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Ask HN: I'm a Theranos employee, am I screwed finding a new job now?
18 points by user100001 on Nov 29, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments
As most of you are aware the company is going through some serious problems with legal suites. The writing is on the wall and it's clear. I need to find a new job.

I'm a software dev for about 2 years since I graduated university (this is my only job besides internships) and since we're so popular in the news most people only have a negative connotation about us so I'm worried it's going to be hard to find something new. I feel like people are going to see the company name and associate me with being a liar or a fraud even though I had no knowledge of the problems the company is facing.

I'd like to get some honest opinions/ feedback on here from people about what they would do or think if they saw my resume.

You'll be totally fine. Long term it will have zero negative impact on your career.

Short term: my advice is to be very aggressive with your career management.

For better or worse, your career history is judge on how successful the companies you worked for.

Ask yourself, knowing nothing, which engineer would you hire:

Engineer 1-- did engineering on the Uber app


Engineer 2-- did engineering on Yadzoks, the leading shovel sharing app (shut down after 13 months, being unable to raise series A)

Could be that Engineer 1 was a bump on a log, and Engineer 2 was a total champion. But truth is Engineer 1 gets more love, probably out people's suppressed fear of the randomness of software market success and the irrational belief that maybe Engineer 1 "knows the answer" on how to be successful.

So you have the equivalent of a "dud" on your cv. Probably no worse then a random VC backed software flame out, maybe you'll get a few "har hars" at the beginning of the interviews, but most hiring managers will think they have you at an advantage-- was this guy just coding an internal wardrobe app for Elizabeth Holms? and not working on cutting edge, successful products?

1) Your best bet is to go quickly... you'd rather be the 1st engineer out, rather than the 500th.

2) Because hiring managers think they have you at an advantage, be humble, give them 1 (and only 1!!) piece of dirt where it seemed like something was amiss to acknowledge that you worked at a dud.

3) Don't "hold out" for the right position. If you get the dream job take it, but even if you don't if you think its a decent role and something you can build on it, take it. You're best to view this as a 2 year step back: take something more junior, with lower comp, then kick ass, prove yourself, get the step up in 1 year, and if they don't then look again for your ideal position. You'll gone a long way to "laundering your experience"

Thanks for the kind words. I'll try to apply this to my job hunt.

really good advice

Focus on your technical skills and how they were applied. If anything is said about Theranos problems. Briefly clarify that you were unaware of what the management was up to. You were doing the technical work as directed. As far as you know, none of your work was part of the disputed technologies.

As a general rule, it is best to be brief and factual about any negative issues and move on. Avoiding them makes people suspicious. Staying on topic suggests that you are nervous and might have something to cover up. So be to the point and move on.

Good luck with your job hunt.

> I'm a software dev for about 2 years since I graduated university...

Theranos problems rest solely on the shoulders of its leadership. Any reasonable hiring manager will understand that there will be some exceptional rank & file staff coming out of there. (Ex: Arthur Andersen/Enron) Your role was far too junior to be caught up in the shenanigans.

Incidentally, be sure to quietly line up individual supervisors and colleagues who can serve as professional references.

> people are going to [...] associate me with being a liar or a fraud even though I had no knowledge of the problems the company is facing.

So, be prepared to field questions like "Did you know about the unethical $STUFF going on?" and "How could you not have known about $STUFF?" etc. You might even get interviews that you otherwise wouldn't just so they can satisfy their curiosity and ask you that sort of question. Milk it where possible.

Anyway, unless you were upper management, none of the stink should stick and create a problem for you (unlike other spectacular flameouts where the ethical problems were widespread throughout the organization).

I think you'll experience the opposite. Most employers will realise you're in a real shitty situation and will be more than happy to help. Moreover, they will probably quite keen to interview you, if for nothing else than to get more information - use that opportunity to your advantage.

The morality and ethics of Theranos are in question, not the quality of their software, most organisations would be more than happy to have a former Theranos engineer in their ranks.

No one thinks the engineers are the liars or frauds, it would be really hard for a company to corrupt all the engineers on that scale without the whistle being blown much sooner that it was - employers will know that.

Stop worrying and go find a great place to work (preferably somewhere a little less controversial.... Uber perhaps!).

I doubt it will make much of a difference as Theranos does not have a reputation for bad engineering. Perhaps the best thing you can take from this is that you will not have to explain to potential employers why you are leaving/have recently left your current position. I'm a bit curious though -- when and how did you come to the conclusion that the writing is on the wall? Why now and not months before?

I'd say it's been there for a while but it's taken a long time to just accept this. Its kind of like a schrodinger's cat thing and hoping it got better. It's weird and difficult to accept that your company that you pour everything into is built on fraud.

Well, don't think about it like that -- not every part of it was a fraud. There were a lot of good people working there, including yourself, with the best of intentions. I even think the people at the top had good intentions until they were led astray by greed or fear or whatever it is that make good people do bad things. Anyway, you're gonna come out of this a little bit wisher and better able to avoid these sorts of situations like this in the future. Also, you've got a good to years of experience -- that's going to look great no matter what.

I have a feeling you'd be fine. I'm working on a biotech startup, and I'd be willing to hire a biotech person out of Theranos. As a software dev, you can't have been expected to know what was going on.

I doubt it. I spent over 10 years in the medical devices field and the only reaction we had to candidates coming from companies we knew were in trouble was "hey, this guy's from xxx corp. Must be one of the layoffs we heard about."

I have a hard time seeing it making any difference either way.

For the more self-righteous startups (the kind that will grill you on engineering ethics when the job is to make a plugin to add a squiggly line filter to instagram), you are probably screwed as they will basically invoke Godwin's Law instantly. Similarly, for the companies that have to deal with real ethical concerns(government/charity work, etc) you are also probably screwed just because you are a liability (nobody wants to be the one who hired a Theranos employee if poop hits the fan).

But for the majority of firms, it is just a job. Just be very clear on what your job responsibilities were and that you did them.

But one thing to be very wary of that others haven't addressed (and have basically given horrible advice on): Be careful. What you say can be viewed in a very negative light if poop continues to hit the fan. Do not "dish" or air any dirty laundry. Depending upon how your branch is handled, consider actually talking with your manager/HR on the proper way to respond to any questions. Yes, it can screw you there. But they will know you are leaving the moment a reference is checked so it might be worthwhile to cover your butt.

I am not a lawyer and this may actually be a case where consulting one is not a bad idea, but my personal suggestion from similar (but not as high profile) situations is:

"I am not at liberty to discuss any ongoing investigations or court cases. And besides, even if I was, I wouldn't know anything anyway. I was just responsible for coding widgets 4-30 and improving our infrastructure for STUFF."

Covers your butt as you aren't disclosing anything and reasserts that you were a code monkey.

I wonder if this is a problem at all. Most "normal" people that are not really into business or following the news all the time probably won't even know what's going on.

Don't get nervous at a problem that doesn't even exist yet.

That's funny. I just applied to their new grad position? Is it really that bad?

Yes.Lawsuits from investors, customers, business partners due to lying about product: http://www.businessinsider.com/theranos-faces-new-investor-l...

In addition to all the other stuff, I'll add that one thing employers like to see, in fact, it's one of the Official and simple metrics about whether a man will be successful in life, is that you got this one job straight out of school and stuck to it for two years. That shows some very good character traits, and as long as you didn't personally know of the companies ... issues, they won't count against your character, as long as you do, of course, get out ASAP.

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