From Doctor in Chemistry to Scrum Master: an obvious career move?

by Manel Ben Osman
Portraits des femmes dans la tech

With an engineering background in Industrial Chemistry, a Master’s degree in Research and a PhD in Physics and Chemistry of Materials from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI), I spent several years helping to advance research through academic and industrial R&D projects for applications including the manufacture of catalytic materials and energy storage (lithium batteries, fuel cells, etc.). Until I realized that project management appealed to me more than a purely “technical” job.

The decision to choose a career in tech didn’t come spontaneously. Several members of my family worked in software development as developers, product owners or managers. I listened attentively to their discussions about industry trends and issues, until the day agility, and in particular the word “scrum”, came up. This subject caught my attention, and my curiosity led me not only to devour every available source of information to learn more about agile frameworks and their principles, but also to obtain professional certification in scrum mastering. Beyond my curiosity, I felt it was important to showcase my new skills.

Thanks to the desire of software engineering companies to be more “agile” in their project management processes and to adapt quickly to unforeseen changes, the opportunity to exercise the role of Scrum Master in the field quickly presented itself in this sector. And so my new adventure began.


Discovering new horizons… by stepping out of your comfort zone

To become a Scrum Master, I had to step out of my comfort zone in order to acquire new skills. I learned to reach out to others, to communicate better while maintaining a positive attitude, as well as to be very patient to see the results of the changes implemented.

Indeed, this job involves working in constant interaction with colleagues. A Scrum Master interacts with many people at once, technical and business experts. When I started out, alignment with these different stakeholders wasn’t always obvious, and it’s crucial to learn to listen to them, observe them, communicate with them regularly and analyze situations before acting.

The Scrum Master profession is all about managing human relationships. I’ve met and had to deal with very different personalities, experiences and expectations. The real challenge is to find the approach that will create the right dynamic to strengthen team cohesion and bring out collective intelligence, while promoting the well-being of each individual.

As you can see, moving into a new line of work involves stepping out of one’s comfort zone, and is a fine demonstration of courage, tenacity and adaptability. I’m extremely proud of it.


Feeling supported

In the beginning, support and kindness were particularly important. My colleagues at 3DS OUTSCALE made themselves available to answer questions about products and services, the technologies used, the technical tools available to the teams, and changes in organizational processes. This collaborative culture, combined with a remarkable responsiveness, helped me to find my bearings easily and to become operational quickly within my scope. What’s more, 3DS OUTSCALE encourages its employees to develop their skills, particularly through training. The company has given me the means to progress and to gain perspective.


A day in the life of a Scrum Master

First of all, I have to admit that there’s no such thing as a “typical” day! The day-to-day life of a Scrum Master is far from monotonous, and every day has its “surprises” and challenges to overcome. I’d also like to point out that the Scrum Master’s vision of his or her responsibilities depends on the personality and background of each person, the maturity of the team and the organization in agile. So, in practical terms, what are my missions?

My current mission is to help a development team set up the framework best suited to its environment: a framework that encourages inspection, adaptation, transparency and technical excellence, in order to maximize the team’s efficiency and set it on a course of continuous improvement.

To accomplish this mission, I support the team on a daily basis, ensuring that the workflow and processes defined upstream are smooth and that the objectives to be achieved for our product releases are clearly understood by developers and stakeholders. I also ensure that the team is focused on creating a quality product that brings value and meets the needs of customers and users.

One of my priorities is to protect the team from anything that might disrupt its operations. I help them to overcome the obstacles that hinder their progress and prevent them from performing at their best. The secret of success is to stay very close to the team to anticipate dysfunctions and find effective solutions collectively.

A Scrum Master can also act as a mediator in the event of disagreements or conflicts, and as a facilitator in creating and maintaining good communication with all product stakeholders and management.

Finally, as a coach, I’m also committed to developing an agile mindset within the organization: trusting teams, respecting and supporting their decisions and technological choices, and letting them accomplish their missions in complete self-management.

While technical skills can be an interesting asset, they are not indispensable. This role relies heavily on “common sense”, soft skills and the human qualities needed to communicate well, collaborate and support teams and structures in highlighting and resolving their problems. All these qualities match my personality, my agile mindset and my way of working, which makes my job pleasant, enjoyable, fulfilling and useful to me.


A word for women who want to work in the Tech sector

The tech sector is very promising and offers great opportunities for career development. If you’re an enthusiastic, curious woman, you’ll find your place and thrive in this field, rich in human and technical challenges!

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