Certified Scrum Product Owner – Course Review

It’s been about 10 days since I’ve attended the 2-day Certified Scrum Product Owner Course (CSPO). My head is still buzzing with the overwhelm of knowledge and the realization how much I love this combination of UX and PM/PO.

The decision to invest in this certification wasn’t easy and I haven’t found much help online when I was deciding for it, so here it is…if you are not sure whether or not to attend a CSPO course or not, this post is for you.

I will assume that you already know what the CSPO is, so I won’t go into explaining that. If you’re completely new, visit Scrum Alliance page for more details. I will also assume that you know that CSPO certification doesn’t require the test to obtain the certification as there is still no standardized CSPO educational track.

Which CSPO I went for and why…

The decision for which CSPO course to choose wasn’t particularly hard for me. I chose the one led by Jeff Patton and Jeff Gothelf.

The 3 biggest reasons why I chose this one were:

1. Content which indicated strong connection with UX (below is the copy of the promised content)

  • How to structure a Holistic Product Development process that leverages Scrum for delivery and brings in the best of product, design, and lean thinking
  • How Product Owners, UX Designers, and Engineers collaborate to lead Cross-Functional Product teams
  • Effective Collaboration Skills that help build a shared understanding
  • How to frame product improvement ideas using a simple Opportunity Canvas
  • How to use the Lean UX Canvas
  • Characterizing your users and their needs using Proto Personas
  • Exploring how users work now, and with your future solution using User Story Mapping
  • Collaborative ideation using the Design Studio practice
  • Identifying a Release Strategy built from small viable releases
  • Validating product solutions using MVP Tests
  • Reducing the risk of late delivery using a Development Strategy
  • How User Stories really work, and how to use Story-Driven Development throughout your process
  • Keeping discovery work visible in Scrum
  • Facilitating common Scrum Ceremonies that place equal focus on discovery and development
  • Balancing continuous discovery and development using Parallel Track Development

2. The promise of the hands-on learning

Tell me and the knowledge will go in one ear and out the other. Give me something to read and the outcome will be almost similar.

But give me an opportunity to experience and I’ll remember how you made me feel which will create permanent connections to knowledge.

3. Location of the course (Munich)

I feel like we don’t get many product related events, so I was beside myself to see this one being in Munich.

Besides the three major reasons above, Jeff Patton and Jeff Gothelf are two of the biggest names in the industry and in combination with the limited number of participants I knew that the set up is right for me.

Was it worth going?

The short answer is: YES.

The longer answer is still yes, but it also holds a bit of constructive feedback. So if I could choose it again, I’d go for it again even the cost (almost 1900 EUR, which I paid myself), but I’d love it if a few things were changed.

What I loved

1. The location

I know this is super specific, but the fact that the event was held in Munich was a huge deciding factor for me. I feel like we don’t get many of these and it was great to see this taking place in my “home town”.

Also, the Hilton hotel was good. We had enough place, the food was good (more first than the second day), and it was close to public transport.

2. Hands-on learning

This course was just that. Is wasn’t really a course as much as it was a workshop where 4-5 people were seated at one table and could collaborate throughout the workshop.

We listened to the speakers, saw the presentations, and tried implementing the knowledge right there and then.

3. Amount of new knowledge

The amount of content Jeff and Jeff covered was astounding. At the end of the second day my brain hurt. But it wasn’t just theory. They presented a whole bag of techniques that I can instantly try in my own team.

4. Not focused on Scrum basics

Majority of us had prior Scrum experience so limiting this part made it even more exciting. We dived straight into the advanced product owner’s job – building the right product and being focused on outcomes.

5. Connection with UX

For me, this was perfect and probably the most interesting part. As a Senior UXD I’ve been working side by side with product managers for years, but still, when I became one myself, I thought there is some magic that I still don’t know. I remember thinking “There must be more to PMing than what I’m doing” – read about my impostor syndrome and you’ll know what I mean.

After the workshop I realized that the change of the title from UX to PM didn’t really change my work and that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing as a PM. It also showed me that the dilemma of PM vs UX is very much real.

6. Presentation style

I absolutely loved that Jeff Patton kept drawing sketchnotes while he or the other Jeff was talking. It kept us engaged and focused on the subject. I also intend to go through the material again and make my own sketchotes to remember everything we talked about.

7. A limited number of participants

I don’t like events where there are more than 200 people. I just cannot connect to anyone. 60 seemed like the perfect amount. 30 would be even better. I love that you get to meet new people and I know that if we had more time I’d eventually talk to all.

What I wish would be changed

1. Length of the course

I mentioned before that the amount of new knowledge was astounding. Looking back at the agenda I see now we haven’t even been able to cover it all. The pace was the pace of a roadrunner. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that we learned so much, but you could easily take this whole content and fill a week with it.

2. Exercise

I think this is connected with the amount of time we had. I really wish we’d have so much time that each of the groups could have a different challenge to solve, maybe even one that we’d chosen for ourselves, like a hackathon. That would be even better than what we were working on.

3. Networking

I think we could all take responsibility for this point and to be fair, I did make a few connections that I hope will be kept alive for years to come, but it would be nice if we’d be a bit more supported in this. I understand that Slack usually doesn’t work well unless you invest a lot of energy in it, but something. Maybe Linkedin connect or a forum or Facebook group… something.

All in all

Yes, I’d choose to go again. I loved the workshop. I gained tons of knowledge, got four books, and met new people. If nothing, my motivation is again high and my belief in myself is definitely at an all-time high. I know where I still need to grow, but I also see what I’ve already learned.

If you want to experience the SCPO with Jeff and Jeff yourself, check their websites for the dates and if you’re not yet convinced, check out the video that Jeff Patton made for one of his CSPO courses. It should give you an idea of how the course will be led.

Until next time, learn and grow!

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