I am a student and recently got selected as an intern in a big tech corporation. The corp announced that the internship would be virtual (work-from-home - WFH) and we along with all the regular employees would be given 500$ for setting up our "home-office". However, the funds will be reimbursed after we purchase and need to get the approval of the mentor/manager before going for a purchase.

I have already asked for getting a desk and a chair (about 300$) and they have approved the request. My mentor told me to go "simple" on the purchases as well.

Now, I still have some funds left for setting up the "office" and I am planning to get a new keyboard for my computer. My current keyboard is decent, but not the best and is not that comfortable. I found a keyboard that I always wanted to buy (about 130$) but, I am unsure if I should go for the purchase or not.

Should I ask my mentor for the same? Would it sound too "greedy" for me for going for an expensive keyboard? I am completely new to the corporate world and don't know how should I raise my request for the same.

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    Can you explain the business value of the 130 keyboard vs much cheaper one? You can get very good work keyboard for 30 usd. May 29 '20 at 8:04
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    There's no business value per se. It's just that the 130$ keyboard would be more comfortable than my current one (a 20$ keyboard). By comfortable, I mean, it would have a good shape as compared to the chiclet keys I am using right now. It might also boost my productivity as I don't like typing on my current keyboard.
    – MaJoR21
    May 29 '20 at 8:06
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    If in doubt, I recommend you talk to the mentor about it, but I'd say there's a decent argument to be made that you're going to be spending a lot more time working on that keyboard than you were before so a concession to ergonomy now could save expensive RSI treatments later.
    – Shadur
    May 29 '20 at 8:08
  • 1
    Alright, and what country are you un? May 29 '20 at 8:08
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    If you leave the company for any reason, do you have to turn in these items?
    – sf02
    May 29 '20 at 13:48

At most tech companies, especially if you're in any sort of engineering role, money spent on things you use the majority of the day is generally seen as a pretty solid investment. This keyboard would come out to roughly $2.20 per day, which in the grand scheme of things is likely worth whatever benefit it gives you.

That being said, your instincts are right and you should definitely run this by your intern mentor first in a very soft way. This is much safer than YOLOing it and having your mentor immediately think you are one to take advantage.

I'd phrase it something like "Hey $mentor, I was wondering your thoughts if it would be appropriate if I purchased Das Keyboard for $130. I realize it is expensive, so if this is out of the norm I would completely understand. I've just always wanted to work with one of these, but again if this is a bit much please just let me know, I have another option I really like for around $80."

  • 1
    That's a good advice. I'll run it through the mentor first, and see if they have any objections about the purchase. Thanks for the advice.
    – MaJoR21
    May 29 '20 at 8:17
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    Sure thing. It is important to give them an easy out (the lower priced alternative) rather than having to simply tell you "no".
    – opsguy
    May 29 '20 at 8:18
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    Great. I'll go through Amazon for other alternatives. Thanks :D
    – MaJoR21
    May 29 '20 at 8:22
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    Good advice but in this very specific example as a manager my immediate response would be: what are you using to mail/Skype me about this? Bringing up an 80$ keyboard as if it's a reasonable alternative would come across as tone deaf to me. The alternative is continuing to use whatever keyboard OP uses now or buying a bog standard office keyboard that's one tenth of that price.
    – Lilienthal
    May 29 '20 at 8:40
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    Welcome to the Workplace. I like how you started with the answer advising a newcomer in the industry about how things can generally be perceived. I do not agree with the part where you are trying to be defensive in the reasoning you are sharing with the intern manager. In my opinion it could be more along the lines of, "Hey mentor, I am wondering about getting XYZ keyboard and I think it would be a good addition to my setup because ABC." I think OP need not try to justifying the purchase by also suggesting an inferior alternative. May 29 '20 at 13:49

I agree with the initial part of @opsguy's wonderfully written answer. I agree that it's important and a good idea to run it through your manager before making the purchase.

However, I think it's not necessary to be defensive in the justification. A simple statement about your thoughts on purchasing a specific product and how it would help you with the productivity is sufficient justification.

Slightly rewording @opsguy's answer, I'd rather advise putting it as:

"Hey $mentor, I am in need for a keyboard for my home office and I am wondering about purchasing this Das Keyboard. I think it would be a good value add to the work productivity. It costs around $130. I realize it is expensive, so if this is out of the norm I would completely understand. I've just always wanted to work with one of these, but again if this is a bit much please just let me know, I have another option I really like for around $80. Let me know your thoughts on this."

That should do. This way you are both sharing your opinion about a purchase decision as well seeking inputs from your intern manager. If he agrees that it' a worthy purchase, you'd get a straight go ahead.

In my opinion your statement about productivity gains is the justifying enough.

  • Thanks a lot for your advice. I'll try to not get too defensive about the product. After all, it's just a product and a 20$ keyboard should be sufficient (sufficient but not satisfactory, in my opinion).
    – MaJoR21
    May 29 '20 at 14:09
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    @MaJoR21 There's nothing wrong in talking about sharing your purchase decision with the manager. They'd generally be happy that you ran it by them. Sometimes we tend to overthink. Don't think that it would make you look bad in the manager's eyes. Don't forget you are just using from the funds that the company has decided to set aside for WFH tools and you clearly are NOT spending it on buying it something that's not useful in work. That should be fine with any reasonable manager IMO. May 29 '20 at 14:12
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    @MaJoR21 I have been programming and managing software development projects for over 10 years now and my personal understanding is that any reasonable manager understands the productivity gains that come from using a good quality tool. A good quality pays back far more in terms of quality output. With a low quality tool you may spend more time fighting with the tool than doing productive work. May 29 '20 at 14:16
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    I definitely agree any reasonable manager would think this is totally normal. The three things to consider here are 1) the mentor explicitly said to keep it “simple” 2) most intern mentors aren’t managers 3) even if it is totally reasonable, if for some reason the mentor thinks it’s an extravagant purchase it will likely create a really negative impression of the intern for the mentor. This is a serious concern and really shouldn’t be under estimated.
    – opsguy
    May 29 '20 at 15:32
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    @opsguy Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think OP is better suited to come to a conclusion how they would sound like based on his relationship so far with their manager. In my opinion trying to be excessively justifiable isn't presenting OP in any fairer light. If OP already thinks that there's a more economical, viable alternative available and also presenting the case about it, OP would appear unsure themselves. Giving excessive justification makes it appear like they "want" and not really "need" the superior alternative. I am simply proposing them to be on point and seek inputs. May 29 '20 at 15:38

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