Let Go and Become a Great Tech Manager

Competition for IT Workers Heats Up

Ensuring Your Final Wishes

Investigating Prescription Drug Fraud

Spirited Speeches

Corrections or additions?

This article was prepared for the May 4, 2005 issue of U.S. 1

Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Survival Guide

Top Of Page
Let Go and Become a Great Tech Manager

You want the woman who is searching for a cure for cancer to be

passionate about the efficacy of her investigative methods; you want

the computer designer to be convinced that his ideas on incorporating

usability features are sound. "You want technical people to have an

opinion," says training expert and executive coach Dan Treadwell, "and

heaven knows, they have an opinion!"

In his opinion, this trait is "both a blessing and a curse." It gives

pharmaceutical researchers, computer engineers, aerospace scientists,

architects of mathematical models, and their ilk the passion to power

forward – and to change the world.

It can also make them lousy managers. It is generally excellence at

their work that wins technology workers the promotions that put them

in a position to supervise others, points out Treadwell. But that

expertise all too often fails to translate into leadership. He

addresses the issue in "Developing Technical Leaders," a talk he is

giving on Thursday, May 4, at 5:30 p.m. at a meeting of the Mid-NJ

Association of Training and Development at the Princeton Courtyard

Marriott. Cost: $40. Call 609-737-6832.

Treadwell started his work life, in the early-1970s, at the top. At

age 18 he became a bank manager in his native Ohio, simply because "I

was a male," he says. In need of funds to pay for college, he took a

job at the bank and immediately found himself in charge of his

mostly-female co-workers, including the mother of his sister’s

ex-boyfriend. "I had been her paperboy," he says.

So, how did he handle the leadership role?

"Very badly," he says. "All I knew about bosses was what I had seen on

TV. It was all about power. It was ‘Take a letter!’"

The women he supervised set him right, and nicely too. "These women

were wonderful," he recalls, some 30 years later. "They pulled me

aside and said ‘This is how it works.’"

Early lessons in leadership, and a degree from Wooster College (Class

of 1979), under his belt, Treadwell soon headed to New Jersey, where,

in 1980, he became one of the first employees of Dana Communications

in Hopewell. He stayed there for eight years, doing a little of

everything at first, before gravitating to business, and becoming the

agency’s business manager. From there he worked at QLM as controller,

and then at Blessing White, the leadership consulting firm, as CFO.

While he is enthusiastic about Blessing White, he says that he came to

realize that his job there was a poor fit. He had fallen in love with

the work the company did, and especially with executive coaching,

while at the same time becoming convinced that he was not the best CFO

for the growing company.

He wanted to be a consultant too, but lacked the formal education and

the credentials to be one, or so he thought. His wife, Priscilla

Blessing, who works for Bloomberg in Skillman, convinced him to give

it a try anyway. His employer agreed to give him a shot at the work on

a trial basis, asking only that he find and train a replacement CFO

first.

The trial was a success, and after working for the company as a

consultant for nearly a decade, Treadwell went out on his own in 2000,

founding Treadwell Training and Consulting (609-737-9933). He consults

to larger training companies, including Blessing White, and also does

executive coaching, working exclusively with managers in technology

companies.

Sometimes he is called in to groom a tech star for management, and

other times his assignment is to salvage the career of a technology

manager whose lack of interpersonal skills is making him a poor

leader. Whenever possible, he observes the floundering executive

working with his team, always stressing that the coaching is a

positive thing, that it means his skills are so highly valued that the

company wants to retain him. Here is the advice that he gives:

Listen openly to other people. No one is really great at this key

skill, says Treadwell, but technology experts may be a little worse

than the general population. "They’re trained as problem solvers, as

linear thinkers," he says. They have had success with their methods,

and often try to push them onto others – with the best possible

intentions. "They really want to help," he says.

This attitude can make it difficult for the technology manager to

listen to others’ ideas, and to respect other ways of doing things.

"Technology people really love the work they are doing," says

Treadwell. Sometimes that zeal can backfire, though. "They may think

their way is the best way," he says, "but there are always a variety

of ways to do things."

