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Personal (work related) notes

Personal (work related) notes

Personal (work related) notes

Hi all,

Having searched the forum for posts of a similar nature, I've found nothing quite relevant to the topic.

I keep an electronic notebook (Evernote-based for those who are familiar or interested) to aid my productivity; manage actions, referencing hard copy notes already filed, log discussions/thoughts/opinions and collecting useful information. I would have no objections to making information from my notebook available to anyone who could justify their request. I - personally - deem none of its contents to be sensitive (though the company might) and it is entirely supplementary to required design documentation that is kept in project files and relevant locations for access of other employees.

The notebook is divided into notes relating to 1) my current employment, and 2) a personal collection of articles, whitepapers and other resources that will serve me well for the future. Both are well structured and easily searchable; they can be filtered by equipment, job number, department etc. and are also entirely cross-referenced (i.e. one note may be related to several topics) etc.

My question is whether this information can be requested in its entirety by my employer. I have an inclination that some will say, "compiled on company time, company's ownership."

My asking has not been prompted by any recent events; though in the event that, say, I leave my current position, I wonder how you would respond to such a request and whether there might be any guidelines/regulations (FYI I am in the UK) on the matter.

If I did leave, the employment related notes would obviously be of no use to me and for the sake of transparency and allowing my successors/manager to have as smooth a transition as possible, I would also be inclined to hand them over without prompting. Many a time they have saved me, or somebody else, literally - hours of hunting for certain information or records of events, who said what etc.

Looking forward to reading your thoughts!


RE: Personal (work related) notes

Any notes that you don't think the company should have access to, should be kept in a separate 'personal' file and not be disclosed.  I'm at a bit of a loss about what could be sensitive project files that should not be available. Occasionally matters come up that are sensitive and I will put a memo to file, just to record the material; these are part of the project notes.


RE: Personal (work related) notes

If I have signed a particularly stringent personal non disclosure agreements, I keep the data on a memory stick on my person or locked up at home and password protected. I would never leave it on a company server even on a private drive.

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RE: Personal (work related) notes

I typically maintain chron files (as .txt) for every project and one as a daily log for me.   

No company so far has requested that I do such a thing; I do it for the benefit of 'future me' and/or my successor.  

The tactic has proven itself useful to the company on occasion, as in being able to reconstruct a sequence of events and find a particular letter sent to a particular customer warning him of a particular issue that he made inevitable and then tried to blame on us.  ... which our lawyer was able to use to dissuade the customer from litigation.

Since the files were not requested, and were written by me, I have no problem keeping a copy for my own purposes when I leave.  ... and they have turned out to be useful for personal purposes, like recalling names of helpful people with whom I'd like to network.


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Personal (work related) notes

Thanks, Pat... I should have added that these are kept on my own laptop... and not the company desktop... If they are sensitive and part of the project, they are on the company machine...


RE: Personal (work related) notes

If it's project related, it' generally in the project file... (I'm not a big one for secrets)... anything personal/sensitive can be securely stored on an encrypted volume.


RE: Personal (work related) notes

I would caution you as to the use of a personal device to which the company may claim it contains any form of company information.

There have been some recent instances (I don't have a specific reference handy - you will have to search) where company email was also texted to a personally owned and personally paid-for cell phone. When the person left, all cell phone data was wiped clean by the company.

In the US, the Fourth Admendment only protects you from the goverment and personal property. In most instances, the rights of companies to their informaton exceeds the right of an individual - whether or not the company information is of any value is not an consideration in the matter.

RE: Personal (work related) notes

@dik Thanks for your comments. Perhaps I didn't make myself clear; what I meant by these notes are supplementary to project documentation, is that their content is not required for the project; they are over and above project documentation and have no real reason to be included. There are no project files that aren't available to those with authorised access.

I'm not a big one for secrets either; my predecessor left a treasure hunt of riddles and sparse breadcrumbs here and there - not easy to follow! I don't keep any personal information on the company's server.

@Mike I would like to keep a personal copy for future reference, perhaps to reminisce and remind me of the tasks that I've accomplished and also how I overcame certain problems.

@Comcokid A very poignant reminder of the need for stringent data protection policies!

RE: Personal (work related) notes

But, even so, if they're related at all to anything your company was doing, whether it needed to be included in actual documentation or not, the company can claim that anything you record about a project is proprietary.

Notes about company projects, even for your own benefit, is fair game for collection after employment.  The company cannot be absolutely sure that you haven't included proprietary information in these notes, can they?


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RE: Personal (work related) notes

Past employers have always requested all documentation and allowed nothing to be taken.  This applied for anything even remotely connected with them.  You arrive with nothing and you leave with nothing.  I've seen some harsh tactics over memory stick usage for company purposes.  Think like the company and ensure you're not compromising you or them.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: Personal (work related) notes

No such thing as personal notes.  With or without an IP policy, everything you do in their employ belongs to them.  They paid you for it.

What you are doing in keeping notes for your reference is very good practice.

If you don't want to hand them over when you leave, just talk with your supervisor.  They may be just fine with that.  Disclosure is the key.

