Using Scrum to Sprint to a Job

Why Sprint and Scrum?

First a little personal background. I am a project manager, data scientist and future scrum master making a career pivot from residential architecture into a data driven role. If you’d like to learn why I’m switching into data, please see my previous post. While my overall goal of getting a job is a longer term one that realistically can take months, I am deciding to implement a Scrum sprint to quickly iterate through better versions of myself as a candidate while sending out applications. I am choosing Scrum in particular because I know it will take many applications to go through the process, and I need to get a more hirable version of myself in front of decision makers sooner rather than than linearly working through and waiting for a fully polished version before applying.

I have years of Project Management experience in architecture but am new to data and the tech sector’s management terms and philosophies, so I am also using this approach to keep myself on task and reinforce what I am learning. I realize this is not a typical setup because I am playing the roles of Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Developer of my own life and job search process. Hopefully this approach can also help some readers out there in the future… If you’d like to know more about Scrum, go read the Scrum Guide. I’ll link to it again at the end of this blog post. With that being said let’s get into the first part of the Sprint, the Sprint Planning event.

Sprint Planning

Sprint planning kicks off a sprint and is an 8 hour timeboxed event. Normally a project isn’t starting completely from scratch, but I am so I loaded up Jira and created a Product Backlog and started writing in items that need to be done to improve myself as a candidate.

Real examples from my Backlog include:

The main topics of the Sprint Planning event are:

Why is this sprint valuable?

Sprint Goal: Make myself a better job candidate, especially to Product Manager and Scrum Master data focused roles.

What can be done this sprint?

I chose items from my overall backlog to include in this sprint. They are ones that would help me reach my goal of being a better candidate. For example, all the ones from above made it into this Sprint Backlog. Examples that are on the Project Backlog but not for the current Sprint include updating my Github code and comments for a previous project, and planning a new personal data science project to add to my portfolio.

How will chosen work get done?

Definition of Done: Is an agreed upon formal definition that describes the when quality of the state of an increment is considered done. For me it is when it is presentable to a hiring manager. It doesn’t have to be perfect but needs to meet the threshold of: professional and is the person doing this work hirable.

Product Backlog & Refinement

In this part of the Scrum Planning I refined items in the backlog, breaking them down into individual components and tasks that would take a day or less to complete. A couple items from the backlog that needed refinement are:

  • Update Resume
  • Update Portfolio Website

The item Update Resume will be adding the Scrum Master Certification (when I get it,) adding in keywords such as Scrum, Agile, Jira into my Skills section and removing architecture related software.

Update my website entails:

  • Loading the updated resume
  • Updating my description to fit more project management and scrum master positions
  • Making the overall site look better

I am keeping the website items in that order. The item of making the portfolio website look aesthetically better may be pushed off to the next Sprint or it might turn into minor modifications and get put back on the list for a larger overhaul next Sprint… We’ll see how much time remains.

Note on items in the backlog: In general the items in a backlog are ordered by the Product Owner. Since I am also playing that role, I take a few minutes here and there to make sure they are ordered by my perceived importance & dependencies. For example: In order to pass the exam for Scrum Master certification, I first need to study and re-read the scrum guide. So reading the scrum guide and making this blog post come ahead of taking the exam. Putting Certified Scrum Master on my LinkedIn profile would come after my passing the exam.

The Sprint backlog ends up looking more like this:

  • Re-read Scrum guide
  • Scrum Blog Outline
  • Write Scrum Blog Post
  • Take Scrum Certification exam
  • Update Resume reflecting Scrum Certification
  • Update LinkedIn profile reflecting Scrum Certification

Daily Scrum

The daily scrum is typically a meeting among developers to review their day’s work and plan the current day’s work. It is held at the same bat time, same bat channel to reduce complexity. In my specific case since I’m meeting with myself, I hold a few minutes after dropping my son off at daycare for review of the previous day’s work and planning the current items to complete.

I blocked off roughly a month on my calendar, and have scheduled a final day of Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospection before starting up Sprint #2 and Sprint Planning the next day.

Sprint Review

The review is a maximum 4 hour timeboxed event. As I am in the beginning of the first Sprint, this section and subsequent ones are more for planning ahead and I will make posts in the future detailing how they are going. In general a Sprint Review includes:

  • Review key work completed & what changed
  • What to do next?
  • Backlog adjustments

Sprint Retrospective

The retrospective is a maximum 3 hour timeboxed event.

  • Plan ways to do it better
  • Look at Individuals, Interactions, Process, Tools, Definition of Done
  • What went well & what problems were there?
  • Helpful changes

Wrap Up

If you would like to know more about Scrum in general, please read the Scrum Guide. There are a lot of terms that you will need to know for any of this to make sense, and to brush up on your Scrum vocabulary, please see the Scrum glossary.

Applying for jobs can feel like you’re screaming into the void. Sending out multiple applications with personalized cover letters daily, not ever getting a response back. Not knowing if your resume has even made it past the algorithm and to a real person.

That’s another reason I am implementing Scrum on my job search as a personal project. I can work on continuously making myself a better candidate, applying for job opportunities, while taking time to appreciate the work I’m doing and plan ahead for the next Sprint.

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David Holcomb

David Holcomb

I am a data scientist, leveraging my experience in residential architecture to apply creativity to data informed solutions and graphically communicate results.