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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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October 24, 2011

The Layoff Project

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Posted by Derek

I wanted to take a moment to highlight this series of posts over at Chemjobber. He's interviewing fellow chemists who have been laid off and asking for practical advice on how it went, how it's going, and what to do. Others are welcome to send along their own stories; see his e-mail contact at the site. It's a painful subject, but boy, is it a real one these days.

Update: there was a case of identity spoofing in the comments to this post, with someone claiming to be a Merck employee. I've removed the original comments, and (after some thought), I've also removed the (faked) name from the replies that they gathered. Those comments were posted in good faith, but I'm trying to get the stolen identity cleaned out.

Comments (18) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


1. Caroline on October 24, 2011 2:50 PM writes...

Such a shame. Truly sad times in pharma these days.

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2. MLBpitcher_and_MedicinalChemist on October 24, 2011 3:30 PM writes...

At least Derek Lowe has another year making $15 million, and then, he will be a free agent.

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3. PharmaHeretic on October 24, 2011 3:56 PM writes...

Is anybody taking bets on when somebody will snap and kill a few from their old workplace? Maybe I should open an online forum to do just that..

It is hard to imagine that there won't be more than one such 'incident' in a group larger than 300,000 laid-off people.

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4. Chemjobber on October 24, 2011 5:55 PM writes...

First of all, thanks, Derek! It's really appreciated.

Second, if you're looking for criminal incidents happening around layoff time, that already happened in late 2009 connected with the PFE New London layoffs.

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5. Anonymous on October 24, 2011 6:46 PM writes...

@5. I feel sorry for you that you have to do these layoffs but on behalf of all those affected may I ask a small favor (and this goes for HR in general)?

Well, you eluded to management as the blame. I believe department managers (not the top brass) are to blame for "who stays and who goes". Many are biased and exhibit favoritism towards sycophants (you know what that term means). Often what you see is the knowledgeable people being dismissed. They may have disagreed with the manager's ways, biases, ideas etc...but are in the end targeted for it. This is the essence of Narcissism. Many times the sycophants survive, regardless of ability, knowledge or track record.

If I may offer a piece of advice to HR (in general) out the inept management that is biased, favor they're boys and appear to target the experienced individuals. These managers are the ones that need to be canned.

Oh yeah...and look no further than the NJ area for this phenomenon. It has happened over the past and is still operative....

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6. Chemjobber on October 24, 2011 7:51 PM writes...

(Name redacted), that's a very, very good point. If you're willing, please tell your story in the comments on Chemjobber or e-mail them to me at chemjobber -at- gmail/dot/com.

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7. Derek Lowe on October 25, 2011 7:46 AM writes...

Pharmaheretic, I've deleted your most recent comments, since in my opinion they cross the line. I let a lot of stuff through around here, but not that. Please show some self-control.

But if you can't refrain from talking like this, I strongly recommend that you start your own blog, where you will be free to say whatever you please.

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8. A man who knows a little about (name redacted) on October 25, 2011 9:04 AM writes...

(Name redacted), let me tell you that nobody who dealt with you at Merck believes a word coming out of your mouth.
You may have forgotten it, but you made quite an impression on entire Rahway Chemistry during BRGOS. When asked about how are you going to compare assessments of different people working in differents parts of the chemistry organization (and doing very different things scientifically), you answered "A chemist is a chemist".
Ladies and gentlemen, presenting (name redacted) in his true colors.

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9. KW's hairdresser on October 25, 2011 9:33 AM writes...

Hey (name redacted),

Can't speak to the situation at Merck, but at GSK it certainly helps if you speak Mandarin in order to be retained. Funny, I know because we are on the East Coast of the USA! But that is the state of the industry. I can say that GSK HR is completely inept. Amazing how those synchophants go along unscathed with the folks who ADD value to the company (ie make something or create intellectual property) get tossed out.

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10. Crystal on October 25, 2011 12:51 PM writes...

I'm not sure why anyone in their right mind would give their personal info to this chemjobber person.

He's (she's?) either a recruiter (who will make you less attractive as a candidate) or possible just someone who's screwing around, creating a condensed tome of Schadenfreude.

In the end your CV might very well be sold off to other recruiters across the country.

My guess is you'll be worse off for dealing with an anonymous recruiter with unknown intentions. No doubt the individual is attempting to make money from his interactions.

