A day in the life of a twenty-something on TikTok working in tech might look like this: Start the day with a free breakfast and a latte. Immediately go outside for a lunch break of several hours. Return to the office and wander through the spacious, bright room, visit the sleeping area or the Harry Potterthemed meeting room. “Finish the job.” Then leave at 5 pm.
The working day of a LinkedIn employee includes making face masks for “a little self-care moment,” followed by eucalyptus towels and kombucha at the office. The Day of a Google Employee means scooters, rooftop views, hanging out with a dog and meeting colleagues.
This is the tech girlie side of TikTok, where lifestyle vlogging has spawned a cottage industry of creators who have shown working in the tech—and followers the ins and outs of their workday—an important part of their personal brand. have made. The videos often follow a standard format: happy, upbeat background music plays with quick shots of meeting slides, themed workspaces, and snack drawers. Viewer comments fluctuate between contempt and desire, with many mockingly pointing out how little work is shown in the videos. But invariably dozens ask: do you rent?
Tech workers have racked up millions of views on these shiny ambitious videos. But messy boundaries around filming at work have led to HR warnings and even layoffs from tech companies whose creators say are ill-prepared to navigate the influencer-slash-corporate employee. Businesses, meanwhile, are essentially getting free promotion – they just have to risk their influencers showing too much or revealing things they might not want the whole world to see.
“Me and my friends from tech creators, we’ve all been flagged on before [our] company to say, ‘Hey, don’t do that,'” says Chloe Shih. Shih, a YouTuber with more than 51,000 followers, says creators must balance creating their own brand and free speech with demands from their employers that restrict what can be shared, either through explicit policies or implicit fears.
What’s allowed and what’s not isn’t always clear to both parties, and companies try to “be as strict as possible” as they build policies and expectations for influencers, Shih said.
Some companies are stricter than others, prohibiting the filming of lobbies, entrances, and security measures such as badges. Others prohibit filming at desks even when the computer screen is blurry – revealing even hints of what you’re working on is off limits. But creators regularly keep the line in their content, resulting in conversations with HR, colleagues or managers. For example, some creators have shared videos of them giving tours of offices and workspaces after seeing other creators post similar content, angering the security and safety teams.
While Shih has cultivated her own brand of vlogging in the tech industry, she has developed tactics to deliver content to followers and at least keep her employers largely satisfied. She prefers not to talk about her compensation, and if she’s currently having problems at work, she chooses to discuss it afterwards – as she did in her most viral video, a 14 minute breakdown of all the reasons she quit her job at TikTok.
Shih, who has also worked at Meta, Google and is now a product manager at Discord, has made videos like “What does the Discord headquarters look like? // tour of the office + meet the team!” and “First week at Discord as a product manager” (the latter sponsored by HelloFresh).
Discord employees who are also creators and influencers are expected to “maintain their responsibilities as shareholders and to one another,” said Lucy Anthony, senior employment counsel at the company.
“Our policies support personal expression while protecting the confidential information of the company and our employees,” said Anthony. “If employees speak externally about or on behalf of Discord, it must be consistent with this policy.”
Anthony did not explain what specific policies Discord has for creators.
“I think all tech makers do their best to respect their company because that’s number one, they can’t be fired,” Shih says. For many, this means that content doesn’t really reflect a real work day; a creator who occasionally makes videos about their work at Google says they mainly film their food at work because showing their actual work is not allowed.
“I’ve been criticized for filming too much food and people wondering how much I work,” the employee, who asked for anonymity to talk freely about their company, told me. The edge in an email. “But in reality I just can’t show much of my real work!”
But tech workers who aren’t hypervigilant — even at smaller companies — are out of jobs.
Michelle Serna, passing by @brokeasshorsegirl on TikTok, makes uncomplicated, raw videos, including documenting her life running a horse ranch and holding a full-time job. Serna, who worked at health technology company Visionable, was careful never to reveal her employer’s name on TikTok, instead speaking about her unconventional path in the industry and her experience as a remote worker earning a good salary.
In August, Serna uploaded a short video to TikTok featuring coffee she spilled early one Monday morning. Serna says she didn’t realize until later that a company meeting can be heard faintly on her computer in the other room (the video has since been removed). The video didn’t catch on like her others — Serna says it’s only been viewed a few thousand times — but she was fired the next day for negligence.
