Thursday, July 19, 2012

Daily Pump Trap: 7/19/12 edition

Good morning! Between June 12 and June 18, there have been 95 new positions posted on the ACS Careers website. Of these, 11 (12%) are academically connected and 36 (38%) are from Kelly Scientific Resources. 

Chicago, IL: Not too long ago, I made a couple of comments about Polyera and their romance novel approach to hiring. They're upping the ante with this latest one, though:
What do we do? We make possible products like this(If for some reason this URL doesn't show up, Google "Samsung OLED hammer") 
Have your attention yet?
We’re Polyera. 
Located in Chicago, IL, we are a mid-sized start-up company (~40 people) that is a leading-edge supplier of novel materials that enable printed and flexible electronics (imagine a big-screen TV you can roll up like a newspaper or inexpensive solar panels that could be used in 3rd-world countries). Founded in August of 2005, we now have relationships with nearly every major consumer electronics company in the world and plan to launch our first products by late 2013 – products like a flexible eReader like the Kindle.
So if you work here, what do you get?
  • Money. It is a job, after all.
  • A ton of experience working on cutting-edge R&D issues with a team that’s been recognized as one of the leading R&D teams in our industry. And they’re actually nice.
  • Benefits: Health, Dental, Vision, 401k, Life Insurance, Disability – the works.
  • Being part of a company that’s at the start of the next big paradigm shift in electronics. Seriously – save this post and take it out in 5 years: see if we’re lying.
Interested? Good.  The next thing to know is who we hire:
  • You need a B.S. or M.S. in chemistry, inorganic chemistry, materials science, or related field, and have significant experience doing hands-on lab work.
  • You need to be smart. At least in the top 25% of your class (or higher).
  • You need to love learning new things.
  • You need to be someone who gets along with others. Seriously.
  • You need to be willing to work your butt off.
  • You need to want to not just to have a job, but to start a career. 
  • You don’t just like going through the motions – you want to create something.
Sound like you? Great! Keep reading below....
This is a really conversational approach to the ad, which keeps going and going. I'll be interested to hear who wrote these ads (an actual chemist, I suspect) and whether or not they're going to be as world-beating as they hope.

What's going on in Rolla?: Brewer Science is a supplier of speciality coatings to the microelectronics industry; they're located in Rolla, MO. They're a long time stalwart of ACS Careers and they've posted 12 positions, split between engineering and chemistry. (These positions are connected with the ACS Career Fair in Philadelphia.)

New York, New York: Kenyon and Kenyon is a law firm; they're looking for a M.S./Ph.D. chemist with experience in medicinal or organic chemistry to be a technical proofreader. Didn't know such a position existed.

Orange, TX (and elsewhere): Invista is hiring for 5 positions. Positions in Newark, DE, Wilmington, NC and 3 position in Texas. All laboratory-related.

Zeroes!: PPG Industries is looking to hire Ph.D. chemists (0-2 years experience) for positions in coatings, glass and chemicals:
Coatings Opportunities: Research and Development activities exist in, but are not limited to, the following areas:  Nanoparticle synthesis, unique color technologies for coatings, renewable resource use in coatings formulation, novel polymer synthesis. Coatings formulations for alternative energy technologies, automotive markets and industrial coatings applications 
Glass Opportunities: Anticipated assignments during the first 12 months may include the following: Discovery - work with sensors, devices and functional materials, thin films & optical coatings (PVD & CVD), solar energy materials (photovoltaics and solar thermal), mechanical properties of amorphous materials, chemical properties of amorphous surfaces, process modeling and process control 
Chemicals Opportunities: Research and Development assignments are needed in the following areas: Organic synthesis of fused heterocyclic dye material, photochemistry, polymer synthesis and formulation of sol gel coatings, development of adhesives for polymer films and coatings
I think it's interesting that PPG is basically hiring a class of new Ph.D.s, something that it seemed like pharma used to do.

Sacramento, CA: Ampac is looking to hire a B.S./M.S./Ph.D. process chemist with 3 to 5 years of experience. They're hiring in dribs and drabs for about a year and a half now. Huh.

