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I am applying for data science positions (Germany) as I recently finished my postgraduate study in that field. However, my previous industrial experience (before my recent graduate study) was in the field of engineering (control systems).

Although I do not rely on my engineering work experience to get hired in the above job positions, I was wondering if I can use it in my salary negotiation as the years of experience in the industry?

  • how many years of the engineering experience do you have? 6 months experience vs 10 years makes for a different answer – MattR May 7 '19 at 12:09
  • @MattR 4 years of experience! – Bob May 7 '19 at 12:34
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Absolutely!

The data field (especially true Data Science) is not cut and dry. Different ways of handling the data produce different results. Engineers are very good problem solvers that come up with ways of solving that problem. Most engineers get to their final solution going through a lot of trial and error. Data science is the same thing.

As a general rule you don't really just "get" extra money for experience. It's the skills you learned during that experience. Try to think of experiences that would transfer to your new career. Off the top of my head, talk to things like:

  • Engineering requires math. Data Science requires math. Talk about the math skills you learned while being an Engineer. How did you use math to solve a problem?
  • Talk about the trial and error cycle and how you know how to use that. Perhaps plug some sort of project management skill.
  • Some engineers use coding - if you learned/used that as an Engineer, talk about that while going through the interview process. Data science will use a lot of coding.
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    I worked with this data science director who is an ex-priest and has a psychology phd, this other guy had an aeronautics degree. One of my current co-workers used to be in pool equipment sales. Data science is a funny field as far as background requirements go – Layman May 7 '19 at 13:25
  • I (a ds myself) very much agree with this answer. In the end, a salary negotiation is, above all, transmitting information on how much you value your time (both present and invested in learning), skills and overall experience; and how much the company values those very same things. It is a very effective way of knowing if the company is worth your energy and for the company to know if you are worth the investment. And of course, engineering skills are very useful in data science. I became a better data scientist once I got paired with engineers and learnt from their thought processes. – busman May 8 '19 at 16:54
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As is being pointed out in other answers and comments, your engineering experience will certainly add value in terms of your contributions in a data science position. However, since your specific question was,

I was wondering if I can use it in my salary negotiation as the years of experience in the industry?

I think the answer is, it depends.

If you're talking about bringing up your experience in the context of a salary negotiation, you need to be sure it's being described accurately. In other words, if you were an engineer for 10 years, you can claim you were an engineer for 10 years - and then explain how you think that will benefit your data science work. But, if the employer asks for how many years you've been doing data science work, or how many years of experience you have in the data science industry, it would be misleading and inaccurate to just say "10 years" without explanation.

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