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I'm currently doing an internship at a medium to large sized company, think 100+ employees, spread over multiple countries to give you an idea.

My school has sent me a bit of a silly assignment, that should somehow do me good while applying for work. I'm currently studying computer science, but for some reason we have to make a selfie with the company logo and make a short movie about our time in the company, including screentime of the atmosphere etc in the company.

Now I'm planning to sent an email to all employees in the company, shortly explaining my assignment and asking if it's okay if I briefly film them while they work, making some 'atmosphere pictures'.

How should I write this email out?

Both me and a lot of my fellow students agree it's a silly, maybe even unnecessary, assignment, but the fact is it's still an assignment. I'm hesitant to ridicule it in my e-mail, since that implies I don't take any assignment seriously. Though I'm also a bit hesitant to really 'go' for this, since it'd probably be the target of jokes for the next few days. I can live with the latter, no worries, but I figured I could use some advice on this.

closed as off-topic by Jim G., gnat, ChrisF, Michael Grubey, The Wandering Dev Manager Mar 31 '15 at 14:27

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  • 14
    Have you thought about what permissions may be required in doing such a video and using a logo? Could be something to consider here. – JB King Mar 30 '15 at 7:37
  • 15
    FWIW, that sounds like a ridiculous assignment. In fact, it sounds like they're asking you to create promotional media for them. – DA. Mar 30 '15 at 7:41
  • 40
    Before you click any photos or videos on company campus, you need to obtain permission, for which you should ask your immediate supervisor/manager. Also, I wouldn't advise emailing all the employees right from the janitor to the CEO for this kind of cr*p. Assuming you get the permission, don't go shooting every employee and his coffee mug. Read the assignment's instructions carefully, figure out the minimum number of people whom you could bother, shoot the video with only that many people (with their permission, of course), and be done with it. – Masked Man Mar 30 '15 at 7:57
  • 60
    Unofficially ask your supervisor to deny your "request" about making this video: problem solved. – o0'. Mar 30 '15 at 12:08
  • 4
    When I was in school I would intentionally do very well on everything so I could just not do some assignments. This might be one of those cases. I loathe stupid assignments. – user15729 Mar 30 '15 at 16:18
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Are you really going to e-mail all 100+ employees in the company? Seriously? That seems ridiculous to me as there could well be people that wonder, "Who are you and why shouldn't I report you to my boss for spamming me with this junk?" I would consider checking with your supervisor about who this goes out so that you aren't about to get reprimanded for harassing executives or something similar as I could imagine getting a "Do you wanna be in my movie?" e-mail may not go over well with some people.

I could imagine sending an e-mail to those you see regularly stating something like:

As part of my internship here, I am required to make a short video that I may include an interview with some of you or be filming part of my day. If any of you have a problem with this please let me know so that I'm only using those whose permission I have in making the video.

While that isn't perfect, it is close to being professional about a minor request to be made of others that would recognize the sender. You do realize that this could be seen as a test of whether or not you can be professional in handling minor requests right?


There is also the question of getting permission to make the video which could well be the big deal here though I'd wonder if you'd notice this point in the assignment. I'd say it is far from silly if you consider what other perspectives may be given here and what possible issues could exist. What if the company says, "No, you can't use our logo and property in your video without our permission and we are not giving it to you." Now what do you do for the assignment, especially if this kind of "What I did on my internship" video is required?

  • 1
    Well the building I'm staying in has 50+ people, but I get what you're saying. I'd of course explain who I am exactly, since my department is relatively small. I was planning to ask it in a way similar to what you described earlier. The principle of "I'm might film you, if you don't want me to, let me know". It limits e-mail traffic. I can't pass by everybody's desk and ask their permissions, since that'd take a lot more time, so an e-mail is pretty much mandatory. – GillesDV Mar 30 '15 at 7:55
  • Note that the question states employees are spread over multiple countries which is where I'd imagine there could be some people where you may cause issues sending them such an e-mail. I can understand e-mailing those that work near you but a company wide e-mail would include the CEO and other executives that may call your boss and ask, "Why did this student e-mail this stuff?" – JB King Mar 30 '15 at 8:00
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    How long does the video need to be? If you take only self shots ("vlog" style diary type reports) and interview a few colleagues, then you could just get their permission. Maybe one or two shots of your department after you've cleared this with your manager. You don't need to involve 50-100 people for this. Just involve the direct ones you need to. – Brandin Mar 30 '15 at 8:26
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    @GillesDV I also agree with the point here about checking with your supervisor. You don't have to, but if you feel strange about it, you may be able to get good advice from your supervisor, especially if you're honest about your concerns (I wouldn't ridicule the assignment, though, just express what's causing your own hesitation while taking it seriously). After all, they're your supervisor. At minimum you can get advice on staying in line with company policy and/or culture. Heck, they may even be willing to send out the email for you, eliminating your "who the heck is this guy?" fear. – Jason C Mar 30 '15 at 17:37
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    @GillesDV Opt-in, not opt-out. – user1084 Mar 30 '15 at 18:09
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I disagree that this assignment was silly. While other answers tell you how to avoid stupid moves in a stupid situation, let me tell you that this is a great learning opportunity.

