Chapter 5: The Role of Circumstance Part 11
In the last post, we met Mary, who enthusiastically embraced the corporate life after graduate school and was shocked when the first layoffs hit. It is perfectly understandable that early in her career, Mary did not understand the business realities, especially coming from a different set of realities.
As a science graduate student, she worked independently on her project, with a large peer group of fellow grad students to commiserate with. There was no overall institutional loyalty – a graduate student is part of a scientist’s lab, who in many cases could care less about what you think of them or the institution. In fact, many a graduate advisor hates the institution for all the bureaucracy. Personal identity does not become intertwined with the institution.
A corporation is a completely different environment. It’s about making money for the company, and working with other people towards a common goal. At work Mary was surrounded by signals that re-enforced her attachment to the company, and she was caught up in the gung-ho attitude of trying to change the world.
The customers were almost all of the top twenty pharmaceutical companies, which reinforced her perception that the company was helping to revolutionize drug discovery. (See this post on the illusion of control.) And, these companies were a very lucrative source of revenue. At one point, the stock price was going up 20 to 30 points a day, and everyone was talking about it. You could literally hear people screaming out numbers and cheering from their cubes. One of the founders, whose major contribution at the time was surfing porn sites, was once seen dancing down the hall chanting the company name.
The core of Mary’s devotion, though, came from the company President, who was energetic and visionary.