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How I ended up becoming a (Professional) Scrum trainer

In October 2003 my life of Scrum started, albeit not with Scrum. My life of Scrum actually started with eXtreme Programming which we then wrapped in Scrum. In May 2004 I attended a CSM class (“Certified ScrumMaster”) by Ken Schwaber in Brussels (Belgium). At the time I had no idea but it seems it was the first CSM class in the wider region.

Fast forward >>

In December 2010 I traveled to Zurich (Switzerland) to attend a PSM class (“Professional Scrum Master”) by Ken Schwaber. Attending the class was part of my journey towards becoming a Professional Scrum Trainer (“PST”) for Scrum.org. Ken had founded this new organization a year earlier, in October 2009.

In April 2010, at an event of the Agile Consortium Belgium in Brussels, I asked Jeff Sutherland about this new organization founded by his former companion. Jeff started by sharing his story of Ken’s dismissal from his position at the ScrumAlliance. He continued by saying that he (as a business man) liked that there were now two organizations to promote Scrum. However, what I remember most was how Jeff emphasized that he expected the bars would be raised for anyone aspiring to work with Ken and through Scrum.org.

It intrigued me. I had been closely following up on the emergence and growth of Scrum.org as it coincided with a personal process of professional recovery. I painfully discovered that I had been blinded by management ambitions (and promises) in 2007-2008. I realized that it had only lead me astray. I realized that Scrum was my way and that I needed to not only get back on track but also up my game. Go full throttle. I started focusing on delivering work with Scrum again and without much thought or considerations I did the PSM level I and level II assessments. (Fyi. What was level II then is now level III.) Based on my experience and achievements, Ken allowed me to move forward on the path of becoming a PST. I experienced it as an expression of “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”.

At the time of the PSM class in Zurich, I was also starting to get deeply involved in the Netherlands as the Scrum leader of a large consulting organization. I started engaging with large organizations, often in the financials sector.

In April 2011, Ken came to Brussels for an event I co-organized for the Agile Consortium Belgium. Preceding the evening event, we spent the afternoon chatting in a Brussels hotel. By the end of our conversation Ken invited me to join his pilot PSPO class (“Professional Scrum Product Owner”) in Amsterdam a week later. My manager said “no” (referring to the PSM class I had already attended in December). After Ken offering a few discounts and my manager still refusing permission to go, I decided to take a leave, pay for it myself and attend the class in my personal time. It simply was an opportunity to good to miss.

Shortly after attending, I acquired my license to teach PSM and PSPO classes. As an employee of the large consulting company, guess who got the benefits from me being able to facilitate Professional Scrum trainings in a booming environment like the Netherlands? Still, nobody ever bothered to reimburse my costs. And I never bothered to ask. A matter of pride or a lack of courage?

Although it is not something I had planned for, it looks like in 2011-2012 I ended up being in the eye of the Scrum storm that was sweeping the Netherlands. In March 2012, Ken and I agreed on initiating and driving forward the first edition of a new event, which we called Scrum Day Europe. It took a lot of energy but it happened on 11 July 2012.

Towards the end of 2012, I realized I was combining three jobs:

  1. I was a Scrum trainer facilitating at least one and (at times) up to two classes a week. Most of my classes were in Amsterdam. Having given up staying in hotels (for personal reasons) that meant leaving my home in Antwerp around 5.30am and arriving back at home around 7.30pm for four days a week.
  2. I was the global Scrum leader and local Agile value proposition leader at our company. I was describing, documenting, presenting and trying to sell our approach and offerings of Scrum and Agile transformations. I was internally coaching and collaborating with coaches and Scrum Masters. I was the point of contact for consultants across the world.
  3. I was the course steward maintaining the PSM and PSPO courseware for Scrum.org, working with Ken Schwaber and Alex Armstrong. It consisted mainly of proposing, testing and implementing new ideas, new representations and new exercises.

I take my work seriously. I always have. I still need to learn to say “no”. I have a bit of what I would call an Atlas syndrome. So, I took all these three jobs seriously. I was spending more than 24/7 of my time. I was literally not taking any time off (not even the weekends). It wasn’t too sustainable (I guess).

I remember a Wednesday in March 2013. It was the day before a 2-day event for Professional Scrum Trainers organized by Scrum.org in Amsterdam. Ken and I spent another afternoon of chatting together, catching up and aligning. Two days later, the Friday evening after the internal event, we looked each other in the eyes and realized that it might be better for the both of us to start partnering rather than continuing our dispersed collaboration. Among many other considerations it would allow me to focus on sustaining and promoting Scrum via the Professional Scrum offering and it would allow Ken to reduce his traveling and other exhausting activities. On Sunday evening we had it all settled and I quit the position of Principal Consultant I had recently acquired.

While preparing to transition to Scrum.org, I accidentally created the first edition of my book, “Scrum – A Pocket Guide”.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I remembered the words of Jeff Sutherland of April 2010 regarding Ken’s new initiative and raising the bar.

Scrum, much like life, isn’t about finding it. It’s about creating it yourself. One can however not overlook the importance of accidents, coincidence, chance and luck along the way.

Keep learning.
Keep improving.
Keep…Scrumming.

Warm regards
Gunther Verheyen
independent Scrum Caretaker for Ullizee-Inc

4 thoughts on “How I ended up becoming a (Professional) Scrum trainer

  1. Wow, what a story. Absolutely brilliant. Keep improving, best wishes. :)

    1. Thank you, Igor.
      I just cannot resist sharing some personal stories now and a while.

  2. Gunther, excellent story of your passion fulfilled and the world made a better place as a result. You are such an inspiration to all of us in the community which you’ve helped to build and continue to shape. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for the feedback, Cheryl. Probably I hope that, if readers remember anything from these words at all, it is that even hard work in itself is not enough. Beyond hard work, luck is involved and even more: TIME.

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