Episode 45: Contemplating a Career Change
If you missed previous episodes of the biotech-themed soap opera "All My Clones," click here to read the beginning of the story.
Odessa leisurely stretched on the chaise lounge, turning her back to the soft rays of the Mediterranean sun. The house in St. Tropez was magnificent, and the view from the terrace was breathtaking, the azure waters sparkling in the distance. Not as sparkly as the 10-carat diamond from Harry Winston nestled on her finger and constantly reminding her that she needed to make "the decision" about that proposal.
Life Outside of Biotech
It all started, as all great adventures do, with a deal and a shoe. Odessa had flown to London to look at yet another struggling biotech company and ran into Count Ludovico Feronese in the revolving door of the Savoy Hotel. Her magnificent seven-inch platform Laboutin shoe had become stuck in the crack in the floor. Ludovico came to her rescue by holding off the crowd while she wiggled out the precious article without breaking the heel.
After that auspicious beginning (men who understood the value of great shoes were few and far between), there were romantic dinners at the best places, glamorous weekend trips involving private jets to places not yet described as the "hot destination" in Vogue, and cocktail parties on yachts with some of the most interesting conversationalists. Odessa had spent hours at work-related cocktail parties, mostly being bored by the droning repetitious discussion of why "the biotech model is broken" and "our stock is not going up because we have a financing overhang." But these people – they talked about everything under the sun EXCEPT their work. It was fabulous.
Odessa was hooked. Ludovico was everything a girl would ever want: gorgeous, romantic, brilliant, thoughtful, filthy rich and Italian. The biggest surprise was the ring and his proclamation that Odessa was absolutely the most perfect woman to share his glamorous life and management of his industrial empire!
"My dear Odessa, I have never met anyone who had as much style, wit and intelligence wrapped together in one gorgeous body," cooed Ludovico. "Just quit that horrible Wall Street job you hate so much and come to be with me. Trust me, you won't be bored! We will work together on my businesses in Paris, London, Milan and Zurich, though of course the heavy lifting is done by the executive teams. And then there is the investment portfolio, which would benefit so much from your unique skills. And the World Cup is coming up. Trust me, you will not be bored and I really need you!"
A Not-So-Modest Proposal
Yes, Odessa would not be bored . . . She also recalled a recent conversation she had with her best friend, Edna St. Vincent, the famous London-based venture capitalista. "Odessa, darling, are you still moping around trying to decide if you want to marry that hunk of Italian flesh that makes most women drool? Honestly, I just don't know what to do with you anymore. Of course, I have a very personal interest in encouraging you to take his bait. As your best friend, I would of course participate in the glamorous adventures of your new life!"
Odessa grinned at the thought of the two of them racing through Monaco and Luxembourg together, following Ludovico's business trail. "It is very tempting. But can I really just walk away from a career that I worked so hard to build? My contact list will get out of date. What if I regret the decision?"
Edna sighed. "Odessa, you should know more than anyone about risk-taking! Nobody can give you a guarantee. I know just the thing to help you figure this out. The latest hot new therapy world trend is Dialectal Behavior Therapy – all the New York therapists are pushing it. DBT's Distress Tolerance skills include writing out the pros and cons of keeping things the same vs. making a change. First, write the pros of staying in banking, then write your list of the downsides of staying. Next, write a list of the possible cons of making this change – marrying the rich guy and living the fabulous life. End with the upside of making the change.
"I have a feeling that your answer will be clear once you see the pros and cons in writing!"
Evaluation the Pros and Cons of Wall Street
With a big sigh, Odessa reached for a legal pad and her Montblanc Ingrid Bergman La Donna pen with the amethyst. Starting at the top of the page, she started with: "What will I miss if I quit my Wall Street job?" Nothing came to mind at the moment, absolutely nothing.
She decided to come back to that later, and concentrated on: "What are the benefits of quitting Wall Street?" As expected, the ideas kept flooding in so that Odessa was struggling to keep up with her own thoughts. "Well, I will never ever again have to:
- Deal with VCs who are quite sure they are omniscient, but in fact have no idea what they are talking about.
- Deal with ungrateful companies who always blame everyone else – especially their bankers – for their failures.
- Deal with the FDA, which manages to screw everything up.
- Deal with my idiotic scheming colleagues, who always want to take the credit for deals and ideas that I pulled together.
- Listen to VCs whine about the fact that the VC paradigm is broken – bummer, can't make 10X routinely anymore!
- Sit in drafting sessions trying to explain 15 people that if they only listened to me, they would have been out of this meeting five hours ago.
- Pick up the phone to hear that one of my clients has just been arrested on fraud and embezzlement charges.
- Learn that one of my companies has been fabricating their clinical data all along and is now blaming the rest of the world for believing them in the first place.
- Wait for the new generation of research analysts to grow up so that they can actually render an intelligent opinion.
- Take red eye flights to California three times per week.
- Learn of yet another horrific side-effect caused by the client's drugs (Floating Limb Syndrome being an all-time personal favorite, though compulsive gambling to the point of bankruptcy was a close second).
- Think of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals Inc. with every glass of red wine.
- Have 70 one-on-one meetings with investors and coming out with not a single order for the IPO.
- Eat "roadshow chicken" lunches.
- Watch the market tank 5 percent per week and seeing my deals go up in smoke.
- Listen to Bernanke and Tim Geitner drone on and on, on the off chance they say something useful.
- Deal with the Obama Healthcare Reform.
- Read another business plan on genomics, phenomics, proteomics, epigenomics . . . and everything else "omics" except for economics.
- Listen to another "Tau versus Beta Amyloid" discussion of the RIGHT way to treat Alzheimer's, 20 years after the topic first arose.
- Having someone convince me that taking appropriately-modified recreational drugs such as cannabis and LSD actually cures most diseases.
- Deal with yet another founder CEO who thinks that the rest of the world is STUPID and he is the only one who can deliver TRUTH to the sea of moronic masses.
- Learn that hepatitis C drug revenues, according to Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Pharmasset Inc., will overtake U.S. GDP totals by 2014.
- Listen to my boss tell me I need to focus on clean energy because biotech was "like five minutes ago."
- Discover yet another way to torture small animals for the sake of CNS drug discovery.
- Wake up in the morning thinking that I really need to get a life.
Odessa knew there were more, but her hand was getting tired.
She returned to the empty column for the "pros" of staying on Wall Street. Still nothing came, except for the pathetic "I am doing something valuable because my clients are curing cancer in mice."
She slowly reached for her iPad, and hit the "Send" button on an email she prepared a day ago for her boss in New York City. It was brief and to the point: "I quit. Hasta la vista baby!"
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