Hey, they do it too: Daiichi Sankyo is hiring chemists... in Gurgaon, India. Huh. 

29 comments:

  1. When Polyera says you need to be willing to work your butt off, they aren't kidding. They expect you to work 6 days a week (at least a half day on Sat or Sun).

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    1. Anon, do tell more. What's their story?

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    2. I worked with Polyera a bit when I was with Aldrich Materials Science. The company is really a Northwestern start-up based off the research of Antonio Fachetti and Tobin Marks, who are absolute rock-stars in the field of Organic Electronics.

      I don't have any first hand knowledge of the 6 day work weeks, but having worked with them on Material Matters, it wouldn't really surprise me.

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    3. I actually work at Polyera, and the 6 day work week that "CMO Guy" refers to applies only to PhDs, whereas this specific ad pertains to a Research Assistant position (requiring only regular 9-5 type hours, 5 days a week).
      I also know who had a hand in these ads, and he's not a chemist. :o)

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    4. Well, tell him, "Nice job" in that the ads are noticeable and at least a little interesting.

      6 day work weeks at a startup? Stunner.

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    5. I have an acquaintance who is a PhD chemist there -- that's how I know about the 6 day work week (it's understandable to occasionally work weekends at a startup, but I think that weekly expectation can lead to a lot of frustration when it comes to work-life balance). The technology seems to be advancing, and they seem to have made a large effort to make things more efficient (everyone reading a book about multi-tasking and discussions about bottlenecks and implementing plans to work around these). They claim to pay well with regards to the long work week, but I've also heard that salary discussions amongst employees are grounds for dismissal.

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    6. And here I kept hoping that the Tobin Marks research that was going to really take off, was the polymerization or intramolecular hydroamination with 1-5% Thorium or Uranium catalyst. As I kept getting dirty looks from his students from suggesting to them that they wasted 4 years on a useless problem, I was expecting a start-up to be founded on this wonderful technology sometime soon... Still waiting.

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    7. By take off do you mean like the cocatalyst that his group developed (a few decades ago) which is used by Dow to make a few hundred million dollars of polymers each year? That's really nice of you, as an experience PhD chemist, to beat up on some lowly grad students.

      Arguing with Tobin Marks is fine, but what is gained by being a jerk to his grad students?

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    8. Oh please. When I was talking with those guys I was a PhD student just like them and this was at a conference. I told them straight up without insulting them or being a jerk, that I thought the chemistry was exploring something that has already been done better by other non-radioactive metals. They didn't answer me, or said "this is my project" and avoided me the rest of the time. If anything, they came from a more famous group, so they were being jerks to me, a lowly grad student from a lesser university since they assumed I "didn't get it".

      And on that note, if I ever ran into Marks at that conference and had one minute to ask him what was the whole point of that whole project, I assume he would ask me which group I was from, then would vaporize me with his laser vision, and then send one of his undergraduate minions to my boss as a replacement.

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    9. Hey, you remember how "Kevin" suddenly accused Chemjobber of crazy xenophobic racism based on some years-old post no-one remembered anymore?

      CJ, maybe you should close comments after a month or so so that people don't go trolling for BS in the history pages.

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    10. But then we would miss out on interesting conversations like this one.

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    11. I truly am fascinated with the logic of "If anything, they came from a more famous group, so they were being jerks to me..." It really seems like you are putting some serious motives onto both those grad students and your potential meeting with Prof. Marks.

      Maybe they were just young scientists nervous about talking to someone about their project? Nobody likes it when their work is belittled, which in my opinion is what telling them their project has already been done better is doing. I'm not sure it is possible to tell a person their work is useless without being insulting.

      @bad wolf I'm sorry if you thought it was trolling, but this was actually just a matter of following CJ's links from his recent pump-trap about Polyera's odd job listing through to this post. I sure hope that you don't think my post is equivalent to calling someone racist.

