A primer on good tech etiquette for new grads

By Brittany Brody

As a lawyer, I reviewed client emails and was amazed by the self-incriminating content people sent with no self-awareness.

Imagine the potential for career-ending faux pas when TikTok, Slack, and Snap are added to the mix?

How should new grads navigate this minefield?

The Millenial/Gen Z cohorts are at particular risk. We are the first generations raised with smart devices and encouraged to live openly online from a young age. The distinction between personal and private are blurry, but in the law, the lines become quite sharp.

As a new class of graduates enters the workforce, and remote work requires us to communicate through tech more than ever before, I want to share some basic advice and words of caution to help prevent people from derailing their careers via DM.

New grads are often thrilled when presented with a new computer/phone on their first day on the job. Those are not “your” devices. Anything you search for, save, or do on those devices is the property of the company. Act accordingly.

FYI, this is also true even if you are on a personal device, but accessing wifi in the office. Companies typically have better things to do than read your texts and review your search history, but it never hurts to behave as though they will.

Slack’s 2020 transparency report revealed ~40 requests from the US government for Slack disclosures (subpoenas, etc.). While very small relative to the # of Slack users, write your messages as if you are one of those 40.

Sarcasm is often hard to grasp in written form and HR is not known for its sense of humor. Assume that the most literal reading of any statement will be applied when you are being deposed or subjected to disciplinary proceedings.

Also, be mindful of emojis — they may seem playful in the moment, but a misplaced “wink face” after something quite serious may be misconstrued or leave an opening for opposing counsel or your somber supervisor to question your intent.

Just because your Instagram is set to private does not mean your boss won’t see your concert videos on the day you called in sick, or that TikTok you made about how much you hate your job.

On that point, remember that screenshots live forever, even if your Snaps don’t. Assume every TikTok, tweet, and Facebook post you make will be permanently recorded by a potential rival and communicate accordingly.

The “New York Times Rule” states that one should not do/write anything in an email that they do not want appearing on the front page of the newspaper. This applies to everything from Amazon reviews to recorded Zooms.

Even if you delete an email on your device it will live forever on the company’s servers. I can’t stress this enough, assume everything you write or create online will live forever.

Now that I have likely scared everyone, remember that your company has better things to do than snoop around your social profiles. Most people work their entire careers without running afoul of the law or their employers.

I just want to highlight that you’ll need to adapt to new habits as you graduate into the workforce to help keep from becoming another cautionary tale in a world of ever-evolving transparency.

You may even want to select an employer or field based partially on their approach to these issues. Whatever you choose to do, do it deliberately.

Have questions, additions, or thoughts on the above? Please reach out!

Our mission is to be the most aligned VC for founders at seed. #ProudInvestor in @Uber @TheTradeDeskinc @Buzzfeed @Cruise @Diaandco @PillPack @SeatGeek & more.