The good manager needs to be able to step aside as the expert. "That’s

hard for all of us," says Treadwell, "but to motivate tech people, you

have to let the experts be the experts. It’s key."

Demonstrate the value. No one likes to be told to do something

"because I told you to do it." Everyone want to see the big picture,

and this is especially true with intellectually gifted people in

technology fields. The effective manager takes time to let his people

know why the tasks they are assigned are important, and how they fit

in with a bigger goal.

If a manager has to pull a scientist off a project in which he is

passionately involved to take care of something else, he has to tell

him why it is important. "This is a show me population," says

Treadwell. "You need to be able to answer that ‘why’?

Create breathing room. Micromanaging is a trap that ensnares a number

of technology managers. Step back, is Treadwell’s advice. Set goals

for your team members, and then let them work toward them without

interference.

Provide support. The opposite of micromanaging, creating a supportive

atmosphere involves making sure that workers have the tools and the

environment in which they can flourish.

"Be an advocate for your people," says Treadwell. "Find out what they

need. Clear space for them to succeed. Accomplish this, says

Treadwell, "and everyone looks good."

Top Of Page
Competition for IT Workers Heats Up

America’s 10.5 million IT workers are not enough to fill the bill. So

said the Information Technology Association of America when it took a

national count in 2003. Two years later virtually every analyst echoes

this call. IT’s product – information – is now recognized at the

blessed sap on which all business survives and thrives. We desperately

depend on the techies who can sort through it, arrange it, and make it

accessible to us all. But can we make these techies happy and keep

them reproducing their ranks?

The morale, retention, and training capability of the IT workforce,

discussed in "The Job Market is Improving:Is Your Staff Happy?" is one

of three major topics on tap at the New Jersey Technology Council’s

CIO Conference on Friday, May 6, at 9:15 a.m. at the Harrison

Conference Center on Scudders Mill Road. Cost $175. Call 856-787-9700

or visit www. NJTC.org.

Bill Beattie, vice president of Oceanport-based CommVault acts as

moderator of the panel, with panelists Jerry Luftman, executive

director, Stevens Institute School of Management; Edward Chapel,

associate vice president for IT, Montclair State University; and Dale

Bolger, CIO of Oki Data Americas of Mount Laurel.

Other topics of discussion for this NJTC CIO Conference are "Vendor

Management Office" and "How to Run IT Like a Business." John Roddy,

CIO of Telcordia Technologies is the keynote speaker.

"We are definitely on the verge an upswing in the IT labor force

cycle, even if it is a little slower than anticipated," says Luftman.

He says that the l990s sellers’ market for IT professionals was based

largely on E-commerce and Y2K and was followed by an economic downturn

that decreased demand. The cycle is turning again, and demand is up.

For the past 35 years, this native New Yorker has witnessed the flow

of the latest technologies and those who manage it. As a student at

New York University, Luftman took on several majors, including

management and computer science. During his 22 years at IBM, he helped

establish the IBM Consulting Group – the world’s largest. He is the

author of "Competing in the Information Age," and has served as

president for the Society of Information Management.

Luftman sees the national craving for information technology personnel

as all part of the same problem.

Techie reproduction. "As we entered the new millennium, the economic

sky was falling and everyone was saying, ‘who needs IT workers?”’

says Luftman. "Their fate, after all, is directly linked to our

prosperity." Economic growth is now increasing and along with the

growth comes demand for IT skills, but it may not be easy to fill,

because training capacity dwindled in tandem with the drought in job

opportunities.

Library schools, responsible for turning out thousands of research

experts each year, are closing nationwide, and computer classes have

been cut back. Universities have begun to focus their IT training on

research aspects. In private industry, many IT tasks have been

outsourced overseas.

The problems of international IT outsourcing are many and increasingly

apparent as valued records flit back and forth between differing

cultures. "America and its companies fear the idea of outsourcing

their IT," says Luftman, "but they are making it a self-fulfilling

prophecy unless they provide the number of info tech courses required.

We already know that IT jobs will beat the supply. The more we have

here, the less we go offshore."

Academic barometer. Chapel sees evidence of a new IT hiring boom in

the fact that fewer applicants are turning up for jobs in academe.

