Career growth is an important part of every professional’s journey. Companies that invest in the career development of their employees often experience higher satisfaction and retention rates. Being part of a large corporation, Hypoport Sofia provides its team with the opportunities to evolve and develop in a variety of areas. An example of this is Vladimir Takov, who started working for the company as a software engineer and later held the position of Scrum Master, and today he will tell us more about the journey he has taken, the qualities needed to become a good Scrum Master, and the challenges he faces as one.
How did you start your career as a developer?
Vladimir Takov: My journey in the realm of development started from a young age, sparked by video games actually. As kids we played video games a lot and one day my friend’s uncle bought a “Pravetz” PC and showed it to us. We were fascinated by this computer and the first question we asked was if it is possible to play games on it. And he said yes, but he also added that we can write our own games! “I can write my own games?” – I asked surprised. – “This is what I’m going to do when I grow up!”.
This early passion guided my educational and career choices. In high school, I dedicated myself to learning programming, driven by the dream of developing games. After graduation I continued learning programming in university and started looking for a job as a software developer. I was hired as a software developer at a company that specialized in developing casino games. This role was my first professional foray into software development, where I learned a lot about drivers and Back-end development and had the opportunity to experiment with some Front-end technologies as well. It was a challenging yet rewarding start, laying a solid foundation for my career in technology. After several years I joined FIO as a Back-end developer, but soon there was an opportunity to join the newly formed Front-end team, which was experimenting with the latest technologies and had the idea to use Scrum.
Is that when the opportunity to become a Scrum Master came up?
Vladimir Takov: Yes, indeed. My initial encounter with the Scrum practices began in an organic and rather unplanned manner with my Front-end team at FIO. Initially, we started integrating Scrum rituals into our workflow as a means to improve efficiency and collaboration. This journey started with daily stand-up meetings, which soon evolved into a more structured approach including refinement meetings, retrospectives, and planning sessions. These practices became ingrained in our team’s culture, significantly improving our productivity and understanding of our project and our customer’s needs.
Meanwhile, I finished my master’s degree in management of IT Projects. This specialization was about exploring my growing interest in managing complex projects and working with different teams to achieve remarkable things together.
Our team’s success with Scrum did not go unnoticed within the company. We essentially became the showcase team for the effectiveness of Scrum methodologies and soon a company decision followed to go through Scrum transformation and restructure into cross-functional teams.
It was during this transformative phase that the opportunity to step into a Scrum Master role presented itself. Given my deep involvement in the adoption of Scrum within my team and my growing interest in guiding and facilitating team dynamics, the role of a Scrum Master seemed like a natural progression. I was excited by the prospect of not only continuing to work closely with technology but also taking on a more people-focused role, where I could leverage my experiences to guide teams through this new Agile landscape. This was a chance to impact the company more broadly, to be at the forefront of this organizational change, and to help shape the future of our projects and teams.
How does a day of one Scrum Master go?
Vladimir Takov: In the early days of my role as a Scrum Master, my primary focus was on the foundational aspects of Scrum rituals. This involved facilitating the Scrum meetings, ensuring they were efficient and effective in setting the tone for the day ahead. These meetings were crucial for maintaining momentum, ensuring team alignment, and fostering a collaborative environment.
However, as time progressed, my role evolved significantly. A key realization emerged: my ultimate goal was not just to facilitate meetings but to guide the team towards self-organization and autonomy. This shift in focus meant that I gradually became less involved in the day-to-day facilitation of Scrum events. Instead, my efforts were redirected towards empowering the team to manage these activities themselves.
My days started to involve more coaching and mentoring, working closely with team members to develop their skills in managing their workload, collaborating effectively, and making collective decisions. I also began to focus more on process improvement, identifying areas where workflows could be optimized and helping the team implement these changes. This involved a lot of listening, observing, and providing feedback, all aimed at creating a more efficient and self-sufficient team.
Which skills from a developer have been useful in the Scrum Master role?
Vladimir Takov: My programming background has been a significant asset in my role as a Scrum Master. Having a deep understanding of the technical aspects of software development allows me to effectively engage with and support the development team. When technical discussions arise, I can follow along without difficulty, understanding the nuances and complexities of the issues at hand. This technical fluency fosters a deeper level of trust and respect between me and the development team, as they appreciate having a Scrum Master who comprehends their challenges and contributions.
Additionally, my programming abilities allow me to develop small tools that assist in measuring team performance and monitoring improvement. These tools offer some insights into our workflows, helping us to identify areas for optimization and to track our progress over time.
However, this technical background also presents its unique challenges. One of the most significant is the tendency to align too closely with the developers’ perspectives during discussions and decision-making processes. Given my history as a developer, there’s a natural inclination to empathize with their viewpoints and challenges. While this can be beneficial in understanding their position, it sometimes poses a risk of losing impartiality. Remaining neutral and maintaining a focus on the broader project goals and team dynamics are crucial aspects of the Scrum Master role. Balancing my developer instincts with the overarching objectives of the team and project requires constant self-awareness and discipline.
What are the challenges you have faced so far as a Scrum master?
Vladimir Takov: One of the most significant and ongoing challenges in my role as a Scrum Master has been facilitating and nurturing cultural change within the organization. Transitioning from traditional work practices to a Scrum-based, Agile methodology is not just about changing processes. it’s fundamentally about changing mindsets. The core of this challenge lies in shifting the team’s approach from working as a group of individuals to functioning as a cohesive, collaborative unit.
A key obstacle in this journey has been overcoming the ingrained habits and attitudes of team members who are accustomed to working independently. Changing these deep-seated behaviors requires patience, persistence, and a strategic approach. It involves not only teaching new practices but also demonstrating the value of these practices in enhancing team productivity and project outcomes.
Fostering a sense of collective responsibility and shared goals has been a critical aspect of this cultural shift. I’ve had to employ various strategies, such as team-building exercises, open discussions about the benefits of collaboration, and showcasing successful outcomes achieved through teamwork. It’s also been essential to encourage open communication and transparency within the team, creating an environment where each member feels valued and heard.
What advice would you give to developers who wants to follow the same path as you?
Vladimir Takov: Transitioning from a developer to a Scrum Master is a significant career shift, one that involves a fundamental change in focus and responsibilities. My primary advice to developers considering this path is to be prepared for the fact that programming will no longer be the core of your day-to-day activities. As a Scrum Master, your focus shifts entirely to working with people, facilitating team dynamics, and ensuring the effective implementation of Scrum methodologies.
The role of a Scrum Master is deeply rooted in interpersonal interactions, conflict resolution, coaching, and guiding teams towards high performance. It requires a strong set of soft skills including communication, empathy, leadership, and the ability to inspire and motivate a team. These are different from the technical skills you rely on as a developer. Embracing this change is crucial for success in the Scrum Master role.
Another important piece of advice is to avoid trying to combine the roles of a developer and a Scrum Master. This split focus can lead to a dilution of effectiveness in both areas. As a developer, your primary concern is solving technical problems and writing code. As a Scrum Master, however, your concern is the team’s processes, communication, and overall well-being. Trying to do both can result in not doing either role justice. It’s important to commit fully to the Scrum Master role and embrace its challenges and rewards wholeheartedly.
*If you want to take new career opportunities and work on interesting products with modern technologies, check the open roles or contact our team for more information.