Videos, like any other media are part of the workplace and there are often internal and external marketing activities that may happen. I also participated in such videos as an executive and felt really honored. Here is what you can learn, and this will also help you how to approach the stuff:

  • Workplace videos usually do not show a hundred people. There are a few people on screen at any time. You can agree with people at a few desks.
  • As you talk to these people you will have new friends, maybe you build valuable professional relationships.
  • You can learn that sending emails to all employees is never a good idea. Unless you are the CEO and you are sending out the best quarter report ever.
  • Ask a member of the management or several members to say a few words. Again communication and relationship building exercise.
  • This is an opportunity for you to create a video about that company for your school. Maybe it will become the video that will drive a lot of talented students to the company in the future. It is good for them as well. This is a sales message.
  • Learn how to do this properly. This is usually managed by the PR people. Best would be to ask your school to contact their key relation at that company to make this activity legal and help to identify and involve people. You need permission and agin it is an opportunity for you to learn how to do that.

Good luck!

  • 20
    I have to humbly disagree with your disagreement. While you're not wrong about the value of the video itself, he's studying computer science - not marketing. At best this is an opportunity for him to color his experience with an otherwise unrelated discipline; at worst it bears no relevance to his field of study, and should be considered silly and pedantic. As a programmer myself, if a supervisor told me to drop everything and plan/produce a company culture video, I'd naturally be a bit chagrinned. – CodeMoose Mar 30 '15 at 13:49
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    I somewhat agree with your disagreement. I started as a developer and ended up managing multi-million dollar IT engagements. As rookie I thought that such an assignment was bulls**t. Workplace and enterprise culture is however also about integration. It is essential to understand what other people do in hr, marketing, sales, call center and so on. You develop for them, so talk to them. If you wanna move on to manage a team, it is a must. If you wanna go the hard core expert way, maybe it is less important. Still people market themselves all the time to get promoted, it is a good skill. – Mark Mar 30 '15 at 14:03
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    All good points - it's a delicate balance to strike. I've also seen people shoot themselves in the foot by focusing too much on breadth of experience, and neglecting adequate sharpening of their own skills. It's a worthwhile pursuit to turn even the worst situation into a learning experience (and there's definitely things he can learn from this) - but there's nothing wrong with not wanting to be separated from your core interests either. – CodeMoose Mar 30 '15 at 14:47
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    @Joe Almost everything related to business is useful to learn if you plan on working. – user15729 Mar 30 '15 at 16:22
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    @Joe, right. Just like it would also help if every marketing person had to do even just a tiny little bit of coding as part of their induction. Working at a software firm I once found myself explaining to a fellow employee what computer programming actually was. It helps a lot if everyone understands at least a little tiny bit about what other people's jobs involve. – A E Mar 30 '15 at 17:14
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The simple answer is to talk to your supervisor at the company. They will know how to address the situation:

  • We can't know if the company will allow it: many place bans the use of cameras in the workplace.
  • The company may limit where and when you can film.
  • The company may want to approve the script.
  • They will probably advise you to plan the project before approaching offices and individuals regarding permission to film there.

The process doesn't start with the email, it ends with the email.

  • 1
    When writing the script, the OP can also look for an opportunity to write some code and use it in the movie. Or use the movie to show how to get user requirements and how that then translates into code and a working app. So it could turn into a valuable assignment from a copmuter scrience perspective with a little imagination. – HLGEM Mar 30 '15 at 16:37
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Obviously, you shouldn't ridicule anything. Doing so would shed a poorer light on yourself, than it would anything else.

Now, if you send an e-mail to everyone in the company, why would you ask a question in it? Do you expect individual answers from every single employee?

What I would do, and this is purely opinion, is to send an e-mail to someone who can take you on some sort of guided tour of the company, and use that to take some pictures of yourself, the ambience and the logo.

If and when you do send an e-mail to everyone, at least limit it to the office you're staying at. And instead of asking everyone's permission, explain that you might be taking some pictures for your assignment as you go around, but mention that you don't want to impose, and if someone would dislike being photographed, they should let you know.

