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Details on First Data Science Job Salary


A person new to the Data Science field details their salary and the negotiation process.



Don’t Immediately Accept

Never accept an offer as soon as it’s given to you, even if you’re happy with it.  Do not break out in smiles, giggles, or high-fives.  Say, “Hmmm.  I appreciate the offer, but will have to review it with my family and get back to you.”  Don’t let them use bullying tactics like pretending the offer has some kind of 24 or 48 hour time limit on it.  Arbitrary deadlines are a deliberate psychological tool designed to get you for less.

On the other hand, feel free to immediately reject an offer that is not suitable.  Before going into an interview or a discussion that might lead to an offer, you should have two values in your back pocket:  1) the big number you’re going to pretend to demand along with a rationale for how you arrived at it and 2) the lowest value you would actually accept.  If the offer is lower than your lowest, tell them that you’re disappointed with that and were hoping to get closer to the big value because [your rationale here].

They will likely say that’s too much for reasons X, Y, and Z and come back with another value.  If it’s still too low, feel free to counter again.  But if you get an offer worth considering always state that you need to review it with your family (because who can disagree with that) and then come up with a response when you’re not under pressure.

Ask for MORE

When giving a first counter-offer always ask for substantially more money than you think you will get and have some reasonable analysis for how you got to that value.  Furthermore, make your counter-offer to be a number that is oddly specific.  Don’t say you want $120,000.  Say you want $126,450.  It’s a psychological tool that gives the impression of exactness.  You will likely not get this max value, but it sets the post.  Better for them to set the first one and you move it further than for you to set the first and them move it lower.

Show you have Options

Make sure you have said on multiple occasions that you’re in talks with other companies.  This should be true by the way, don’t make things up.  You don’t have to go into details, so it doesn’t matter if you just had a screening call that led to nothing, but the image you want to sell is this:  You’re expecting a lot of money and you’re confident you’ll get it, but you’re so interested in their company that you want to continue the conversation because you’re confident the money part can be agreed upon once they see how perfect you are.  Be enthusiastic and confident.  Do not come off as desperate.

Don’t Get the Call, Make the Call

Assuming you’re not getting the offer immediately and instead are dealing with a person via the phone days later, don’t let a call catch you unprepared.  If you’re not fully prepared and feeling psychologically strong and confident, tell them it’s not the best time and ask if you can call back.  The best case scenario is you can call them whenever you’re ready and potentially catch them in a less prepared state, but arranging a specific time in the future is also an improvement.  This will be a very important conversation, so don’t take it on when you’re not both expecting it and fully prepared.

Results

I tried to do these things.  I deliberately delayed accepting offers because I really did have some interesting lines in at cool companies and wanted to see how things panned out before accepting.  It could be my imagination, but I feel like this made them a little uneasy and probably resulted in a higher initial offer than I would have otherwise gotten.

For numbers, I happened to know a friend that got hired on to her first data science job at $104k (with bonuses) and she was fresh out of school.  I also knew a family member that’s 10 years older than me made around $135k at a major tech company as a software engineer.  So I applied the 3% rule to both cases:  I added my years of experience to the salary of the first person and subtracted the extra work years from the second person’s.  The two numbers were close so I averaged them and came up with something like $120k.

I ended up saying I was disappointed with the first number and was hoping to get $121,700.  I then detailed why I thought that was fair.  Their counter was a flat $100,000, but increased my signing bonus to $15,000 and annual bonuses that averaged ~$9,000/year.  Given that I was happy with the first offer, I was definitely happy with this offer and (after reviewing with my family) accepted.  I got a 5% raise by doing one simple math calculation and having a 10 minute phone call.  Given that merit increases are for a year of work already completed, I would have worked for 2 years before seeing that extra money, and that doesn’t include the extra $12,000 up front that I didn’t even ask for.

To recap, I got a 25% raise over my old job, a summer off work, a sign-on bonus that more than compensated for my lost salary, home sale assistance that paid for all closing costs/realtor fees (which was about $17,000), and another $8,000 cash in “moving expenses”.  And for context, right before I quit my prior company I learned that, once again, there would be no merit increases for the previous year’s work.  This is why it’s so important to consider your opportunity costs.

Author bio: ChangeFields.com is a blog about one person’s journey of quitting his job to become a data scientist.

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