RE: Personal (work related) notes

Keep notes that pertain to the project(s) on the company computer.

Keep personal notes, articles and papers on your personal laptop.

This way, your question is mute, and you have nothing to worry about.


RE: Personal (work related) notes

you said,

"Keep personal notes, articles and papers on your personal laptop."

Did you read the following?

IRstuff 4 Nov 11 10:20

"While that seems pretty reasonable, just bear in mind that if, for any reason, you get sued for IP theft, or somesuch, then your personal laptop contents would be required to be searched."

FACS,  But maybe I am missing something here?  Are you saying produce a redundant copy of any personal notes off-company-time in your laptop and if the laptop history is required by the prior employer/court so be it but you still have a right to keep your copy of personal notes?

We (engineering group) made a previous employer rewrite their intended NDA form (initiated after our employment) to allow us to own our non-company related ideas because the one partner considered all of our thoughts 24 hours a day to belong to the company .  Of course they could have chosen to fire all three of us.

This thread is extremely germane to me because I am on the brink of purchasing my first laptop to be used at work along with desktop at work and away for my new job and personal use of laptop.  I have been real sticky about not using company time or company computer (even during afterhours) for personal use.  I have a personal gmail account that I access during working hours for work related tasks when my work signoff would give hints of my employers' privacy of the project.

Design for RELIABILITY, manufacturability and maintainability

RE: Personal (work related) notes

It's a pretty simple concept:

If it belongs to the company, keep it on the company computer.

If it does not belong to the company, keep it on your personal laptop.

Don't give anyone a reason to access to your personal computer---period.

Don't give them a reason to be sued for IP theft.

Why is this so hard to understand?

Now, if you are a person that simply HAS to access you personal email accounts from work, then invest in a smart phone and do it at lunch, away from the office.

If people are that concerned about this subject, then use your brains, and keep your personal life completly far away and removed from your work life.


RE: Personal (work related) notes

If I were to explain why it is not that simple and easy to understand then I would be divulging information about a project that is sensitive.

Sorry if I sound like a dunce.  Some things just can't be explained.  I chose the wrong venue to engage the subject.

Design for RELIABILITY, manufacturability and maintainability

RE: Personal (work related) notes

So what?

If there is no company files on it, then it does not matter; thus my point.

If you don't want to go to jail, don't break the law.
If you don't want to be guilty of IP theft, don't keep business files on your personal computer.

Business is business, personal is personal.

It is that easy. If it's not that easy for you, if it's too complicated to explain, if ...if..if.. then you need to find a different way of doing things or get a new job.

It ain't that hard. folks, no matter how difficult you want it to be, it ain't that hard.

My personal computer never sees the inside of my office. Everything I need to do my job is right here in my office.
My notes, my files...everything is in my office, and it stays there.


RE: Personal (work related) notes

My point is that it does not prevent your laptop from being subpoenaed and searched by strangers or those who harbor ill-will against you.

When in that type of situation, EVERY computer you can potentially come in contact with is subject to scrutiny, simply by virtue of the fact that it's trivial to move stuff out of the office, and for most people, they carry around a ton of stuff in their heads.  By the standards for classified computing, any computer your head interfaces with is potentially contaminated with company stuff, regardless of whether it happened or not.  

The ONLY way to avoid this is to have no computers whatsoever of your own.  Obviously, that's not a tenable position in today's world.  Therefore, there is no way to protect yourself.  That's my point.


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RE: Personal (work related) notes

I understand your point, but I think it's rather not true.

Regardless, if there is NOTHING on these computers, then they can search to their hearts content. They will find nothing.... that's the point...

So there is a way to protect yourself, leave nothing at all on anything but your company computer.

Then, tell them that you visited every library in a 60 mile radius, and used their computers. You also used the neighbor's computer, your Grandma's computer, the commputer at the Los Alamos research center...etc...etc....


RE: Personal (work related) notes

FACS (Mechanical)

Yeah but me Grandmama's ha' been dead many a year before computers were heard of.

You are too funny!  I really do appreciate your perspective -- so simplistic and I am infamous for rmaking things complicated.

If I were really concerned about doing something illegal then I would have to vigorusly scracth my head to figure out how to accomplish a certain task but I am not that paranoid.  If they want to search my laptop, so be it and if the lawyers want to twist words around (I have a friend who was convcited of murder based on DREAM!) then I will just have to trust that _ _ _ will give me strength to handle it.

I was essentially chiming-in with the other complicated thinkers here.  I love simplicity -- it is so clean.

Design for RELIABILITY, manufacturability, and maintainability

RE: Personal (work related) notes

And if they search your computer, my experience is that they cart it away and you may not see it for weeks to months.  Can you do without for this long?

What if you stored everything on a "cloud" service?  Then they could search your records without taking the computer.

RE: Personal (work related) notes

And once again legal questions are being asked to a bunch of engineers.  Call your lawyer or whatever they call them in the UK and ask him/her!!

Over here - laws and circumstances change from state to state - not sure about you.

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