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Did following a certification path change the game for you, if so, how?

Did following a certification path change the game for you, if so, how?

I have never followed a structured certification path at all, they didn’t exist when I started out in agile. You needed to talk to a lot of people, recruit mentors, and invest in several different courses to find your way back in the day.

Today, there are very clear certification paths mapped out to specific destinations, but at the start of the agile movement, you needed to do a coaching certification to improve your coaching, and you needed to work as an agile practitioner to develop that craft, and you needed to recruit a mentor to help you improve as a scrum master and agile coach.

I also read a great deal of books on the subject, some great and others not, so it was a process of trial and error for me, personally.

A large part of why I created Growing Scrum Masters is to help people find their way from novice scrum master to advanced, professional scrum master and agile coach without having to bump into the same walls that I did.

Help them save thousands of dollars on courses, certifications, etc. that won’t necessarily help them.

Tailoring my coaching journey in alignment with client requirements.

Back in the day, I recognised that my transition from programmer to scrum master required training and certification, so I signed up for the Certified Scrum Master course (Scrum Alliance) and proceeded to earn my CSM certification.

As I progressed, I recognised that I needed to have stronger facilitation skills and so I signed up for several facilitation workshops, and also invested in several books that helped me acquire the skills and knowledge I needed to be good at that.

As we mastered the basics as a scrum team, I recognised that I needed to develop coaching skills to help the team progress, and signed up for professional coaching courses and certification programs that would empower me to coach the team effectively.

Some of those programs took years to complete, whilst others were short-term certification paths that allowed me to learn and evolve as I worked with the team. Both were valuable, one just required a great deal of time and effort whilst the other allowed me to get going out the gates.

I recognised, at the time, that there was a significant difference between professional coaching and agile coaching. I wanted to master both elements. I wanted to be knowledgeable and highly skilled in both tracks, and so I developed a lot of practices that I could follow in each sphere of coaching.

Certification paths for Agile Coaches

Yes, in theory, a scrum master is an agile coach.

That said, there is a significant difference between a deeply skilled agile coach with expertise and experience in a few agile frameworks versus a scrum master with 2 years’ experience working with a single scrum team.

You do need to do the work, become a highly skilled practitioner, and then build your knowledge, build your capabilities, and build your skills to be an effective agile coach.

Scrum Alliance have 2 great certification paths for agile coaches, namely the Certified Team Coach and Certified Enterprise Agile Coach certifications which validate your skills, knowledge, and competence.

Yes, it is valuable to acquire certifications because it proves to others that you are what you say you are, but for me, acquiring the certifications was valuable because it validated that I had done the work, earned my stripes, and proven to my peers that I was a great agile coach.

IC Agile have also launched and developed some valuable agile coaching certification tracks that are worth exploring. I think the shift to agile coaching and a clear focus on helping teams, as part of the journey of an agile coach, is incredibly valuable.

I would still recommend that you recruit a coach to help you develop, and recruit a mentor to help you grow your capabilities, on top of the training and certification work that you are doing.

So, in a nutshell, I didn’t follow the clear certification paths that exist today, but I did create my own certification and learning path, which has proved to be invaluable for the work I do today.

About John McFadyen

If you are interested in becoming an agile coach and value mentored, coach-driven skills development in your journey to mastery, visit our Growing Scrum Masters website.

For more information on John McFadyen, connect with John on LinkedIn at

If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master and want to achieve internationally recognised and certified accreditation as a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master (CSM) course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill to a more advanced level of knowledge and agile coaching capability, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM) course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master (CSP-SM) course page.

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author avatar
John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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