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Nov 20, 2021

A Servant Leader In Superman’s Clothing: Ready To Be RTE?

What are the tasks of the Release Train Engineer (RTE)? The RTE is a new breed of Super Scrum Masters, arisen from the advent of SAFe. Upon passing the SAFe Release Train Engineer exam and achieving RTE certification, the RTE becomes a far more effective Scrum Master of the Team of Teams, as well as the coach for the organization around it. It's a complex, challenging, and intense role, in which one takes a lot of responsibility for the whole enterprise. “It’s like Scrum on steroids,” says Andres Jansen, Senior Trainer at Gladwell Academy – and not incidentally, the Chairman and Founder of the annual RTE Summit.

A new certification for a new role

The 3-day SAFe Release Train Engineer course is an advanced training for a specific group of people. “This is a course meant for professionals who are at least super interested and motivated to become an RTE, who have already acted as Release Train Engineer for 3 to 12 months, and who want to really advance their skills,” explains Andres. “I have taken part in the RTE training course, and I have conducted them myself. And, if you know you’re already an RTE, but you still want a better, deeper understanding of the intent behind the rituals and principles and want to execute your job better, this training is for you. Imagine: A 3-day journey focused fully on this super role.”

So, what does an RTE really do?

In a Scaled Agile environment, with its multiple teams that are all supported by their dedicated Scrum Masters, one can describe the Release Train Engineer as the ‘Super Scrum Master’ or ‘Chief Scrum Master’: literally, the top Scrum Master with whom all the other teams' Scrum Masters work. They are the person who can take away impediments on the bigger, overall program level.

“In one Agile Release Train (ART), we have 5 to 10 teams, and they all have their own Scrum Master, and they work closely together with their Chief Scrum Master,” elaborates Andres. "And, as the Scrum Master is also the coach for the development team and the Product Owner, the RTE is the Coach for the whole Agile Release Train, Product Management (Chief Product Owner), and its direct environment!"

One can describe the Release Train Engineer as the ‘Super Scrum Master’ or ‘Chief Scrum Master’.

“This is a key position, and it’s a heavy key role. It’s great for the team Scrum Masters to have a Chief Scrum Master to consult with, but then, the RTE has no one higher up to turn to. As a result, they have to figure out how to deal with bigger impediments on a program level,” he adds. “Furthermore, the RTE is the coach for the whole program, as well as facilitator for most rituals and events that are part of SAFe. They are also a true Master of Ceremonies who not only organizes all of this, but who also has to guide the whole train in the right direction and be sure it’s approved. It’s a big and challenging role, especially because it’s still quite new.”

The value of a Release Train Engineer course: time to reflect

The role of the SAFe Release Train Engineer has only been in existence for the last decade (from 2011 on), meaning that there are few RTE colleagues with whom to exchange information. And, even if there is another RTE at your organization, it may be hard to find them. “They are also in this new challenging position, and they are almost certainly heavily occupied, because there is so much work they need to do. Our expectation from RTEs is that they improve the Team of Teams. However, their job is so challenging, that they can hardly find time to answer their emails, much less reflect upon themselves. That’s why this SAFe RTE is so important and helpful,” explains Andres. “Participants get to spend three days in the classroom with other RTEs. Most of them have also been executing the role for the past 3-12 months, and they all want to take it further and reflect on their work. Participants find it is also great to be around peers for a couple of days and discuss practicalities. It’s one of the biggest advantages of this training, thus making it the unique experience that it is.”

Join a growing group of RTE peers

In the classroom, on social media, and at the RTE Summit!

As more and more organizations adopt the Scaled Agile Framework, a growing number of professionals are stepping into the role of RTE. Andres Jansen has started a LinkedIn group for RTEs, now about 350 strong, with 2 or 3 new members joining every week. “It’s just an indicator of how many people are picking up the role of RTE and how important the role is becoming. Most of all, it shows that all of these RTEs are reaching out to each other, seeking their peers.”

You’re not alone: reaching the next Summit

The ‘servant leader’ nature of those who take on the role of Release Train Engineer can mean a career fully focused on guiding the ART. But the need for certification training to formalize the role, to strengthen your skills, and to extend the community is great. “The need for RTEs to exchange information – at the SAFe Release Train Engineer course, and at the RTE Summit, for example – is an enormous need, because everyone who picks up this role goes through the valley of despair,” jokes Andres. “Even if you’ve worked your way up as an advanced Scrum Master when then became an RTE, it’s a new and challenging role. So, it’s a brave group of people who are ready and willing to take on this challenge! #respect.”

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Download the PDF brochure of the Release Train Engineer (RTE) course and print or share with the one that is responsible for the training budget of your company.


Upcoming Release Train Engineer (RTE) Courses

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Written by Gladwell Academy, but most of our content is created by trainers and partnering experts!