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Theranos employees struggle to put scandal behind them

Welcome to life after Theranos.

At its peak in 2014, the blood analysis startup was a dear one in Silicon Valley. Reportedly, Theranos would have been valued at $ 9 billion, a retail partnership with Walgreens and a board of directors made up of political heavyweights like Henry Kissinger and George Schultz. Hundreds of employees have joined the company to help them accomplish the ambitious mission of creating a cheaper and more efficient alternative to traditional medical tests.

Today some of these employees are still trying to move from a company that is now a household name for all the wrong reasons. These efforts could be complicated by Hollywood's interest in history, including a new HBO documentary this month, ensuring that the Theranos scandal remains highly publicized.

While some former employees of Theranos landed in high-tech companies like Facebook and Amazon, others found themselves in a state of limbo, spending months or even years trying to secure new jobs with the company spot on their curriculum.

  The HBO Theranos documentary enters the secret and failed society

People who have more difficulties tend to be those who have worked in the company longer or who held higher level positions in some departments, based on interviews with external recruiters and seven former employees. Most former employees spoke with CNN Business on condition of anonymity due to concerns about ongoing legal proceedings or having their name publicly associated with the company.

A former Theranos employee recalled having lunch with a recruiter who had placed him in a previous job. The recruiter told him that he was "the most qualified candidate" before adding "except this". Then the recruiter put a thumb over the word "Theranos" on the copy of his resume sitting on the table. Since then, the former employee has been rejected for more jobs and is still in search.

Others who have been interested in companies are still reluctant about their next moves. Janina Dong, a former recruitment manager at Theranos, who left in 2017, has so far chosen to consult rather than work full-time. Part of the reason, he says, is "why I guess my judgment" on where to work after failing to see Theranos for what it was.

"I think many of us denied"

Much of the attention to date has rightly focused on the ways in which Theranos and Holmes have deceived investors and patients whose health is been put into play. But some former employees say that they too were left in the dark, both as regards the feasibility of the technology and the financial health of the company.

That case could be more difficult to do for those who worked longer, grew taller or stuck with the company after the first reports raised concerns about its technology. In the summer of 2016, months after the first report by the Wall Street Journal and more than a decade after the company was founded, Theranos still employed between 700 and 900 people.
  Sam Wholley, a partner of the recruitment company Riviera Partners, says he was told by a company that he could not hire a Theranos employee even if

"C & # 39; s people who left Theranos before everything went down." Those people managed to get well, "said Erika Cheung, a former labrador Theranos who tipped the Medicare and Medicaid Service Centers to examine the company." And then there are people who have been around for a long time. "Cheung worked for the company for less than a year and left before investigative reports.

Explanations and justifications vary among staff members who have been there for years.

" They really kept people in their little bubbles ", said the former employee who was rejected for more jobs." I think many of us were denying, "said another former employee who continued to work in the company after the Wall Street Journal story." I know I was to some extent. "

This misplaced belief in Theranos came at a personal and professional cost. A former employee claimed that the stress of all media control over society has led to burnout. [19659002] "I'm deco "It was six months after the layoff to overcome this," he said. "I was exhausted, emotionally and physically." The employee, who has since taken on a new job, admits that this time it was a luxury that most could not have had.

Another former employee described working with a young startup only to break up after being informed that their Theranos pedigree could make it more difficult for the company to raise funds. The former employee is now looking for "new career opportunities" outside his field of expertise after hitting a "roadblock" in the job search.

"Those doors are now closed", said the former employee. "It's just unlucky."

"Obviously c & # 39; s skepticism," said Sam Wholley, partner of the recruitment company Riviera Partners, which works with technology companies like Uber and WeWork. At one point, Wholley said he was told by a company that although a Theranos employee was "the best person in the world", he could not yet hire him. The reason, as summed up by the company's thinking: "My pension would kill me".

CNN Business contacted a dozen technology and biotechnology companies about their positions on Theranos staffing. Many companies, including Verily, the Life Sciences division of Alphabet and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, have stated that they have no formal or informal policy that prohibits hiring someone with Theranos on their resume.

  Theranos laboratory in San Francisco, 12 April 2015.

However, employees remain aware of the impression that their work with Theranos can create. Patrick O & Neill, former Creative Director of Theranos from 2014 to 2017, said he had removed most of his promotional work for the company from his professional website. "Being able to have public consumption could potentially lead to much criticism," he said. "[Theranos] ended up hurting a lot of people."

Last March, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Theranos and Holmes of "massive fraud" involving over $ 700 million raised by investors. The SEC accused Holmes and Theranos of "tricking" investors and the media into thinking that their own portable blood analyzer "could conduct complete blood tests from blood drops, revolutionizing the blood test industry", when in reality "could only complete a small number of tests."
Holmes settled with the SEC, agreeing to pay a fine and abandoning control of votes on Theranos, but she and the company did not admit any wrongdoing. Three months later, Holmes was indicted on federal fraud charges and dropped out of Theranos. He could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The company remains the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.

A lawyer for Elizabeth Holmes refused to comment on this story. Holmes pleaded not guilty to charges of telematic fraud and conspiracy to commit telegraphic fraud. Theranos's lawyer did not respond to multiple requests for comment

The long wait for public opinion to change

Many people who worked there now [19659004] hope that the public conversation around the company simply passes them on

The former employee who was given the sober speech by the recruiter remembers reading Bad Blood, the definitive book on Theranos by the Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, on his Kindle app when he came out last May.

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

  Patrick O & # 39; Neill, the former Chief Creative Officer of Theranos, claims to have removed much of his promotional work for the company from his professional website.

Since then, there has been a 60-minute segment on Theranos, an ABC podcast and the upcoming Alex Gibney documentary about the company airing this month on HBO, titled "The Inventor: Out For Blood." The actress Jennifer Lawrence will also be the protagonist of Holmes in a film based on Bad Blood. (CNN and HBO share the parent company WarnerMedia.)

"I have friends who call me on a weekly basis and say: & # 39; You should be happy that you weren't in this podcast & # 39;" former employee who separated with a startup after Theranos.

The former employee said that there is a sense of "terror" for any new flamboyant media event around Theranos. "You really don't want to remember all this, most of it is pretty depressing."

It could also have the effect of prolonging what Wholley, the recruiter, called the "reflection period" before the public perception around a company like Theranos and the people who worked there began move – if it ever does.

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

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