Agile Mentors Podcast

Agile Mentors Podcast

Practical advice for making agile work in the real world

The Agile Mentors podcast is for agilists of all levels. Whether you’re new to agile and Scrum or have years of experience, listen in to find answers to your questions and new ways to succeed with agile.

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#77 Navigating the Challenges of Becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer® with Lucy O’Keefe

December 06, 2023     48 minutes

In this episode, Brian Milner and Lucy O'Keefe share their journeys to becoming Certified Scrum Trainers® (CSTs). Join them as they discuss the challenges, unexpected moments, and valuable lessons learned along the way, offering insights for those considering the CST path.


Explore the transformative journey to becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST) with Brian Milner and Lucy O'Keefe.

From the submission process to mentorship, co-training, and the rigorous Trainer Approval Committee (TAC) interviews, they unravel the intricacies of achieving CST status.

Listen in for valuable tips, reflections, and inspiration for navigating the rewarding but challenging road to becoming an elite Agile trainer.

Listen Now to Discover:

[01:26] - Brian introduces his guest, Lucy O'Keefe, who recently achieved her Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST).
[02:53] - Today’s discussion will explore the experience of becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer® with Brian and Lucy sharing their personal experiences and insights into the process of becoming a CST.
[03:44] - Lucy shares what fueled her passion for becoming a CST and how her mentor—Anu Smalley—inspired her.
[05:00] - Brian discusses his decision-making process for becoming a CST and why it's important to make a decision that aligns with your instincts and career goals.
[06:07] - Brian and Lucy each share their journey to becoming a CST and the steps required before being eligible to pursue the trainer certification.
[08:24] - Insight into the two phases of the submission process for becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer®: the materials phase and the Trainer Approval Committee (TAC) phase and the challenges along the way. [09:38] - Brian reflects on the significance of mentorship in the journey to becoming a CST and David Hawks's crucial role in opening doors and making connections with other trainers.
[09:48] - Lucy acknowledges Anu's pivotal role and emphasizes the importance of these relationships, (especially considering the challenges posed by the pandemic.
[12:00] - Lucy and Brian discuss the relationship-building phase involved in co-training and mentorship.
[13:22] - Lucy explains the (time-intensive) nature of co-training.
[14:26] - Brian shares his approach to initiating co-trainings.
[15:11] - The importance of feedback and obtaining recommendation letters—a crucial element in the submission process.
[16:28] - Brian and Lucy discuss the impact of mentorship on their journey, expressing gratitude for the individuals who opened doors and provided mentorship. Brian mentions David Hawks, Kert Peterson, and Lance Dacy, emphasizing the diverse perspectives and valuable insights gained from them.
[17:20] - Lucy shares about the recent special episode of her podcast where she featured her mentors.
[17:55] - The value of in-person training (and some of the expenses involved).
[20:09] - The challenges of training in a virtual environment.
[22:18] - The limitations of virtual classes and the added value of personal interactions and shared experiences during breaks.
[23:38] -The Agile Mentors Podcast is brought to you by Mountain Goat Software and their Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner® class. This is the only ACSPO that uses our interactive software so that breakout exercises are valuable and FUN! Plus, you will automatically receive 12 free months in the Agile Mentors Community. For more information, click on the Mountain Goat Software Certified Scrum and Agile Training Schedule.
[25:17] - The lengthy process of submitting materials for Certified Scrum Trainer® approval. Brian shares his personal experience.
[25:35] - Lucy explains the current two-phase process for CST approval and her experience (highlighting the changes since Brian's initial submission).
[26:33] - The rigorous examination process and the scrutiny applied to every aspect of the application during the fine-tooth comb review during the TAC phase of becoming a CST.
[27:00] - Lucy describes the final stages of the approval process.
[27:19] - Brian reflects on the changes in the CST qualification process and emphasizes the importance of following the TAC's feedback for those who reach this stage. (Advice from Chris Li)
[28:49] - Resilience and persistence in the face of potential setbacks during the CST approval process.
[30:42] - An in-depth explanation of the challenging TAC (Trainer Approval Community) interview process for becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer®.
[32:23] - Brian shares his personal preparation strategies and reflects on the unpredictability of TAC interviews, recounting an unexpected request during his own experience.
[33:32] - Lucy shares her preparation methods and also stresses the unpredictability of TAC interviews and the importance of adaptability during the process.
[34:29] - Be prepared to think on your feet. Brian shares the emergency situation he faced and a mistake during his live presentation. Plus the surprising comments he received from the committee.
[37:27] - Lucy shares her unexpected experience after the committee's vote. And a valuable piece of advice for listeners.
[38:33] - Embarking on the CST journey involves challenges and moments of doubt, but perseverance is crucial, as success may require multiple attempts—not everyone passes on the first try.
[39:43] - Becoming a CST is a subjective process and often involves multiple attempts—it doesn’t diminish your capabilities as a trainer. Brian shares the crucial aspects of the journey.
[40:13] - Lucy shares why it's important not to take rejection personally, instead viewing it as a chance to identify areas for growth and become a better trainer in the end.
[41:23] - Brian emphasizes the importance of viewing the CST process as a journey—being prepared for potential setbacks, highlighting the mindset of growth and continuous learning.
[42:30] - Lucy adds that the rigorous Certified Scrum Trainer® requirements aim to ensure that CSTs are among the elite trainers, making the achievement more meaningful.
[43:38] - The importance of embracing each chance to enhance oneself as an Agilist and a trainer.
[44:09] - Brian's words of wisdom: "Hard things that are hard to do, that just makes it all the better when you achieve them.”
[44:45] - Lucy’s advice: “It's not just becoming a CST. It's what you learn on your journey that really matters."
[45:25] - Congratulations to Lucy for getting her CST! Brian extends his thanks to her for being on the show. For listeners interested in continuing the discussion, you can join the conversation in the Agile Mentors Community, where they also have monthly Q&A calls.
[46:58] - If you found this episode useful, please share it. Send feedback and suggestions for future episodes to And don’t forget to subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts so you never miss an episode.

References and resources mentioned in the show:

#53: Agile Coaching: Debunking Myths and Unlocking Excellence with Lucy O'Keefe
#44: Transformations Take People with Anu Smalley
#17: Getting There From Here: Agile Transformations with David Hawks
#12: Kanban with Kert Peterson
#54: Unlocking Agile's Power in the World of Data Science with Lance Dacy
#40: Is it Time to Go Out on Your Own? Tips and Insights with Chris Li
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This episode’s presenters are:

Brian Milner is SVP of coaching and training at Mountain Goat Software. He's passionate about making a difference in people's day-to-day work, influenced by his own experience of transitioning to Scrum and seeing improvements in work/life balance, honesty, respect, and the quality of work.

Lucy O'Keefe has over 28 years of IT experience and has worn multiple hats in the Agile world - developer, Product Owner, Scrum Master, and now, Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST) where she uses her experience to ensure each student has a great training experience.