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I am purchasing a laptop for college soon, and I have several decals that I would like to put on the back of it. During my time in college however, I intend to take several internships, and I don't presently know whether or not I may need to use the laptop for some of these positions.

The decals I intend to use would not be considered inappropriate for an office (my college's logo and a few aircraft images), but I am worried that it may still be considered unprofessional to have decals all over the back of a laptop in an office environment.

Is this likely to be an issue, or am I probably fine?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – enderland Jun 6 '17 at 20:30
  • FYI - I'm guessing that most companies will provide you with a computer if they want you to use it for work. I'm not aware of any, even for interns, that expect the worker to use their own personal equipment. Especially if they have specific protocols, standards and setups. If they don't.... I can't imagine they'd have the gall to expect you to supply equipment they should be supplying and also expect you to treat it as if it were their property, and not your own. – PoloHoleSet Jun 6 '17 at 21:04
  • No company worth their weight will make you use your own laptop. You have nothing to worry about. – cbll Jun 8 '17 at 11:20

11 Answers 11

154

Relax.

"Being a professional" does not mean crushing your individuality.

It means knowing what you're talking about and being good at what you do.

The decals you describe sound pretty benign. Even if they weren't, a few minutes with some black electrical tape can do wonders.

For that matter, it's unlikely that you'd bring your laptop to an interview. Once on the job, if the company wants you to have a laptop, they would issue you one.

I don't see a problem here.

  • 40
    Your advice is right (+1), but your definition of professionalism seems a bit off. I think that professionalism often does have a component of crushing your individuality a bit; for example, if everyone follows a company-mandated dress code, then broadly speaking, it would be unprofessional to openly flout it without at least talking to one's manager about it. – ruakh Jun 3 '17 at 1:49
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    @ruakh The unprofessionalism there is the flouting, not the having an "individual" style. It would also be unprofessional to flout policy with regards to the start of the business day. Specifically, the unprofessionalism stems from not doing something that you agreed to do. If you were unwilling to "crush your individuality" in some manner, you should not have said that you were. – Derek Elkins Jun 3 '17 at 4:07
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    I would say the definition of "professionalism" is simply that - appearing and acting like a professional. And ultimately, that means more than simply being good at what you do. If that's all there was to it, we'd have punk-rocker hackers running IT security for Fortune 500 companies. And... we don't. – Omegacron Jun 3 '17 at 19:09
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    @Omegacron You're mixing things together. There definitely are "punk-rocker hackers" (or similar equivalents) running IT security for Fortune 500 companies. Professionalism is more about integrity and reliability than skill or appearance. There are definitely aspects of appearance that people associate with professionalism, and it can be strategic to exploit that, but dressing in such a manner (and even being highly skilled) doesn't make you a professional. A highly skilled person who wears a suit and tie and never follows through on anything they say is not, even remotely, a professional. – Derek Elkins Jun 4 '17 at 5:39
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    @Voo Completely agree if that is part of your profession, but if it's not, then it's completely irrelevant to professionalism. Again, my original point was that if your employment contract (directly or indirectly) includes provisions about your appearance on the job, then, being a professional, you do what you agreed to when signing the contract. If it does not, then dress however you like. There may be other consequences to doing that, but it's not unprofessional. Personally, I think competence is mostly orthogonal to professionalism. You can be professional on your first day in a career. – Derek Elkins Jun 4 '17 at 10:47
51

As long as there isn't anything edgy or NSFW on the stickers you will probably be fine. In the right company culture you might find many of the full time employees have their own!

If you're going to work in investment banking you might reconsider, but otherwise you may just get asked to remove them. Many times you are not allowed to bring a personal laptop to work at all and this will be a complete non-issue.

  • 5
    +1 for bringing up stickers on company laptops. My last few employers have attempted to guide sticker usage by making available stickers of the company logo, and always bring them back as swag from tech conferences. – Morgen Jun 4 '17 at 5:12
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It's doubtful that your laptop will even be a concern for internships. Devices in most businesses need to be centrally managed to accommodate things like virus signatures and critical security updates. Rogue personally-owned PCs are frowned upon, because since the business doesn't own them, they have no control over what's installed on them. In certain high-security environments, they don't even want them in the building!

