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Sunday, January 11, 2009

First Contact

Today I'm sitting on the other side of the table, on the other side of the world. It's 12 time zones away from what used to be home. Four hours ago I was walking off the plane into stark newness. Now, I'm eating dinner with representatives of my former employer. I feel like one of them. I know how they are thinking. Large amounts of well prepared, but odd-looking food circles in front of us on a giant lazy Susan. They, like me, are jet lagged and have weak stomachs for the food so joyfully being described by our hosts. "Oh, this jellyfish is a specialty. Look, the head is still on the duck, fresh! That's hairy crab. Be careful of all the little bones near the fish head".

They suffer quietly with a polite business like demeanor, but I know they, like me, and not nearly as excited as my new compatriots. I'm trying not to think of this as a foreshadowing of the future. East meets West with best of intentions, but someone still goes to bed a little hungry. The beer is good. Still feels like I should be on THAT side of the round table. Surreal. I'm sure I'll wake up at any moment from this dream of the unfamiliar and return to cozy well known surroundings.

I've engaged in self-inflicted outsourcing. Several factors have pushed me here. Adventure, career opportunities, financial gain, networking. This may be the first time during my career that taking a position outside the US is a decent career move. A first for me, living away. Outsourcing is big business for research, something like US$10billion plus in the next year, and likely growing. It seems like any expansion in the drug discovery world will disproportionately happen here, in my new city, and now I'll experience the growing pains up close and personal.

This company is still private, full of start-up-going-public-wind-fall hopes. Hard not to think about that, but no way to predict the vagaries of the market, or management. And working at a CRO, I'll have a privileged industry wide a luxury box at the big pharma arena. Getting to shake hands without regard to company letterhead does have an appeal. I've given up my low-probability of being laid off big pharma job, comfortable if staid lifestyle for the above.

But I'm not concerned about that trade-off. I've made career decisions which have resulted in both great and terrible financial outcomes, no sense fretting about that. I'm more afraid that the benefits will not come, that what I've ventured and lost, at the expense of striving, is the loss of comfort and security, of time missed with close friends and family that cannot ever be replaced.


  1. Given all the horror stories of the impact of outsourcing on US chemists, we will follow your accounting of this journey with great interest. Readers will, no doubt, be interested in knowing more about your situation--are you raising a family and are they with you? What is your citizenship? Are you Chinese-born or do your roots lie in the glens of Scotland or the green fields of Ireland, or elsewhere in Europe? How well do you speak Mandarin? Give us some perspective.

  2. Yes, good point. I added some info to the profile. thanks! -CB