "NO" button.

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