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  2. Hi Everyone,

    First, thanks to Chemjobber for featuring our post, and for all the work it takes to maintain a useful website like this. Thanks you also to all the folks who have commented, both positively and critically. As any of you familiar with start-ups know, there are many differences between start-up life and working at a large, established company. Work hours are typically longer, the pace more intense, changes happen more frequently, and base salaries are often not as high. However, there's less bureaucracy, decisions get made faster, scientists get to spend more time actually doing science instead of doing paperwork, and you get to be part of a close-knit team that is trying to truly make an impact. And compensation include stock options, which - if things go well - should be a nice little bonus. Start-up life certainly isn't for everyone, but of course people can decide if it's right for them.

    Regarding salary discussions, I think the above comment may be a bit too extreme, but as general policy, discussing salaries among employees ALWAYS leads to dissatisfaction by someone. Compensation is a tricky business involving employee skills, market demand/supply, previous experience and the like. However, we continue to try to become clearer about expectations for different positions, provide comprehensive feedback and annual reviews, and ultimately try to ensure that people feel they are compensated fairly while not being unreasonable from a cost point of view. Ultimately, if your primary motivations for working is only to get a raise, Polyera (and start-ups generally) is probably not the place for you; However, if your motivation is doing great science with other great scientists on technology that can have a real-world impact, we'd love to talk to you.

    Warm Regards,
    Brendan Florez
    Assistant General Manager / Aspiring Romance Novelist
    Polyera Corporation

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    1. Thanks for the communication, Brendan. It's pretty cool of you to come onto the blog and make a comment. That level of openness/responsiveness/humor is worth something.

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    2. Wow.

      If this reply is legit, this is pretty clearly a place I would not want to work at (though the stupid ad sorta tipped me off).

      Not that longer work hours for less pay isn't enticing, though......

      "compensation include stock options, which - if things go well - should be a nice little bonus"

      Does anyone believe this?

      Stock options work out well, in rare cases, for the first few employees, for the executives, and for the investors. At least in my experience, these are at best a cynical carrot waved about to sucker impressionable recent grads who don't know any better. Once the VCs start with the reverse splitting, there won't be much left for the underpaid and overworked schlubbs who " love learning new things".

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    3. I work for PPG, and I'd like to point out that many of the synthesis R&D openings are probably very well suited to someone with a pharma background. The target application might be in materials, but it's still organic synthesis at the bench, so someone shouldn't let the fact that it's not drug discovery keep them from applying.

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    4. D'oh, sorry, that was meant to be a new comment.

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    5. bbooooooya has it spot on - chances are these options will be worthless. I have heard of people whose options didnt trigger when they got bought out (the buyout price was too low - Cellzome) whilst others, after working for a company for nearly ten years got laid off and their options magically evaporated away (too many to mention). CEOs typically get a big chunk of stock when they sign on with a company (I've heard it's about 5%) - so why not the lab scientists, Brendan? Why options, and not actual stock?

      Stock options shouldn't be a "nice little bonus" - they should be a life-changing sum of money rewarding years of significantly over-the-odds toil and effort that made the company successful (I'd ballpark that at a minimum of 2 times annual salary received gross). What is the point of accepting an options package, if all it does is make up the accumulated shortfall in salary from a less risky, better paid position elsewhere? Definitely NOT an acceptable risk-reward situation, IMHO Brendan.

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    6. Dear Mr. Florez,

      You should be aware that some douchebag is posting stupid comments on a website and attributing them to you. Just thought you should know.

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    7. Mr. Florez,

      I would have suggested you let the last paragraph go. At the end of the day it's an employers market and Polyera (Pollyanna) doesn't have to answer to anyone if they don't want to. Of course everyone knows salary discussions are gong to be handled gingerly. It was a little too loaded with kool-aid if you ask me.

      Sometimes I wonder if the kool aid makes it more difficult to achieve a work/life balance than the longer hours. It seems easier to turn your work brain off after a long hard day and be there with your loved ones than spending the day fending off psychological warfare.

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    8. and then trying to turn off your work brain.

