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An IT company wants to hire me as a data scientist (which I am). I had all the interviews and are now in the negotiation process regarding the contract. The company made me a good offer, they really want to have me on board and the company seems to be a good fit for me too.

The company has two products. The department I would be hired into deals with providing solutions regarding data quality. While the department for the other product has an employee who knows Machine Learning (I am not sure how much exactly, but it seems to be somewhat reasonable), I would be the first person in my department to apply modern statistical methods and Machine Learning.

In the past I have been in the situation where I was an employee who basically just took orders from my superiors and while they developed the strategy on how to proceed. Also, I have been in the situation where I have been an consultant and as the expert I set forth the strategy - including how to manage the projects and what processes to put into place.

If I would take the job in this new company I would be an employee, without being a manager, product owner or something like that. As far as I can tell there might be quite a lot of new languages, methodologies, management processes I might need to introduce. This would mean that I would have to act like an expert consultant, in so far that I would have to say how to proceed (not just executing given commands). I am happy to do that, but I am not quite sure how clear that is to my supervisors (after all, I have no manager position). I feel there is a discrepancy between my position (low level employee) and job (setting the strategy as well, not just doing the legwork).

How can I communicate this now while I am in the negotiation process, instead of having a messy situation later? If I take the job then I want to add value to the company and for that I need to be treated at eye level by the executives. Can I write up a job description and put stuff like that into it - how? An acquaintance of mine, who worked as executive board member of very large companies and now as member of the supervisory boards said that he had whole strategies as part of his contracts. This seems a bit over the top for someone with 5 years business experience, but I am not sure.

Update:

So far I have mentioned something along the lines that it is important that if the manager believe me if I would say that we should do this or that, but I have not explicitly discussed it further.

An aspect of this is also this: As far as I understand, they do not have a clear Machine Learning strategy. I have no issue with developing one. What I would have an issue with would be not to be included in developing one or that I would be given specific tasks, without having an overall strategy altogether. Micro-managing can be also very harmful in these kind of situations.

This is what I did

First of all: I took the job :-). What I did was, I wrote up a job description, and phrased a lot of point like "find out which projects to take on", "evaluate different projects regarding, costs and gain", "delegate tasks" and so on. With this I wanted to avoid to seem to think I am the boss (and an entitled millennial), but emphasize my responsibilities. My future direct supervisor did catch my drift that I want the "decisional power", but he said that he is happy if I take initiative. I said that I of course are going to check in with him (which is simply smart for me in order to be on the save side anyway), but I need to be heard in order to do my job properly. He also said that I did a better job in summarizing my position than he could have done, so that was a plus, too.

This also helped to get on the same page. They did want it to be part of the contract though, but that was okay for me. I had it signed, sort of as a protocol or guideline for the job.

Also I took bytepusher's advice and asked for the "Senior" in front of the position, which was granted to me. I had to give a good argument, but finally my direct supervisor was very happy to give it to me.

  • Nice one, congratulations :) – bytepusher Feb 1 at 20:03
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If you want to impress the importance of getting some leeway in your work, and being able to make decisions affecting strategy, the best way to make this clear is indeed via your job title.

That is the language the business will understand best. Since you're not a manager, one could consider suggesting "lead data scientist" or "senior data scientist".

If this is not on offer, or you're not sure you can fulfill that role, you will have to accept that.

This does not mean you will be fated to simply execute instructions mindlessly, though. Any expert opinion, presented in a useful manner, will be valued by any reasonable manager. Prove your worth and your position may soon improve.

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You're not offered a leadership position.

Let them outline your duties.
Make sure you're all on the same page regarding expectations towards you.

If there are things that require some form of authority you could argue that.

Otherwise you're just a grunt who gets tasks assigned, submits results for approval or proposes plans and ideas to mangement who decides on implementation.

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This is probably a question of company culture as much as it is one about the formal side of your offer. There are a lot of companies where technical expertise is respected, and being the person with the best understanding of area X naturally means it is part of your job to decide how you will handle area X, and you don't need to have underlings or formalized authority in order to do so. There are also companies where decisions flow top-down like you fear. What you need to do is figure out which kind this employer is.

The managers you're talking to at the moment may not be able to give you a reliable impression of that. (Both good and bad managers tend to honestly believe they are being non-tyrannical and open and respect the opinions and ideas of their managees). But what you can do is ask them if you could get to talk to a non-management employee in a comparable place in their hierarchy as the role you're being offered. This is not an unreasonable request, and there's no good reason why they would refuse. Then quiz that person about how things usually work there.

Which opportunity is there for workers "at the coalface" to give relevant input to technical decisions? How much is it their impression that this input is actually listened to? Do things work more like a meritocracy where a competent worker can invest effort in push for a particular course of action, and eventually get to "own" it, or is it more hierarchical where you might get your way, but your boss gets the credit? Is it common to circulate and discuss proposals across chain-of-command boundaries?

Listen carefully to the responses. If it's a hellish place, they may not feel free to tell you outright -- but you should still be able to gauge how much enthusiasm the answers are given with.

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