Organized businesses, when they purchase, buy the same type (or family) of machine in bulk because it's easier to maintain than lots and lots of variations. Again, there will be little interest in supporting whatever brand you purchased when something's not working right. And then there's the issue of software you need for work - if you don't have it, such businesses are usually not interested in paying for expensive licenses on personal devices.

The decals are the least of concern for a business, unless they're offensive.

  • I just wanted to note that this stance towards personal machines has been steadily changing over the last years to be more welcoming to such devices... Management jargon now includes the term 'BYOD', Bring Your Own Device, to talk about the policies governing this. – Stijn de Witt Jun 5 '17 at 11:49
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    @Stijn BYOD is not terrible if the environment is built for mobile (I.e. pads and phones). But I can't see a large, centrally administered Windows shop ever adding personal laptops to a domain. The risks are high and the maintenance costs are, too. My last job allowed salespeople to buy their own laptops, but mgmt changed its tune after supporting all the variations became unmanageable. – Xavier J Jun 5 '17 at 13:19
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    @XavierJ Plus nobody wants AD control over their personal machines. – Casey Jun 5 '17 at 14:26
  • @Casey Oh, AD control can be a severe issue, especially when a group policy can affect what the machine does off-premises. Bad. Very bad. – Xavier J Jun 5 '17 at 22:26
15

There are two types of companies.

The ones that care more about projecting a uniform image and ease of maintenance/support will give you a machine to work on, so you won't bring your personal machine into work and it won't be a problem.

The ones that care more about letting everyone work on what they prefer and expect people to manage their own machine, are generally in favor of personal expression and won't care about some (tasteful) decals, so it won't be a problem there either.

Well, technically there might be a third type of company that is too cheap to give you a machine and too unprofessional to realize that they can't tell you what to do with your personal property in that case... you probably don't want to work for those.

  • +1 There exist other types of companies than the third one?! This might be explained by the OP being in the US, but in my experience it is: "Sorry, you cannot get equipment. Sorry, neither are you allowed to bring equipment." – Burgmeister Jun 3 '17 at 12:50
  • To go with the first one, I always stick a bunch of conference stickers on my work laptop. No employer as complained about that so far. – simbabque Jun 3 '17 at 14:18
  • +1 for mentioning "taste". Some stickers would be unprofessional, some would not. – Beanluc Jun 3 '17 at 18:19
  • 3rd kind is extremely common, sadly. – jwenting Jun 7 '17 at 10:51
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I have a slightly different take on this question. Other answers have noted that it's good to express something of your personality, but I would add to that that you might want to consider what image you are projecting.

Bear in mind that it's very common amongst the hacker community to have stickers related to the frameworks you like working with. This could be a great conversation starter, particularly if they're technologies that you might not be actively using at your job (e.g. maybe you're using Javascript at work but are really into Clojure, or Elixir; maybe you're using Python at work but love R, ggplot and dplyr). Most people at my work actually have stickers on their work laptops by the way, my old work laptop looked like this (haven't gotten any stickers on my new Macbook yet):

enter image description here

If your laptop has a SQL Server or Powershell stickers on it, I'll probably make some judgements about you.

As other answers have noted, tech-related stickers are somewhat of an "ingroup signifier"/coolness on the hacker scene, so if you don't have tech-related stickers, and you do have non-tech stickers, I might wonder whether you are kind of new to the tech scene. Or maybe you don't really care about the tech scene. It's your choice whether you want to try and fit in in this way, but bear this in mind.

Also you mention that you have some airplane stickers. Do they look like this:

enter image description here

Or this:

enter image description here

People will make judgements about your politics and values based on this. I personally would be more inclined to hire you if you had the cutesey image, but maybe if you're going for jobs in defence or investment banks or something you would want the second (?).

So my advice would be that you should decorate your personal laptop how you want, but you should think about the kind of image of yourself this will project.

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    What makes you feel that people who have non-tech stickers aren't passionate about tech? – Erik Jun 7 '17 at 10:54
  • @Erik it's a good point, it's really not a fair judgement to make and passionate isn't the right word to use, I'll change it. i suppose it's like an in-group-signifier thing, it's something that people do to fit in to the hacker scene. It's like if you showed up at a rock concert wearing a suit and tie, I'd be curious about why you were there, and wonder how regular you were to the scene. – Max Flander Jun 7 '17 at 23:31
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If you get a feel for the place and it seems inappropriate or you're self-conscious (or you have a competitor's decals, for example).... just buy an opaque hard shell cover for like 10 bucks on Amazon. Problem solved.