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  3. "However, if your motivation is doing great science with other great scientists on technology that can have a real-world impact..."

    Breandan, I've worked at a startup and I've heard this before, and hearing it again makes me sick to my stomach. To me it means "You will play golf, and enjoy hot hors d'oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation."

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  4. Re: Salary discussions
    When you have some spare time read the Department of Labor poster every employer in the US is required to post. Discussing your salary and benefits with coworkers is protected under US labor law and you cannot be legally fired for it. Any HR type that tells you out loud or in writing that discussing your salary is forbidden is incompetent.

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    1. @Anonymous 2:37 PM:
      I fit your description and would be interested in applying to PPG. Would you be willing to pass on a resume? If so, contact me at want.to.be.ppg.chemist at gmail.

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    2. Dang, fell for the reply trick, too!

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  5. A successful technology startup is rare these days. It should be a welcome change for anyone sick of the pharma industry (not mentioning the CRO side of the business) - and academia as well.

    It matters whether you are doing some interesting research, whether you are treated in a kind and considerate way by the management, whether you can influence your project and your initiative and research innovations are encouraged and recognized. I do not mind working more hours or continue well into the night "until the reaction workup is finished" if I can see the importance of it for the company and if my boss asks and suggests instead of pushing people around, if the spirit is egalitarian and everyone is contributing his share - especially the bossman.

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    1. Exactly. That's why this Polyera ad is interesting and I'd probably apply for it. Organoelectronics is important.

      My biggest red light here is it being based on Tobin Marks research and that means he might be in charge / will be responsible for the direction. The dysfunctional giant group academia model coupled with a large ego, being transferred to industry, is not something I want to end up on the side of as an employee. I worked for a start-up, that was based out of some university labs, but the boss' group was pretty small and well run, and he always gave feedback and discussed problems everyday with the chemists.

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  6. I just can't stand the term "choice". I feel that most us of really don't have a "choice" and I would prefer that our employers not use the word at all to describe our jobs. When the day comes when I get to choose between three entities in the same week (fine month), I will acknowledge a choice has been made. These days it seems to be a sign that you are working under a huge oppressive ego.

    What I would prefer is to just have everyone be candid and frank. Simply say, we as an institution have goals both professionally and personally that we have to work very hard to achieve in a not very cooperative climate. If you help us, we will help you. Being in that situation has given me more pride in my work and boost to my morale than constantly being told I was "privileged" to work in such an oppressive regime.

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  7. Hi Everyone,

    Thank you to everyone for the many comments and lively discussion. I would like to address a few of the concerns and questions raised in some of the comments to help clarify a few things. While I would love to spend more time corresponding further, due to time restrictions I hope you will understand that this will be my last post on this thread.

    The most common topic commented on seems to be around compensation. As I mentioned in my previous post, compensation is a complex issue, and equity / stock options particularly so. For those inclined to learn more, there is a *fantastic* guide that can be found here (I hope the link shows up):

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/55945011/An-Introduction-to-Stock-Options-for-the-Tech-Entrepreneur-or-Startup-Employee

    While I cannot go into the full details here, the quick answers are that a) options are granted instead of shared to avoid taxes that you as the owner of such shares would have to pay (so this is only to the employees benefit), and b) it is correct that most employees with NOT become rich because of such option grants, even in very successful companies. Like in any situation, potential employees should educate themselves and ask appropriate questions regarding any options package, and companies should answer them as best they are able to allow the employee to make an informed decision.

    The second issue seems to be regarding choice and inequality of reward. Both of these are even more complex topics than the options mechanics mentioned above, and something difficult to give the careful thought such topics deserve in a blog post. Suffice it to say that - as evidenced by the comments above - different people have different perspectives on these issues, and we as a business must make decisions every day which will inevitably seem fair to some and unfair to others. As I hope this and my previous post make clear, however, we at Polyera try to build a company that creates a win-win-win for employees, customers, and shareholders alike.

    Warm Regards,

    Brendan Florez
    Assistant General Manager
    Polyera Corporation
    www.polyera.com

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