Becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer – CST

[I was recently asked what my journey to become a CST was like. So like an Agile blogger, I told them to wait for it to post on 🙂 ]

The path to becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) is one of the most arduous yet rewarding experiences I have ever gone through (and I spent 7 years in Master’s programs!). It has not only stretched me, but brought about a greater understanding of “mastery” of a craft, that, no matter how good you ‘think’ you become at something, you can always improve, become better, learn more, and grow as a person.

The day you stop learning is day you become ineffective in your work.

My CST Journey

I began my journey to becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer back in early 2009 when I began my investigation into the process and started collaborating with other CST’s about co-training opportunities. This was a time when the CST application process was evolving (and still is) and the requirements and application process wasn’t fully fleshed out. I, at the time, had been in my 8th year as an independent Enterprise Agile Coach and felt like the CST was the right way to go. I had completed my Certified ScrumMaster designation and my Certified Scrum Professional designation previously.

In early 2009 I had my first co-training opportunity with a fellow Agile coach. They went very well. I was stoked. I was excited. I had gotten a great review and was given priceless advice on how to become better. I felt like the CST was fast becoming a reality. I flew out to meet my 2nd co-trainer and we trained together. Another great workshop. I felt great… Then:

  • Client work picked up.
  • Timing just wasn’t working out.
  • Work-life balance just wasn’t what it used to be.

A full year later, I still had yet to co-train with other coaches and trainers. My client list was full, my schedule was so tight that it became apparent to me that I may not be able to finish this race due to scheduling conflicts and overall timing not to mention funding from the CFO of my house (wife). I was burnt out, tired, and a bit frustrated.

It was all about the timing. It just didn’t seem to work. So what did I do? I made the tough choice to lighten my client load (OUCH! SCARY!) so I could open up opportunities to co-train. I made the time available, I reached out to friends and fellow Agile coaches for time slots, and I invited Agile coaches to come train with me at my client sites. I patiently prayed that the opportunities would come… and they did.

After a full 3.5 years I completed it… The road to becoming an official CST was complete… but the journey forward has just begun. YES!

[Peter Saddington Training on ScrumMaster Roles]

On Co-Training

Co-training with other Agile coaches is simply the best way to grow your craft as a coach. I have not only learned more about the small nuances of training people, but have met some of the most passionate Agile enthusiasts out there. My experiences have taught me one thing: We need co-training to be more available and accessible. We need to value co-training as something that only elevates and helps all involved: trainer, co-trainer, and client.

2010-2012 was a solid couple years of co-training for me. I not only co-trained for my CST designation, but I also co-trained with other Agile coaches just for learning. In 100% of my engagements with a co-trainer (with my clients) I have received feedback from all of them that the co-training helped the client participants learn better. What’s my point?

Take opportunities to co-train. Ask other experienced coaches if you can co-train with them.

As my father always said:

“Asking is always free.”

What have you got to lose?

[Peter Saddington loves big visible charts]

On the CST Process

The CST process is not perfect, neither will it ever be. Mike Vizdos talked about this almost 4 years ago, and it still holds true today:

“The process is not perfect. It will change. It must evolve. We must be agile. We must inspect and we must adapt…The process will never be able to predict with 100% certainty who will be a great trainer and who will be a mediocre trainer…And the process will never elevate CST into anything more than a designation, symbolizing strong Scrum knowledge and a talent for training. Being a CST should almost be a calling for a few people. It should be reserved for those who are gifted at teaching and who want to impart what they have learned about Scrum to those who need to know how to get started.” – Mike Vizdos on his CST Candidacy

[Peter Saddington teaching a CSM class]

The CST process is HARD. Period. You have to personally take into account your “calling” to do it. I seriously felt called to do this.  But being that it is a worthy goal, and also a “calling” of sorts, you have to take into account the (current) requirements (implicit and explicit) for this:

