What is a Scrum Master? Meet One of Ours and Find Out!

Dawn Harris

Larry Blog Committee:  Hi Dawn, the Larry Blog Committee would like to ask you a few questions and get to know what you do a little better. Can we start by asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself?

Dawn Harris:  I live in Garrett Park, Maryland, a small 150 year old town just north of Bethesda made up of historic Victorian and Chevy style homes. Not many people can say they live in a purple house! I have four daughters, Darby 12, Quinn 10, Kendall 8 and Reilly 5. They keep me very busy. On my weekends I play chauffer for the hundreds of activities in which my children are involved. I like to run, attend exercise classes, read when I have the time and organize. My organizing and scheduling drive my husband and children crazy.

Larry Blog Committee:  How long have you worked for ANCILE Solutions? What other positions did you hold in the company prior to moving into your current role? Which role was your favorite and why?

Dawn Harris: I have worked for ANCILE Solutions for over 17 years. Wow. That makes me sound really old. I came to ANCILE (formerly RWD) right out of college. I have seen many, many different roles in my time with the company. I’ve worked as a technical lead writing training materials on client site, website developer creating electronic performance support systems, project manager managing the EPSS projects, software engineer working with customized templates, Info Pak Glossary, Web Architect, Config Tool, Template and a little Migration Wizard, back to a project manager for uPerform and finally my current role as Scrum Master. It’s hard to pick my favorite. I’ve learned so much in each role and it has helped me in each new role I take.

Larry Blog Committee:  You said that your current role is Scrum Master.  That might sound a little strange to someone outside of the software development industry.  Can you briefly explain what Scrum is?

Dawn Harris: Scrum is a framework that we applied to our product development process to enable us to be more agile. Being agile allows us to deliver more frequently and re-prioritize more readily. “Scrum” refers to a move in Rugby where a team packs together and they all act together to get the ball from one end of the field to another end of the field. In Agile methodology scrum is a team of people who work together in 2-4 week intervals of time (sprint) to deliver a working iteration of the product. They plan the work to complete, meet daily, demonstrate the work completed, discuss ways to improve their processes, and repeat.

Larry Blog Committee:  How does a Scrum Master’s role fit into the agile development process?

Dawn Harris: There are three main roles in scrum: product owner, team, and Scrum Master. The product owner’s main focus is the “what” that makes it into the release and prioritizing it based on business value. The teams’ are in charge of “how much” work to complete each sprint and “how” to complete the work. The Scrum Master ensures that everyone is abiding by the scrum framework and following agile principles. The Scrum Master ensures that everyone has what they need to be successful and “guides” everyone through the sprint by facilitating all of the meetings and removing obstacles as they arise.

Larry Blog Committee:  How did your previous roles prepare you for your current role as Scrum Master?

Dawn Harris: My roles as technical lead, website developer and project manager have given me an appreciation for customer focus. During these three roles I worked on-site directly with customers. I think it has helped me to interact with customers and really listen to what they want and need. As a Scrum Master I have lots of customers with different focuses – the teams, internal stakeholders and partners and customers attending sprint reviews. My role as a software engineer helps me to understand the development teams’ perspectives and better protect them from obstacles and outside blockers. My role as project manager helps me see things from the product owner and stakeholder perspectives. I can better understand how the big picture fits together and the importance of schedule, budget and on time delivery.

Larry Blog Committee:   You have been working for ANCILE Solutions for quite some time. Could you tell us what your favorite thing about working at ANCILE Solutions is?

Dawn Harris: My favorite thing about ANCILE is most definitely the people. I feel like I have grown up within ANCILE – straight from college, married, had children. I have worked with many, many amazing people at ANCILE, so many people who have mentored me and helped me grow as a professional. It has been a great place to work over the years.