Monday, January 29, 2018

There's No Hope Road

This is my last week at my current job.  Most other employees of the company are already gone.  I'm supporting our production systems through the end of the month and then shutting everything down by the end of the week.

I've been at my job for 11+ years in one capacity or another.  I started by doing some consulting work for the company while they were still in the tail end of a research project.  Then, I became a part time employee after the consulting contract ended.  When the company got their first round of venture capital, they hired me as the IT Director.  Four years ago, I became the Chief Technology Officer.

Looking back, I can see all kinds of things we should have done differently.  I should have fought to use a higher percentage of our funding for product development.  I could have done a few architectural things differently.  We simply needed to create more products and then find a way to sell the more complete product set.

In many ways, until the past year or so, we never had any competitors in the market.  But, we were a niche company, providing services to treat a small handful of chronic diseases, rather than a more full spectrum company that encompassed all of chronic care.  In some ways, we were too specialized and deep for our own good.

If a healthcare organization bought our product and used it properly, they saw more lab revenue, more primary care revenue, and healthier patients.  But, they also saw reduced emergency department revenue and reduced inpatient revenue.  The net effect was that fee-for-service organizations were presented with a product that would make their patients healthier but at the expense of lost profit on the bottom line.

Our fee for service model in the US is so perverted that more than one medical director basically told us that our product was a no-brainer, and that they should use it, but that the CEO would never go for a product that had a negative net effect on revenue.

We tried to sell this product through the beginnings of the ACA, when people were more focused on EHR implementations.  Then, those same organizations were more focused on something called meaningful use.  And, after years of being in business, and with the advent of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), we thought we finally had a window to succeed.  We integrated our product with two of the larger EHR systems on the market.

And yet, we never got any traction.  We have tried ceaselessly to find a way into at-risk organizations.  The customers that we have love our products.  But, we haven't sold the product to a new customer in years right now.  We haven't had a full-time salesperson in years.  We haven't had a full time CEO in years.  We managed to limp along for longer than we might have deserved, but finally, the financials simply made no more sense.  We are out of cash.

I will fail to see a large amount of money that the company owes me.  I'm not surprised, to be honest.  Others are going to lose even more money.

I feel like I've poured my heart and soul into this company for the better part of a decade, and now it's just over.  To say it's bittersweet is an understatement.  We probably made it further than we had any business making it, but it wasn't enough.

It looks like I'm going to land on my feet.  I will hopefully have a job offer in the next 24-48 hours, and I won't need to collect unemployment at all.  At my age, finding a new job has been extremely difficult, to be honest.  Age discrimination in IT is a very real thing, and I've dealt with it a lot over the past year or so.  Assuming the job offer I'm expecting does come through, it will be because I'm capable of doing the new job, but also because of my prior connections to people at the new organization - another case of who you know rather than just what you know.

I'm excited about the future and new opportunities.  But, after investing so much blood, sweat and tears here, it's difficult to see it all go away.

It's also been a good learning experience.  I took a position without benefits at a marginal salary vs. my job title and skills/experience.  I did it because I truly believed in what the company was doing, and I still believe that we were doing the right thing.  But, in the end, it's all about money, and no one rewarded me for "doing the right thing".  Next time, I'll be more careful.  The whole situation reminds me of the lyrics to a song called Hope Road by Anne Clark.  Here are the lyrics at the end of that song:

"Next time I'll be more cautions
Next time I Won't be fooled
It's another of those basic things
You're never taught at school
Let this be a warning
As you wander through the world
It makes no difference who you are
Be you boy or be you girl
Be very , very careful
When people seems so nice
It's not how that it's expensive
Later on you pay the price
There's no Hope Road"

Friday, January 26, 2018

Health Update

I was at Sloan Kettering on Tuesday of this week.  I had a CT scan that showed complete stability - no growth of the one tumor found last fall.  We will continue to do scans quarterly, but for right now, this is great news.

