As a specialised senior editor working with raw image files for graphic design purposes, Megan Mostert wanted to make a move into project management, but on closer inspection, she says, “it turned out there wasn’t a fit.” Megan knew she wanted to develop her innate strengths – high levels of organisational ability, being able to work with a team, leadership, patience, responsibility, self-awareness – and learn new skills – so when a friend suggested she make contact with Melanie French, the Executive Head: Business Enablement of the DVT Academy, Megan sent Melani an email asking for some guidance. “Instead, imagine my surprise when Melani asked me if I could come and see her,” says Megan. “During our meeting, we spoke about the DVT Academy’s Scrum Master Apprenticeship Programme and the principles of SCRUM – and I knew this was where I belonged.”
Melani recognised Megan’s potential – “it was quite overwhelming knowing that someone had seen my strengths,” says Megan – and she began the Scrum Master Apprenticeship Programme in July 2017. It was an intense and often difficult learning curve, which included SCRUM and Agile certifications and shadowing a Scrum Master. She read profusely – blogs and articles, studied hard, learnt about Agile and the principles of being a Scrum Master. After achieving the necessary certifications, Megan was placed at a large corporate DVT client in Sandton. She currently leads a team of three developers, a business analyst and a tester.
“It was very tough in the beginning. I questioned myself nearly every day whether I was smart enough to do this. I shed tears on many nights. It was frustrating and a big challenge.”
While this was something she really wanted to do, making the change to start on the Scrum Master Apprenticeship Programme was not easy. “I was newly married, with a bond and financial commitments. I’m not one for major change, so it was scary for me. My husband was really supportive though, even when we thought we might have to move in with my parents for a while! But we made some alterations to our lifestyle to make the apprenticeship happen for me. Since then, things have fallen into place. It was worth taking the leap of faith,” she says.
The steep learning process and becoming a Scrum Master, says Megan, has been profound. “I’ve learnt that one needs to be patient and that learning a new skill doesn’t happen overnight. It’s about being humble and asking for help when you need to. I’ve learnt about servant leadership, where my focus remains on the needs of my team. I’ve learnt that reaching new levels takes time and not to give up when things get tough.”
The big question – how to be a Scrum Master leading a team of developers and testers when you yourself are neither – is pertinent. Megan says she realised that the only way was to be totally transparent. “I ‘bared my soul’ when I didn’t know something,” she says. “The first business analyst I worked with said to me, “Megan, they won’t respect you if you pretend to understand.”
In the beginning, the developers were hesitant, says Megan, so she didn’t force the relationship. “I asked them what they needed from me, and I explained what I needed from them. I also implemented ‘Megan Sessions’ where someone from my team teaches me one new thing each day. We have fun with it and it works.”
Leading the team utilising SCRUM principles not only involves servant leadership, but also conflict management, mentoring, coaching and facilitating. Megan says she has surprised herself with her growth. “I’ve become a better person. My mindset has changed. I’m more positive and more confident.”
What advice would she give someone in a similar situation to where she was? “It all starts with a conversation. We can’t give ourselves guidance when we don’t have the information. Contact someone, look for an opportunity and be prepared to make changes to get to where you want to be,” she says. “There are many areas of scarce skills in IT. Look for the opportunities and take them.”