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    Welcome to the Workspace Stack Exchange! You've got some good information here, but unfortunately, it looks a bit more like a comment than an answer. Would you mind editing so that this answer actually answers the question ("Are decals on a personal laptop unprofessional?"), please? Thanks! – anonymous2 Jun 4 '17 at 2:11
2

Decals on a laptop are very common in tech companies, and are often a badge of honor in hackathons. If anything, they're usually a positive thing.

  • depends heavily on the design. If you turn up with a decal on your laptop depicting a marihuana leaf or something applauding Stalin or Hitler, I doubt it'd leave a good first impression. – jwenting Jun 7 '17 at 10:53
1

Up to a certain threshold, professionalism is a matter of perception and, what matter the most, of shared perception between you and the company.

What I mean with this? I mean that a company could think that the only way to be professional is wearing a tie, another one could think exactly the opposite, and there is no clear stats unless you work in some specific environments or countries.

I've seen in companies that didn't care at all about how good you were at your job, what did matter was the tie.

I've been a project manager and did interviews myself, and I discarded all people that presented with a tie or those that where totally freaking nerds 'cause it was a small company and the team was working with a certain kind of spirit.

I've met a guy who is running a hugely successful company in Milano and he hire only weird, crazy, nerd guys.

Every company has its targets and decided its way to reach them; at the same time, you as a human being have a standard of what you feel is comfortable for you and the environment you want to spend a lot of your time in.

So what you should be asking yourself is: "Will I look unprofessional in the context of the companies/countries I'm going to work, and do I really care to work with them? Is it acceptable for me to change myself to adapt to a certain company?"

You can put stickers on your laptop, knowing that some (rare, I think) companies could see it as unprofessional and will ask you to remove them, and you can just ignore those companies and choose the ones that are more in sync with you. Or you can mask yourself and not put stickers because you feel you want to work for that a company.

You can do whatever you want, as much as it makes you feel good! There's a ton of job out there to choose from, so choose what makes you happy.

1

It is rare that you will need to use your personal laptop at work -- most corporate IT departments are hesitant to allow personally owned hardware to even connect to the corporate network, for security reasons.

If you are working for a non-profit with low funding it is more likely, though.

Stickers on laptops (and phones) are very common and serve two functions:

  • They express your personality
  • They make your laptop identifiable.

The latter has tangible value in a corporate environment.

Your school logo and a few airplanes don't seem objectionable, but as another poster has noted, there is a big difference in the images projected by a cartoon 747 versus a fighter jet.

Tech stickers are very common, too, but you may want to think about what they say about you. I'd remove a sticker for my employer's competition, and probably for the competing technology to what my employer uses.

Make sure to put the stickers on so that they are right-side-up to the person sitting across the table from you while you are using your laptop, not right side up to you as you open your laptop. It's subtly jarring to look at upside-down stickers on a co-worker's laptop. Think a bit about how to arrange them -- all square with white space, overlapping, all at different angles -- the way you sticker your laptop will send a message. (Any pattern you choose can work, but make a deliberate choice and stick with it. A whole laptop full of stickers at random angles is different from a neat arrangement with a few random ones on top.)

0

I intend to take several internships, and I don't presently know whether or not I may need to use the laptop for some of these positions.

If a company does not provide you a working station for your job but instead expects that employees use their own devices for the work in the office, then the company has to cope with the "risk" that a device of an emloyee boasts individuality and is not necessarily kept in a shape that is "adequate for business".

You bought that device with your own cash and if it does not bear anything discriminating or violating the basic values of the company, it is purely your issue what is attached on the device.

-4

Being professional doesn't mean that you have to act like a soul-less zombie at work. If you want to put something on your laptop (even a company supplied one): do it.

Usually, there's no issue at all. And as long as you don't put something really offensive there (whatever this means in your part of the world), even if your boss doesn't like it, it will be no problem: she'll tell you and you can choose how to cope with that critique.

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    the expectation with company owned equipment is that you returned it as you received it. – Xavier J Jun 5 '17 at 13:22
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    "(even a company supplied one)" No, no , no... you don't just do what you want with company property. Ask before you do something. – cdkMoose Jun 5 '17 at 16:46

protected by Lilienthal Jun 5 '17 at 17:46

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