Friday, May 20, 2016

The Executive Assistant

The last time I had a Secretary, aka Executive Assistant, who was really just that was sometime in 1986 or 1987. I managed a 20 country corporation with travel, expenses, scheduling, etc with something call Email and the Internet. It really worked, even back when I used Delphi as an Internet Service Provider with an early release of Eudora thanks to Irwin Jacobs. I also had a mobile phone so that if there were any questions over some 11 time zones I could address them.

Now I see that Theranos CEO is looking for both an Executive and Personal Assistant, two people. Perhaps that is why things are such a mess. You do not need assistants you need focus and leadership and you really must know something. Really. If I had a delay problem on the Internet backbone I had to analyze the delay characteristics on a piece of paper at at worst use Excel for a quick analysis of a solution.

As Entrepreneur reports:

After voiding thousands of faulty diagnostic tests and saying goodbye to its company president, Theranos is looking for some new blood, including an executive assistant as well as a personal assistant to CEO Elizabeth Holmes. With each passing week, the list of controversies and challenges Theranos faces grows longer. Since October, the biotech company has confronted scrutiny for deception regarding its technology, the accuracy of its blood tests and its failure to adhere to scientific standards. The government has threatened sanctions against its lab operations and top executives, and president Sunny Balwani has entered early retirement in an obvious “you can’t fire me, I quit” move. At the same time, Theranos is adding new executives and board members to bolster its credibility, the company is sending out tens of thousands of notices regarding the invalidity of its tests.

Perhaps good leadership is better than more employees, especially as the walls are on fire.

One could see the problem back in 2014. In a New Yorker puff piece:

Holmes was driven from Palo Alto to the San Francisco airport, where she boarded a seven-seat Gulfstream 150 for a flight to Chicago. She would be speaking at a panel; from there she would fly to Cleveland to attend meetings at the .... She was travelling alone. Members of the Theranos board sometimes worry about Holmes. “My wife and I feel that one of our jobs is to bring her out,” .... told me. They invite her to the theatre, and this year threw her a thirtieth-birthday party at their home, which was attended by her parents, her brother, ....., and several members of the board and their spouses. .... and his wife, .... have tried, without success, to fix her up on dates. Her mother told me, “As a parent, I do hope that at some point she will have time for herself.” This concern is lost on Holmes. The plane had reached cruising altitude, far above a bank of clouds, and another green vegetable drink had materialized in her hand. “I have done something, and we have done something, that has changed people’s lives,” she told me. “I would much rather live a life of purpose than one in which I might have other things but not that.” Also, she said, with a smile, “I think I’m very young. Still.”

Now I have from time to time been snookered but this was just too obvious even then. Remember, always look behind the wizards curtain, there may be a great deal of just smoke and mirrors. Or as some of these well known politicians had advocated; "trust but verify". If you cannot verify then you better find someone who can!