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I just read this story over at Derek Lowe’s blog, In the Pipeline. It’s too good to excerpt:

I believe that this story has been mentioned in the comments here, but since I’ve heard from the actual person involved, I thought I’d pass on the canonical version. Someone I used to work with at Schering-Plough found himself (like many others in his position) out of a job in late October. He had a previously scheduled trip to Florida the next day, and as he boarded the plane, who should he see sitting in first class but Fred Hassan, the CEO of Schering-Plough who’d helped engineer the deal with Merck?

As the chemist involved put it, “After quickly scanning to make sure there wasn’t a body guard looking guy near him”, he said “Hi, Fred!” Hassan looked up and asked “Do I know you?” “Well,” said the chemist, “no, probably not, but I’m a medicinal chemist with Schering-Plough, and now Merck”. Hassan smiled and said “Great, so how are you?” The response, in a loud voice, was “Well, I just got laid off!”. He then walked on down to his seat in coach, and heard Hassan saying something about being sorry about that. And as he told me, he sat there in coach, smiling at the picture of Hassan thinking about this irate ex-employee on the plane with him for the next 2 and a half hours. . .

I can think of some other CEOs who we’d like to meet in planes.  Like Bernard Poissot, Jeffrey Kindler and all of the guys from Morgan-Stanley and Goldman Sachs who helped arrange the innovation sucking, livelihood killing mergers that resulted in the unnecessary and stupid loss of our jobs.

Now that we know that they occasionally fly commercial, we may get our chance someday  Fred Hassan has left such a trail of destruction through the industry, it’s a wonder he didn’t find a contingent of Occupy Pharma on that flight.


Conflucian Sharon recommended this video last night.  It’s supposed to be the research version of Glengarry Glen Ross but it’s eerily accurate.

I’ve even had my share of rageaholic bosses who used to travel from Cambridge, MA to Princeton just for the purpose of screaming in our faces. He subjected my female colleague to a purple faced tirade for close to 30 minutes and it was so loud the whole floor could hear it.  Not only that but there have been instances where the guy who invented a multi-billion dollar blockbuster drug for a company was laid off with the rest of the site.  Well, after all, that was 10 years ago.  The dude probably sold that invention to the company for the customary $1.  And after billions of dollars, he gets a pink slip.  And yes, we drive Ford Fiestas, or PT Cruisers, in my case.  I once had to drive my French director to a dinner in my Cruiser and he told me in no uncertain terms how little he thought of it.  I like it.  As a single person, I need a car that has the versatility of a Swiss army knife.  Besides, if he wanted to travel in style to dinner in a BMW or a Lexus, he was hanging with the wrong crowd.  The executives up the road can afford the nice cars.

Every day in the labs that are left in America, a less noisy version of that video plays itself out.  Your job is constantly on the line.  There is no time for thinking problems through thoroughly, no money for the iterations of experiments that are necessary to crack the problem.  Your colleagues become your competition for a vicious game of full time position musical chairs.  Every year, there’s a new hairbrained scheme from the MBA class that never sets foot in a lab.  One of the most idiotic is to have each department bid for another department’s work.  Yes, let’s treat each of our former seamlessly integrated pieces of the research puzzle as potential contract resources complete with competitive bidding with the outside world and all of the time wasting paperwork that goes with that. And no one is allowed to feel “good enough”.  If you don’t have a PhD, you’re dirt.  If you don’t have a PhD from a prestigious university, you’re barely tolerable.  If you haven’t published 2 papers per year in Nature as first author, your job is in jeopardy.  Steak knives?  Unheard of.  You’re lucky if you still get free coffee.   And your pension is not safe no matter how many years you put in.

So, it only looks like comedy until you have to live it.  Oh, I could tell stories that would make your hair curl.  This is the way we treat our best and brightest.