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11. Derek Lowe on October 25, 2011 1:28 PM writes...

Crystal, he's not collecting CVs, and he's not a recruiter. You're welcome to your speculations, but allow me to add my own data.

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12. canchem on October 25, 2011 4:53 PM writes...

Crystal - chemjobber's not at all either of those things you accuse of him. He's a blogger looking at the employment situation for chemists, and is (in every interaction I've ever had with him) 100% above-board, as well as a really nice and helpful guy.

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13. Dear (name redacted) on October 25, 2011 6:28 PM writes...

To (name redacted): As HR, you can help the moribund few of us left by talking with management - in particular chiefs of departments with whom you have interactions (eg Rick and Sandy for starters). Management needs to stop hiding behind HR and get out of the office and walk the halls. Times are real bad, and that is when the leaders should do just that - show themselves to the remaining plebes and lead, dammit. We have new chiefs who have not shown themselves to their FTEs (I mean people) since they took office. Anyone can have their jobs when things are rosy. As HR, get them off their arrses and in front of the people. Its OK for our dept heads to say what they can, and tell us what they cannot say. They cannot continue scurrying around avoiding their charges. Get them out in front of their people. They need to lead, or at very least go down with the ship.

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14. Anonymous on October 25, 2011 6:41 PM writes...

@8. Here's an exercise for HR. If pull the updated CV's of the ones that have the "hands raised against them" and compare those CV's to the others that were not nominated. Simple. I think what you will see will amaze you. Push the discussion with these so called directors. After all, HR's job is human ensure that the technically competent are realized.

The main problem is that an individual cannot defend themselves from management...Period. Damaging things may be said behind closed doors and there is no chance for the individual to fight the accusations. HR is supposed to balance the management / staff issues. Looks to me that they have been failing miserably...

My advice to you is cherish the fact that YOU HAVE A JOB...even if it is gnawing on your person.

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15. Anonymous on October 25, 2011 6:45 PM writes...

@16 We had the same problem with the chemistry management at a certain big pharma here in northern NJ. Invisible, blogging, nonsense and whatever....

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16. @crystal on October 25, 2011 11:04 PM writes...

Sister, you need to chillax with the blind accusations. Chemjobber (or CJ to many) is just blogger who's trying to provide a realistic assessment of the (dire) employment situtation for chemists. He's never asked for overly personal information and all the anecdotes for "The Layoff Project" were voluntarily given to him.

Hell, after my last layoff it would have been nice if my recruiter ACTUALLY found me a job or at least a good lead.

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17. Anon on October 26, 2011 10:28 PM writes...

"But think you get the point to the harsh realities of a job I took to "develop" people."

Since when did HR people have any involvement in developing people? How the hell can a HR person who doesn't know the slightest thing about science help to develop a scientists career? Those cookie cutter BS courses/initiatives that are sod all use to actually getting medicines discovered are a waste of time to a scientist. All HR do is hire and fire, and hand out disciplinaries to those who don't deserve it and pat the back of the trouble causers. Sorry (name redacted) but save your smoke and mirrors for non-scientists. We can still see through it no matter how much smoke and how many mirrors you put in the way.

Back to the point of the article. It's true that round after round of layoffs has gutted not only the scientific backbone of the industry but has also stamped fear and loathing into all who remain. It's sad times that we all feel one day away from being laid off/position eliminated/terminated or whatever the latest HR lingo is for ending someones career.

Just taking a snapshot of recent situations. Novartis cutting staff, Amgen cutting staff, GSK R&D waiting for the next round of chops once the scientists have knelt at the feet of the executive board begging for more funding, Pfizer shutting sandwich. Need I go on. Maybe (name redacted) and the rest of his HR sycophants should start to think about the FTEs as people with families and come up with ways to improve loyalty both to the scientists that have created the vast pots of wealth for the investors and to the company by the staff.

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18. Anonymous on October 27, 2011 4:41 PM writes...

@20. AMEN. You just nailed a "hole in one" at 400 yards!

Personally, I'd like to see some kind of HR action / initiative designed to weed out favoritism / bias among some managers (not all, but some...those with a history). This will help to weed out Narcissism by removing or at least keeping in check the Narcissistic supply. Much of this is not visible to HR (hidden) but it IS there.

HR must work in the interest of the company and not the interest of some biased manager displaying favoritism who is protecting sycophants while unfairly targeting others...

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