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Monday, February 23, 2015

Chapter One

The History of the Narrative

A Cargo Cult Tribesman Discusses His Life In Biotechnology

The company was situated in one story strip mall style industrial area in Woodland Hills California. The employee parking lot was stuffed in the center of the buildings. Wind did not stir the air in our secluded parking lot. It was quite. By 5 o'clock it was always empty. I walked to my car at the days end in this uncomfortable place. I hadn't done anything useful today, I thought. My mind seemed to be as empty and quite. No profound thoughts had stirred my brainwaves. It was as though I had been in REM for hours. No matter what I did I couldn't get the technology to work as promised. I couldn't prove that the guys working on selecting drug targets were correct. I couldn't get the RNA interference, the latest big thing in biotechnology, to work as promised. Was it me?

Steve Jobs said that the most important thing is the project. Great things in business are not done by one person, they are done by a team of people. You hire an A Team and you get the job done. You will encounter people who are difficult to manage. They are passionate about what they do. There will be fights. There will be a lot of noise coming out of that conference room from time to time. We all seemed to get along just fine. Some nights however, there was a little noise to be heard in the parking lot. We would occasionally open the loading dock door and have a noon time barbeque. We would have ribs, hamburgers, potato salad, chips, soda... and beer. Lots of beer. The beer drinkers knew the end was certain so they were going to enjoy the final days. I was no prude. I would have a couple beers at lunch but I had a long drive home. I'd go back to work. It made me nervous to think this was even allowed. At five o'clock I'd make that lonely journey out to my car. The BBQ would have degenerated into a wasted day of drinking beer in a sad lonely parking lot. The A team.

When the end finally came, nine months after I started, three years after the company began, it was just as quiet inside as it was out back on a non-drinking day. I entered through the lab. Empty. I checked the front desk. Hmm. No one here yet. I was early as usual. No one in the cubicle area. Finally, someone appeared. It was the Chief Scientific Officer coming out of his office. "Come on in Sal". We were out of money. It was over and he meant today. "Go on home and start your job search. Use me as a reference. You did a good job."

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