  • Yeah I was planning something like that. Think of: explain assignment "I might pass by to make a few pictures or a short movie for a school assignment. If you would prefer not to be in these, please let me know." – GillesDV Mar 30 '15 at 7:51
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    The request may or may not be silly. Publicly ridiculing it will damage the OP's reputation at the firm where he is interning in ways that he can't begin to imagine. Example: "We had no reason to doubt your level of emotional maturity but we are so glad that you were proactive and cleared that up for us before we even got a chance to ask" If I have reason to question an order from a superior, I will run that order by him. Often enough, the order gets adjusted into something that makes more sense. Or the order gets shelved. Or the order gets repeated because there is method to the madness. – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 30 '15 at 11:59
  • Every action that you take is a statement that you make about you. Every choice that you make is a statement that you make about you. Any wrong statement that you make about yourself will travel the globe before you have a chance to correct it. We don't make thoughtless statements for the same reason that we don't play with guns, loaded or unloaded. – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 30 '15 at 12:07
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    I forgot +1 for saying "you shouldn't ridicule anything" :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 30 '15 at 12:10
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    @VietnhiPhuvan Hmm, this answer is more localized than most. In Dutch culture for example a quick lighthearted joke about the silliness of the assignment would be perfectly fine and even put you in a positive light. On the other hand, in a country like Japan that would be an extreme faux pas (and the rest of the world is somewhere in between those two extremes probably). – David Mulder Mar 30 '15 at 17:51
3

Whichever (small number!) of employees you choose to (personally!) ask, you should ask them to opt in with their permission, not opt out.

I have to do an assignment for school. I was wondering if a few of you would be interested in taking a short interview for a video?

Would be better than

I have to do an assignment for a school. I'll be filming all of you, but if you don't want to be filmed please let me know, thanks in advance!

If this doesn't meet your school's requirements, things you should do before involving those at your company include

  • clarify the requirements with whoever assigned them at your school
  • understand the consequences for simply not doing the assignment at all (they may be grave or trivial, but you should definitely apprise yourself before doing anything drastic...)
  • explain the assigment to your supervisor and follow her or his instructions on how to garner participation

Chances are you'll find something reasonable your school wants you to go and something reasonable your supervisor will give you the go ahead to do. It however is worrisome to me that your moral compass seems not to have entered the picture: if your school tells you to do something to someone else, why are you prioritizing your school's orders above said person's rights? You really should be thinking this through from the other direction: how may I judiciously and ethically involve other people, then what can I do about my school's requirements from there.

  • 1
    I'm aware of this somewhat difficult assignment. Not referring to difficult skills, but you know, actually doing it. I'm not a fan of doing the whole assignment either. I wouldn't start taping people if they requested me not to, naturally. On the other hand what kind of intern would I appear to be if I said, "you know what, this assignement is stupid and useless. I'm not doing it!" My supervisor would probably think about how long until I question one of his next assignments.. – GillesDV Mar 31 '15 at 7:29
  • @GillesDV what kind of intern would you be? possibly someone who respects the people who will be your coworkers next year? you don't get what an internship is. It's a company that might hire you next year and won't at the rate you're showing concern for your fellow employees. – user1084 Mar 31 '15 at 15:20
  • I disagree. I already said I don't take pictures/videos of anyone without their permission, Plus do you want to hire someone who refuses to do an assignment, rather than do it in a way that's acceptable for everyone – GillesDV Apr 1 '15 at 7:56
  • @GillesDV yes, pretty much. I definitely don't want to hire someone who prioritizes things outside of work during work hours, or at all really. – user1084 Apr 1 '15 at 14:58
2

It's a matter of personal opinion whether the assignment is silly or not, and whether or not it's really all that work related... to me it sounds like fodder for a marketing campaign for your school so they can brag about the cool internships that their students do... but that's just my opinion.

First - start with your supervisor. Workplaces vary dramatically both in what they allow in terms of video/photo taking on site and also how they want you to give the FYI to your colleagues. And even in the simplest case, your boss may be able to clarify the smallest group of people who are likely to care.

Next (assuming your answer isn't either "never do this" or "just do it, don't stress about the email") - I'd recommend that you not ridicule it. Mockery can often been mistaken for jeering or downright meanness in written form. Say you have a "lighthearted" assignment or something similarly benign.

Also, do the best you can to keep the FYI email short, sweet, and simple. I'd recommend:

  • that you pick a time and place that you'll be taking pictures/video and clarify it. Then ask that anyone NOT wanting to be in the video avoid those areas at those times.
  • clarify the places you'll be sharing the material and where it will go from there - in particular, it's good to know for sure who has the rights to the image.
  • give a way to opt out ("If you see me taking pictures, and fear I may have taken one of you, write me a mail and I'll gladly delete it")
  • offer, if you're willing, a place to review the material internally

And then thank them for their time.

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