Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A delicious meal with John Lechleiter

A funny story about Lilly CEO John Lechleiter relayed to me via the power of the interwebz:

During a time when Lilly was actively outsourcing chemistry positions to China and laying off chemists,  Lechleiter had a meal with a group of interns as part of the corporate program. The questions during the Q&A session were fairly mundane, e.g. "what's the best part of being CEO?" and "how do you propose getting more women on the scientific advisory board?"

A chemistry intern broke the pattern with this question: "Dr. Lechleiter, I am one of the few chemistry interns this chemical company has hired this year. I have seen a lot of chemists - including my own boss - lose their jobs as part of an outsourcing push to China. What would you, as a trained chemist like me, give to me as advice during troubling times like this?"

Sounds like Lechleiter was surprised at the question, and didn't give a very satisfactory response, including claiming that it wasn't as if one job in Indianapolis was being traded in Indianapolis for one job in China. (Naturally, another interested observer mentioned: "Of course not, one job is traded for three jobs.") Lechleiter also noted that pursuing an advanced degree was still valuable and that there always will be jobs for Ph.D. chemists.* **

*(I wonder if he had a geographical location when he said that?) 
** Someone should write a song called "There Will Always Be Jobs for Ph.D. Chemists." 


  1. But there will always be jobs for Ph.D. chemists. In China.

  2. I've wondered for a while if I should be learning Chinese.

    1. An old Russian joke went something like this: "An optimist studies English. A pessimist studies Mandarine. A realist studies AK"

  3. I wonder if he was extended an offer after finishing school.

  4. Sideline ChemistJune 12, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    Advanced degrees in chemistry are useful, just don't hitch your boat solely to the pharma industry. Study something that is applicable across a breadth of industries. My classmates/friends who were once derided for choosing jobs in those alternative areas certainly haven't been forced to change companies 4 times (so far).

  5. I was synthetic chemist at Lilly at a time of fond memory when a qualified, older, non-Mandarinophone chemist lacking ladyparts might expect to find employment. How times have changed.

  6. Words for CEOs to live by:

    "It's only business."

    "Money changes everything."

    "Imagine there's no countries ..."

  7. Sung to the tune of "Home for the Holidays" by the Carpenters

    There will always be jobs for Chem doctorates,
    For no matter how far away you roam,
    If you long for the safety of a long career,
    You're in chemistry, you're sure to find one soon.

    I met a man who lived in Tennessee,
    And he was headed for
    Czech Republic, and a 6-month part-time gig.
    The Czech Republic folks are travellin'
    Down to Shanghai's sunny shores
    From Mumbai to Appalachia,
    There're chem-jobs if you wanna.

    Oh there's always some jobs for chem doctorates,
    In Big Pharma or in small companies.
    If you want to be employed for a million years,
    For the long career just say Chem P-H-D.