The Weight of Code
There was an article posted shortly about “Code I’m Still Ashamed Of”. I can offer that this is a real thing.
I never formally announced that I left my previous position, however we were a contractor for Mylan Pharmaceuticals. In case you’re not familiar with Mylan, they’re slowly becoming the example for every government organization and their behaviors in regards to their EpiPen pricing. The reason this is important is because I was on the development team for the EpiPen.com website.
When I first joined my previous employer, I was asked if I was OK working on websites in a field as boring as Medical/Pharmaceutical. I was on unemployment and honestly never worked in the field, I was excited to see what it offered. We worked on a platform that allowed websites to be built fairly quickly, and the team I was on was great, I really did, and still do have all the respect for them.
I was asked if I wanted to go over to the EpiPen team as it was going to start being built up with quite a bit of content that Mylan was putting behind it. The applicator patent was about to expire and they REALLY needed to market it heavily to offset the loses they might face to a generic. I thought to myself…“fair enough”. I was excited to join a team of a strong brand and had corporate enthusiasm.
The next year turned into a tumultuous whirlwind of activity…leading up to the pricing scandal they’re part of now. Not knowing anything of Mylan’s internal practices…just seemed hectic and crazy (sometimes bad), management…but in the end, they deserve what they get. But, let’s talk about why I left.
The EpiPen.com website (and associated sites anaphylaxis101.com, anaphylaxistoolkit.com, and others), are designed to market to families heavily…with numerous CTAs (calls to action) to sign them up for marketing services…which is all fair and good. Their entire process is vetted through the FDA, an organization for review, and marketing agencies (as well as internal structure).
My problem started when we were told we would need to complete work items, however….contracts weren’t being signed. “Budget is tight”, or the company is going “through re-org’s” and no one knows who’s approving anything. We were doing work on “good faith” that we would be made whole again…and shortly…we would be.
“We’re going to rebuild the site” I heard, time and again…”when the budget is approved”. But the time never came…we would continuously do work on “good faith”, knowing EpiPen is a BILLION DOLLAR product…it’s existing infrastructure and message doesn’t provide what the client wants, and frankly doesn’t serve the families with the messaging the client wants to pass…which could be a great benefit to them……..then came Sarah Jessica Parker.
We were put under a lot of pressure to finish the latest Anaphylaxis For Reel campaign with Sarah Jessica Parker being spokesperson. On the development side, seeing all the Manuscripts, Images, Designs, etc passed back and forth…we KNEW this wasn’t cheap. But how was money being spent on an ad campaign, but not on infrastructure? Then we lost a developer.
We didn’t back fill for the developer, instead, our team went to two developers and one QA, and we still needed to put out this campaign. Which was released, and we moved onto incorporating more features into the base EpiPen.com website…but there were contract issues. As we reviewed assets, and prepared for build, we were told, the creative agency had burned through their budget, and weren’t able to make changes, we’d go ahead with what we had.
Then came the Senate.
Probably by now, you’ve gone and read the Mylan/EpiPen fiasco…Mylan, essentially using their market strength are manipulating the price of EpiPen’s to maximize profits. As CEO this is exactly what you’re supposed to do. However, you cannot take a life saving medication and use your monopoly in that field to extract every dime from a families pocket….
I have a family of 4 , and no one requires an EpiPen. However I have friends that do. Knowing that my job was specifically to build, and enhance the tool to market to these families is a weighty thought, moreso when you realize the profit margins.
Provided we were flush with a full contract, and paid premium for this work, with access to full marketing team and creative…I may not have had issue with profit margins, they would have been excusable given the amount of funding required…instead we were charged with building a premium product on shoestring budget…and “jerked around” for premium profits, at the abuse of the American family. So I resigned.
The point is, as a developer it would’ve been easy to dismiss my responsibility as not part of the problem…but I was. Everyday I was working to build a more robust platform in an effort to minimize any work, and gain more profit. We were being asked essentially to develop a platform that would put us out of job, where Mylan could bring all work internally by content editors, and we’d be out. All on the backs of families with children. It was just too much.