A day in the life of a 20-something on TikTok who works in tech might look something like this: start the day with free breakfast and a latte. Immediately go out for a multihour lunch break. Return to the office and wander around the spacious, light-filled space, visiting the nap room or the Harry Potter-themed meeting space. “Finish up work.” Then head out at 5PM.
A LinkedIn employee’s workday includes making face masks for “a little self-care moment,” followed by eucalyptus hand towels and kombucha in the office. A Google employee’s day involves scooters, rooftop views, hanging out with a dog, and meeting up with co-workers.
This is the “tech girlie” side of TikTok, where lifestyle vlogging has given rise to a cottage industry of creators who’ve made working in tech — and showing followers the ins and outs of their workday — a key part of their personal brand. The videos often follow a standard format: cheery, upbeat background music plays over quick shots of meeting slides, themed workrooms, and snack drawers.
Viewer comments oscillate between contempt and yearning, with many mockingly pointing out how little work is shown in the videos. But invariably, dozens ask: are you hiring?
Tech employees have racked up millions of views on these glossy aspirational videos. But messy boundaries around filming at work have led to HR warnings and even firings from tech firms that creators say are ill-prepared to navigate the influencer-slash-corporate employee. Corporations, meanwhile, essentially get free promotion — they just have to risk their influencers showing too much or revealing things they may not want the whole world to see.
“Me and my tech creators friends, we all have been flagged before at [our] company to be like, ‘Hey, don’t do that,’” says Chloe Shih. Shih, a YouTuber with over 51,000 followers, says creators must balance crafting their own brand and free expression with demands from their employers that limit what can be shared, either through explicit policies or implicit fears.
What’s allowed and what isn’t isn’t always clear for either side, and companies are “trying to be as stringent as possible” while building out policies and expectations for influencers, according to Shih.
Some companies are more strict than others, forbidding the filming of lobbies, entrances, and security measures like badges. Others bar filming at desks even if the computer screen is blurred — revealing even hints of what you’re working on is off-limits. But creators regularly toe the line in their content, resulting in conversations with HR, co-workers, or managers. Some creators, for example, have shared videos giving tours of offices and workspaces after seeing other creators post similar content, angering security and safety teams.
As Shih has cultivated her own brand of tech industry vlogging, she’s developed tactics to deliver content to followers and keep her employers at least mostly happy. She avoids talking about her compensation, and if she’s currently having trouble at work, she opts instead to discuss it after the fact — 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’s the Discord HQ like? // office tour + 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 “uphold their responsibilities as shareholders and to each other,” says Lucy Anthony, senior counsel for employment at the company.
“Our policies support personal expression while also protecting the company’s confidential information and our employees,” Anthony says. “If employees speak about or on behalf of Discord externally, it must be in accordance with these policies.”
Anthony didn’t expand on what specific policies Discord has for creators. I think all tech creators do their best to respect their company, because that’s number one, they can’t get fired,” Shih says. For many, that means content ends up not actually reflecting a real workday; one creator who occasionally makes videos about their work at Google says they mostly film the food at their job because showing their actual work isn’t permitted.
“I’ve gotten backlash for filming too much food content and people questioning how much I work,” the employee, who requested anonymity to speak freely about their company, told The Verge in an email. “But in actuality, I just can’t show much of my real work!”
But tech workers who aren’t hypervigilant — even at smaller companies — have found themselves out of a job.
Michelle Serna, who goes by @brokeasshorsegirl on TikTok, makes off-the-cuff, unedited videos including documenting her life running a horse ranch and holding down a full-time job. Serna, who worked at health tech company Visionable, was careful to never disclose the name of her employer on TikTok, instead speaking about her unconventional path in the industry and her experience being a remote employee making a good salary.
In August, Serna uploaded a short video to TikTok showing coffee she had spilled early on a Monday morning. Serna says she didn’t realize until later that a company meeting can be faintly heard happening on her computer in the other room (the video has since been deleted). The video didn’t catch on like her others — Serna says it had only a few thousand views — but the next day, she was fired for negligence.
“When I tell you that I was truly shocked that I was fired, I was so shocked because I never was reprimanded for anything,” Serna says. “I was never spoken to about my content creation. I was never spoken to about my performance at work.” Visionable did not respond to The Verge’s request for comment.
Unlike other creators, Serna says she was never warned about her TikTok presence, which can be profanity-laden and straightforward and is part of her appeal. Visionable had even featured Serna in a marketing video sharing her post-work routine on her ranch, and Serna said the company had celebrated her TikTok presence internally, which grew rapidly this year to over 150,000.
While creators build followings from their tech jobs, the companies that employ them also benefit. When Serna shared the news of her firing on TikTok in September, followers were largely supportive. And though she admitted recording the video was a mistake, Serna says companies like her past employer aren’t equipped to navigate having employees with substantial internet followings. Serna says a few other creators working in tech contacted her after she went public about her firing, saying they were scared about how their companies might react to their content.
While creators build followings from their tech jobs, the companies that employ them also benefit from the viral videos showing happy, well-paid employees extolling 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 TikTok sponsored by LinkedIn follows a different Google employee from the office to an influencer event, with the creator expressing her gratitude for having “two dream jobs.”
Though 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 am good press,” Serna says. “I come from a nontraditional background, I don’t have a college degree, I’m a young woman, I have a disability, I’m a remote employee making a lot of money.”
The proliferation of content that exclusively highlights luxurious perks and apparent light workloads can also obscure the reality of working a 9 to 5. Some people will purposely choose to film days when something interesting is happening, Shih says. Other creators are so busy during their actual workday that they’ll put on the same outfit on the weekend to record themselves pretending to work. The highly curated fluff content also doesn’t show that the seemingly generous office offerings 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 that way so that they can keep you there.”
Google didn’t respond to a request for comment. LinkedIn, meanwhile, has “clear internal policies that apply to all employees,” according to spokesperson Leonna Spilman, though Spilman didn’t outline what those policies are. “We make them available so everyone at LinkedIn can follow them, including when they choose to share their experiences in communities they care about,” Spilman says.
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 who hope to land a job.
Nylah Boone, a TikTok creator who considers herself a micro-influencer, sprinkles in workday content with other unrelated vlogs, like travel videos, Trader Joe’s hauls, 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 in-office pastry bar, and lunch with co-workers. The video, titled “Day in the life of a Black girl working in tech,” has amassed nearly 400,000 views, with hundreds of comments asking Boone for career advice and questions about her job and daily routine.
“My followers or people that would reach out to me or comment were like 80 percent Black women,” Boone says. “That was important to me to be able to connect with other Black women as well to encourage them, ‘You can work in this industry or work in this role.’”
Shih, too, says she’s motivated to make 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 outlining why she quit TikTok is her way of being honest and transparent with followers, she says.
“I kind of did everything by trial by fire,” Shih says of getting her start in tech. “And if I could go back and tell myself to do stuff, it would have changed my outcome so dramatically.”
In May, Boone unexpectedly lost her job at Apple when her contract wasn’t renewed. She made videos about that, too — a trio of clips documenting her job loss has so far gotten around 150,000 views.
Boone has since moved on to a job at a marketing agency, where she’s able to continue making videos for TikTok while working. But she says tech influencers are an important way that companies are able to get in front of potential applicants, especially people who might not otherwise look for a job in the sector.
“Imagine if there were no POC creators or Black women creating the content about their jobs in tech. There are so many people on [TikTok]… like middle school, high school [girls],” Boone says. “If they have no exposure to it, they’re not going to know that there are other options out there for them.”
By Mia Sato
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