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Therano's employees strive to put the scandal behind them

Welcome to the life of Theranos.

At the top in 2014, the blood test start was a loved one of Silicon Valley. Theranos reportedly valued at $ 9 billion, a retail partnership with Walgreens, and a board packed with political heavyweights such as Henry Kissinger and George Schultz. Hundreds of employees joined the company to help it fulfill the ambitious mission of creating a cheaper and more effective alternative to traditional medical tests.

Today, some of the employees are still trying to move on from a company that is now a household name for all the reasonable reasons. This effort can be complicated by Hollywood's interest in history, including a new HBO documentary this month, so Therano's scandal remains very much in the public eye.

While some former Therano employees have landed on state-of-the-art technical companies such as Facebook and Amazon, others have found themselves in a state of limbo, spending months or even years trying to secure new jobs with the spot of the company on their resume.

  HBO Therano's documentary film goes into the secretive, failed firm

The people who have the most trouble tend to be those who worked longer in the company or held higher level positions in some departments, according to interviews with external recruiters and seven former employees. Most of the former employees talked to CNN Business on the condition of anonymity due to concerns about ongoing litigation or having a name in public relations with the company.

A former Theranos employee recalled having lunch with a recruiter who had placed him on a previous job. The recruiter told him he was "the most qualified candidate," before he added, "except for this." Then the recruiter puts his thumb over the word "Theranos" on the copy of his CV on the table. Since then, previous employee has been rejected for multiple jobs, and is still seeking.

Others who have been interested in companies are still hesitant about their next move. Janina Dong, a former recruitment manager at Theranos who left 2017, has so far chosen to consult rather than take a full-time job. Part of the reason, she says, is "because I repeat my own judgment" about where to work after not seeing Theranos for what it was.

"I think many of us were in denial"

Much of the attention to date has rightly focused on the ways Theranos and Holmes duped investors and patients whose health was compromised. But some former employees say they also remained in the dark, both about the technologies' viability and the financial health of the company.

This case may be more difficult to do for those who worked there longer, raised higher or firmly with the company well after the initial reports raised concerns about the technology. In the summer of 2016, months after the first Wall Street Journal report and more than a decade after the company's founding, Theranos still worked between 700 and 900 people.
  Sam Wholley, a partner at the recruitment firm Riviera Partners, says he was told by one company that it could not hire a Theranos employee, even though he or she was

"There are people who came out of Theranos before everything went down. Those people managed to have a good time," Erika Cheung said. a former Therano's lab work as the tip of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to look at the company. "And then there are people who lived for a very long time." Cheung worked in the company for less than a year and left before survey reports.

Explanations and reasons vary among employees who were there for many years.

"They really kept people in their own little bubbles," said the former employee who has been dismissed for several jobs. "I think many of us were in denial," another former employee continued to work in the company after the Wall Street Journal story. "I know I was to some degree."

This misplaced belief in Theranos has come at some personal and professional costs. A former employee said that the stress from all media scrutiny on the company led to burnout.

"I took six months after the dismissal to get over this," she said. "I was exhausted, emotionally and physically." The employee, who has since taken a new job, admits this time, was a luxury most people might not have had.

Another former employee described working on a young startup, only in some ways after being told that their Therano's pedigree could make it harder for the company to raise money. The former employee now looks for "new career opportunities" outside their area of ​​expertise after having hit a "road block" in the job search.

"These doors are now closed," the former employee said. "It's just unfortunate."

"It is obvious that there is skepticism," said Sam Wholley, a partner for recruiting Riviera Partners, who is working on technology companies such as Uber and WeWork. At one point, Wholley said he was told by a company that even though a Theranos employee was "the best person in the world," it could still not hire him or her. The reason, when he summed up the company's thinking, "My regime would kill me."

CNN Business reached out to a dozen technology and biotech companies about their positions by hiring former Therano employees. Several companies, including Verily, the Life Sciences division of Alphabet and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, said they have no formal or informal policies that prohibit hiring someone with Theranos on their CV.

  Theranos lab in San Francisco, April 12, 2015.

Nevertheless, employees remain aware of the impression their work with Theranos can create. Patrick O & # 39; Neill, the former boss's creative officer in Theranos from 2014 to 2017, said he has removed much of his promotional work for the company from his professional website. "Having it for public consumption can potentially lead to a lot of criticism," he said. "[Theranos] ended up hurting many people."

In March, Securities and Exchange Commission left Theranos and Holmes with "massive scams" involving more than $ 700 million from investors. The SEC accused Holmes and Theranos of "deceiving" investors and media to think of their portable blood analyzer "could carry out extensive blood tests from blood drops, which revolutionize the blood test industry," as it actually "could only complete a small number of tests."
Holmes joined the SEC, agreed to pay a fine and give up voting over Theranos, but she and the company did not admit any offenses. Three months later, Holmes was accused of banning fraud for fraud and stepped down from Theranos. She could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The company remains the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Ministry of Justice.

A lawyer for Elizabeth Holmes refused to comment on this story. Holmes did not plead guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges to commit fraud. Therano's lawyer did not respond to several requests for comment.

The long wait for public opinion to change

Many people who worked there now hope the public conversation around the company just passes them.

The former coworker who was given an innovative talk by the recruiter, remembers reading Bad Blood, the final story book on Theranos by Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, on his Kindle app when it first came out last May.

"The first thing I did was look for my name," he said. "And happy, I wasn't in the book."

  Patrick O & # 39; Neill, the former Chief Creative Officer at Theranos, says he had removed much of his promotional work for the company from his professional website.

<div class= Since then there has been a 60 minute segment on Theranos, a podcast on ABC and the upcoming Alex Gibney documentary on the company that sent this month on HBO, called "The Inventor: Out for Blood. "Actress Jennifer Lawrence is also expected to stare like Holmes in a movie based on Bad Blood. (CNN and HBO share the parent company WarnerMedia.)

"I have friends who call me every week and say," You should be glad you weren't in this podcast, "said the former employee who parted with a Theranos startup.

Former employee said there is a sense of "fear" about every new splashy media event around Theranos. "You won't really remind yourself of all this. Most of it is quite depressing. "

It can also lead to the extension of what Wholley, the recruiter, referred to as" the cooling-off period "" begins to shift public perception around a company like Theranos and those who worked there – if it ever does.

"I expect it will be many years – a couple of years," Wholley said. But as he points out, "If you were a senior manager at Enron … and you've had six jobs since then, someone will look at your resume and think about it."

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