11 Responses

  1. I’d just like to think I could actually recognize one … but, I don’t think I would. I’m horrible with faces.

  2. RD, I know it’s OT, but this made me think of you and my daughter who starts a postdoc in medical research at Duke next month:

  3. Well, that didn’t work. Shucks!

  4. Odd, I posted my comment before I read your post. It’s not OT at all. In fact, right on. Damn!

    • Steak knives? They got steak knives?? Jeez, they don’t work in a lab, that’s a fricking spa.

      So funny, actually, one of my former bosses at Wyeth used to yell like that. My last two supervisors were pretty reasonable. I liked them both. But yeah, the attitude hits pretty close to home. It’s always, “What have you done for me lately? Oh, you’re the one who discovered a blockbuster drug? Well, that was 10 years ago. I mean, what did you do in the last 6 months? How many Nature papers were you first author on?”
      You know, now that I think about it, research is really hard. The job is hard enough. But then there’s all that pressure and fear every fricking day. Children, stay far, far away from a lab. It will break you.

  5. OT but this may go along with f*ckability. JWS on the case…

  6. All I know is the days are getting longer and that is a very very good thing, a miraculous natural explained by science beauty of creation thing. For the next 6 months I will be getting happier and happier.
    I do not know what is going to happen with this country, this economy, this next election….except that no matter what we are likely to have a really crappy president who represents the 1 percent. This morning I allowed myself the fantasy of thinking Hillary or some other phenomenal woman would just say “the hell with this nonsense. Some one has to step up and save this country”….you know, kind of like Thatcher did in England (whether you liked her policies or not, she was one gutsy broad). I think there might be a third party candidate, but I don’t think I am going to believe that person will be able to run the government. It takes someone who has been on the inside and who will have allies.

    What does this have to do with the topic? Well, nothing is going to get better in American industry until we have a president who understands that we do not “need to attract more engineers to America” (thank you Obama, you elitist jerk) but we need to educate more of our youth to become engineers. Are we suppose to believe our children are too stupid to do the work? Are we to believe our scientists are not worth the money and out sourcing is a good answer? How can that possibly be when a few years ago we were told we could not trust foreign drugs and had to pay the higher prices for American research and development? Now, let’s put more Americans out of work for the sake of the bottom line.
    When every political, financial and business decision in America became based on the stock market bottom line that is when we started our great decline. I predicted this 30 years ago and I am not that smart about this stuff. Put me in front of an audience and I am genius…..but this other crap, no way. So why did I know this and all this people we allow to screw the tax payer (also known as elected officials) not know this?
    Hang in there, you have a great education. You are going to be alright. Lots of people who graduated HS and then climbed the ranks of manufacturing or construction, happily building cars or jets or something, they are the ones who are not going to do so well.

    • They DID know it. They diddit on purpose. The outcome we have is exactly the outcome the Free Trade Deregulationist Tax-Cutters worked ahead of time to engineer on purpose.

      I saw someone just lately over at NaCap tried coining a new word for the society the planning-ahead kleptocracy-in-waiting very carefully engineered for their benefit. That word appears to be “kleptonomy” or
      “kleptoconomy” or some such. It sounds like a good word to me, but that would be up to every individual word-user to decide in their own thinking and conversation.

      I know this: we are locked in a Class War not of our own making. It is the Final Class War, the Last Roundup if you will. It will be fought to a conclusion of absolute zero-sum victory, either of us or of the Class Enemy.

      Last night I was talking to a co-worker whose daughter works deep within the upper reaches of a surviving remnant of Lehman Brothers which was bought and renamed by one of the successful City Of London financialist prpredasite firms. He tells me that she told him that the illegal “borrowing” of cusegregated customer funds for “own-account” trading perpetrated by MFGlobal and its head predasite in charge Corzine is absolutely standard normal procedure throughout the financialist predasite bussiness community. The only reason MFGlobal got caught is because it was stealing amounts of money at any one time which were too big relative to “its own money” to be able to cover up the theft if the bets went bad. Otherwise, they all do it, each of them, all of them. Absolutely standard.

      Excuse any mispellings in advance. Microsoft Explorer cripples the
      commenting function and makes it impossible to see whqt one types.

  7. oh look the sun is shining!!!!!!! 🙂

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