  1. Have proven Agile experience… what does this mean? – That you have a proven record of working in Agile environments over time and succeeding.
  2. Have a proven level of engagement with the Agile/Scrum community – Speak, get involved, jump in!
  3. Co-train with N+ current CST‘s – To get their sponsorship and endorsement. *SOME PEOPLE MAY DISAGREE WITH THIS… that is ok! – [I had 10+ endorsements and co-training]
  4. Fly out to co-train with them 1 or 2 or even 3 times on your dime and dollar (account for hotel, flight, car rental, food, etc.). – [Again, this is my experience here]
  5. TIMING!!! – The timing is the hardest. If you’ve been an independent Agile Coach for as long as I have, you have to keep selling, keep mining for client work, and keep moving. Aligning time for you to co-train with another (just as busy or busier) trainer can be a nightmare.
  6. Overall time – Yes. You should expect this to be a 18 month or longer process. Unless you’re a skilled warlock in the art of bending time to your will. – [My experience was 3.5 years]
  7. Patience and dedication – This is a long hard road, no joke. You will get tired. You will be discouraged. You will be inclined to frustration at times. But keep pressing on. The light at the end of the tunnel is not the train coming at you, it’s a goal worth working for.

My Path Forward

I plan to utilize what I’ve learned to continue to help clients and people succeed in business. It has been an absolute joy to be an Enterprise Agile Coach, and I plan on continuing to do that to the best of my ability. I also want to help other coaches improve their craft and grow their mastery of their unique skills and abilities. I’ve also learned some lifelong lessons through this process, one being: co-training is essential to becoming a more effective coach (of anything)! So what does this mean for you, my readers?

Train With Me

I’m giving any Agile Coach, ScrumMaster, Project Manager, Development Manager, Programmer, or anyone interested in coaching and training companies to excellence, an opportunity to co-train with me.

My desire is to increase the knowledge and level of expertise within the software development community through mentoring and co-training fellow practitioners.

Why? Because you’re helping me become a better Trainer, Coach, and Mentor. As I learn from you I’ll become more effective in what I do. Oh yes, and hopefully you will learn a thing or two as well 🙂

Seriously? Yup. Words cannot describe how much fun it was co-training over 3.5 years with many different people. The learnings and experiences were absolutely priceless.

So, can anyone co-train with you? Yes… but first, we’ll have a conversation, then preferably meet up at some conference or local meetup and get acquainted in all the usual ways. We’ll start there. I have no other formula around how this will work, but I’d love to get to know you and start with a conversation.

Reading Recommendations:

  • Drive – Daniel Pink’s book helped me better understand, at a deeper level, why we Agile Coaches do what we do: To help people attain Mastery, Autonomy, and Flow/Purpose. I talk a lot about these things by the way 🙂 – [Just a great read anyways]
  • Training from the BACK of the Room! Sharon Bowman’s book completely changed my world of how I do training and workshops. No more death by powerpoint. Her book is top-shelf-grade reading material. It is how I plan and execute my workshops and training. My expectations are that you would understand her 4-point model.
Read Pink and Bowman, then let’s have a conversation. Email me or connect with me on LinkedIn. Also, download a *Useful Guide to Becoming a CST* (I expect you will have read this).
Let’s change the paradigm and improve the expertise in our Agile community!
All the best,

10 Replies to “Becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer – CST”

  1. Was wondering why you chose the CST rather than CSC since you had been coaching for a long time already. Sounds like that would have been more in line with what you were doing.

    Also, though I can see you had some personal and timing challenges that affected this, do you think it really should have taken as long as it did for you to become certified as a CST? One of the issues in the current process from all I have heard is the length of time (and cost).

    1. Scott, thanks for your note!

      Great question. I plan on getting the CSC (sometime) as it will take another great amount of time.
      I love the coaching aspect, but training has always been close to my heart.

      I think… if money/time wasn’t an issue, it still would have been a long road for my CST. Reason being is that aligning schedules with other VERY BUSY CST’s is hard. And a small note, I had to interview with many of them (whom had previously heard of me) but wanted to meet face-to-face before letting me help with their class.

      The time it takes to get “accepted” to co-train a class… plus align on a time is the biggest time taker.

      Cost? Yes. Cost is a big factor too. It will take years to re-coup my ‘investment’

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