“When I tell you that I was really shocked to be fired, I was so shocked because I was never reprimanded for anything,” Serna says. “I was never talked to about my content creation. I was never talked to about my performance at work.”
Visionable has not responded to The edge‘s request for comment.
Unlike other creators, Serna says she was never warned about her presence on TikTok, which can be blasphemous and straightforward and part of its appeal. Visionable even had Serna in a marketing video shared her routine after work at her ranch, and Serna said the company had celebrated its TikTok presence internally, which quickly grew to more than 150,000 this year.
As creators build followers with their tech jobs, so do the companies that employ them
When Serna shared the news of her resignation on TikTok in September, followers were largely positive. And while she admitted recording the video was a mistake, Serna says companies like her previous employer are unable to navigate with employees with significant internet followings. Serna says a few other creators working in tech reached out to her after she was made public about her firing, saying they were concerned about how their companies would react to their content.
As creators build followers with their tech jobs, the companies that employ them are also benefiting from viral videos in which happy, well-paid employees extol the benefits of their jobs. An account strategist at Google praises the company for bringing rescue dogs, saying it gave them “an instant boost of serotonin.” A LinkedIn-sponsored TikTok follows another Google employee from the office to an influencer event, with the creator expressing her gratitude for having “two dream jobs.”
Although Serna didn’t directly say the name of her former employer in TikToks, the information was easily searchable, she says, and followers regularly asked if her company was hiring.
“I’m like, ‘You wanted me for your good press.’ Because if you think about it, I’m a good press,” says Serna. “I come from a non-traditional background, I don’t have a university degree, I’m a young woman, I have a disability, I’m a remote worker who making money.”
The proliferation of content that exclusively emphasizes luxury benefits and seemingly light workloads can also obscure the reality of working 9 to 5. Some people will consciously choose to film days when something interesting happens, Shih says. Other creators are so busy during their actual workday that they don the same outfit on the weekend to record themselves pretending to work. The highly curated fluff content also fails to show that the seemingly generous office supply can, in fact, have the opposite effect.
“Look at the Google campus, look at the Facebook campus, look at the LinkedIn campus — they don’t make their campuses that way because they love their employees,” Serna says. “They make it like that so they can keep you there.”
Google did not respond to a request for comment. LinkedIn, meanwhile, has “clear internal policies that apply to all employees,” spokesperson Leonna Spilman said, though Spilman didn’t outline what those policies are. “We’re making them available for everyone at LinkedIn to follow, including when they choose to share their experiences in communities they care about,” says Spilman.
Still, the “tech girlie” genre of content can serve a purpose, especially for women, people of color, and other traditionally underrepresented groups in the industry hoping to find a job.
Nylah Boone, a TikTok creator who considers himself a micro-influencer, sprinkles workday content with other unrelated vlogs, such as travel videos, Trader Joe’s swipes, and follower Q&As. In April, while working as a contractor at Apple, Boone posted a video of her first day working from the Apple office, showing her morning routine and commute, along with snippets of the building, an office pastry shop, and lunch. with co-workers. The video, titled “Day in the life of a Black girl working in tech,” has been viewed nearly 400,000 times, with hundreds of comments asking Boone for career advice and questions about her job and daily routine.
“My followers or people who wanted to contact me or comment were 80 percent black women,” says Boone. “That was important for me to connect with other black women and encourage them, ‘You can work in this industry or work in this role.'”
Shih also says she is motivated to create content about her job to give others like her free career resources. After receiving an influx of pleas for advice, Shih set up a Discord server for tech professionals and hopefuls to meet and connect. Making videos like the one explaining why she quit TikTok is her way of being honest and transparent with followers, she says.
“I kind of did everything by firearms,” Shih says of her start in technology. “And if I could go back and tell myself to do things, it would have changed my outcome so dramatically.”
In May, Boone unexpectedly lost her job at Apple when her contract was not renewed. She also made videos about that – a trio of clips documenting her job loss have been viewed about 150,000 times so far.
Boone has since moved on to a job at a marketing agency, where she can continue to make videos for TikTok during her work. But she says tech influencers are an important way for companies to reach potential applicants, especially people who might not otherwise be looking for a job in the industry.
“Imagine if there weren’t any POC creators or black women creating the content about their jobs in tech. There are so many people on [TikTok]… like high school, high school [girls]Boone says. “If they don’t have exposure to it, they won’t know there are other options for them.”