Overall, the expensive drug I'm taking, Ibrance, has a median progression free survival of about 18 weeks.  That means that half of the patients have seen no progression at 18 weeks and half of them have either died or seen progression.

I'm at about the 14 week mark and no progression has occurred.  There are some patients who have been followed for years with no progression.  The best predictor of long term stability is actually the first scan.  If the drug works right from the start, the odds that it will work longer term go up tremendously.  So, this is certainly good news.

The day before we left for NYC, I was informed that my last day at my current job will be next Friday, 2/2.  I knew the end was coming, but I honestly didn't expect it so soon.  In some ways, I appreciate that the company is shutting down sooner.  They are doing this while they still have the money to pay the employees for all the hours they've worked and vacation time they've accrued.  In the end, I will leave this job with the company owing me tens of thousands of dollars but I won't be the only one.  And, they made a good faith effort to pay us some of our deferred compensation.

While we were in NYC, I got a phone call from an organization I've been interviewing with for the past 6 weeks.  I've been selected as the one finalist for a final "pass/fail" interview with the state organization that funds the company I've been talking to.  So, if that interview goes well, I hope to have a new job before this job ends.  I should know more in the next business day or two.

Other than that, life is great.  I'm feeling strong in the gym, although I'm sore this week from heavy front squats on Monday.  Tonight's heavy deadlifts are going to be a challenge, to be honest.

Skiing is going great as well.  I've already skied as many days this season as in each of the past two years, and I'll be skiing into April this year.  I should easily double my total ski days from the past few seasons.

Right now, despite a few job worries, life is pretty good.

Monday, January 22, 2018

I'm starting to think that no news is good news

I've been posting a lot less recently.  I think that's mostly because my life has been more free of drama in some ways.

Well, to be honest, maybe I'm just in denial about the drama.  The company I've been working for for almost a decade is about to go under.  Despite my best efforts over the last six months, I still haven't found a new job.

I'm a finalist for one position right now, and I had a phone interview for another last Friday, but jobs at my experience level and salary level in healthcare just aren't that common in Vermont.  I could very easily be unemployed for only the second time in my career very shortly.  I have expanded my search circles recently, looking outside of healthcare, looking at jobs that pay way less than my current position, etc.  I guess that would be called desperation.

The only other time I was unemployed was in 2001.  Because of federal laws, my company had to give me 90 days of severance pay, and I found a new job before my severance pay ran out.  This time, there won't be any severance pay, and the truth is that the company is likely to owe me close to $30K as it goes out of business.  I have no way to recover that money, so I could end up drawing unemployment for the first time in my life.  Considering that unemployment pays less per week than I make in a day currently, I'm terrified by the thought of being out of work.

Medical expenses have really taken a toll the past few years and we simply don't have the savings to fall back on right now.  I hate to admit that, but it's regretfully the truth.

At the same time, I know I'm doing everything I can to find a new job, and my best will have to be good enough.  It is almost unfathomable to me how we would deal with me being unemployed, to be honest.

There isn't much new on the personal health front.  I was supposed to go to Sloan Kettering a few days ago, but due to snow and sleet, we missed our train.  I am now going tomorrow instead and we have bad weather in the forecast again.  So, this time we are heading to Albany the night before the trip, so we have a very short drive to the train in the morning.  The trip to Albany tonight might be a bit difficult due to weather, but we won't have any time constraints tonight, like we would in the morning.

Otherwise, life is great.  I'm skiing every weekend and enjoying my new job at Sugarbush.  I'm in the gym at least 3 days every week.  It usually takes me 6 weeks or so of skiing before I'm physically able to make it to the gym 4x per week, ski 2x per week, and not feel constantly beat up.  This winter, I haven't had a single week of 4 days in the gym.  It's just taking me a bit longer to adapt to doing both activities.

Because I'm going to take a day off of skiing next weekend, I'm hoping I make it to the gym 4x this week, if my schedule allows it.