When the IT market is down, he explains, professionals with those

skills naturally fall back to the lower paying university jobs. During

the recent slump, even these became competitive. "Two years ago, we

had a job for an MIS director, and were swamped with over 250

applicants," he says. "The harder times are, the more we in academia

get the pick of the litter."

But Chapel agrees with Luftman that this may not last. Today, he

notices a slight increase in the competitive pricing of private

industry compared with university jobs. It is not the IT boom everyone

anticipates yet, but it is a sign that another boom could be around

the corner.

As this trickle of hiring grows to a hefty current, salaries will

rise. "Businesses can look forward to keeping their IT staffers happy

by offering competitive salaries," says Chapel. As both an academic

and an entrepreneur, Chapel says that universities can offer indirect

salary benefits and keep competitive in the oncoming expansion. The

university’s offer of free education for both the IT worker and for

his children, he points out, can roll into a remunerative package that

few private firms can match.

Born in Westwood, Chapel holds a B.A. in sociology from Ramapo

College (Class of l977) and a Ph.D. in sociology from New York

University. He has taught at Seton Hall and at other New Jersey

colleges, and has helped launch the venture capital television ratings

firm of R.D. Percy & Co. in Manhattan. "Percy was the best job I ever

held," he says. "For a sociologist, it was an ideal playground."

Today, at Montclair State University, he sees his job as "truly noble

work. You see our product at every graduation."

Interest quotient. For Luftman, the key to retaining IT workers is

simple – make the job increasingly interesting. "Benefits and salary

have shown themselves to be really secondary items – far down the list

– for IT employees," he say. Information technology specialists are

creative people who seek new challenges as much as any artist. The

retention solution, Luftman says, is to outsource the drudgery and

keep the intriguing work local.

While Chapel is less willing to dismiss pay, he agrees that challenge

plays a major role in retention. As for outsourcing, he has one simple

rule: "I never outsource anything I don’t understand." Let the routine

data input go to the cheapest source, but when it comes to new

technology, such as the telephony research going on at Montclair, that

stays in-house.

Shoe leather commute. Beyond interesting work, Chapel points to the

ability of individuals to shape their work structure as a key

motivator and retention tool. Another important factor is the freedom

to work from anywhere, and to get to work without a long commute when

a visit to the office cannot be avoided.

Being able to walk, bicycle, or telecommute to work are important

concerns to all employees, but for screen-bound IT professionals it

can be a deal maker. While universities typically have a certain

advantage in providing close-at-hand housing, the more flexible hirer

will be the one voted most likely to retain.

Collaboration. Chapel notes an interesting reverse benefit of the

telecommute. One of the lures that he sees as sure to draw lone wolf

software workers from their basements is share sourcing. Joining a

large project automatically affords the involved individuals a broad

network of shared knowledge sources. This access to the real and cyber

community may entice even the most staunchly individualistic techie.

Most of the solutions for retaining IT professionals run along the

same lines as do retention hooks for all employees: give them an

interesting job, and a sense of purpose; keep them informed and pay

them well.

But what about the foosball tables, on-site accommodations for pets,

mini-gyms, and monster bonuses? Will it be necessary to pull out all

the stops, 1990s-style, to lure enough top IT professionals? Only time

will tell.

– Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Ensuring Your Final Wishes

Just mention the name Terri Schiavo and strident opinions fly. When

the 41-year-old brain damaged Florida woman, after 15 years in a

vegetative state, finally died this past March 21, she had most

definitely not been allowed to go gently into that dark night. The

eight-year legal guardianship battle between husband Michael and her

parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had swirled into a gigantic

right-to-die controversy that called to arms religious groups,

theologians, the Vatican, senators, governors, and even the president.

The end of Schiavo’s life was a galvanizing issue. Websites such as

www.terrisfight.org supported the Schindlers’ wishes to keep Schiavo

on a feeding tube, because, as the parents put it, "her life and all

life is sacred." Equal numbers joined Michael Schiavo’s wish to remove

the feeding tubes, feeling, as he told reporters: "If one has to

depend on a machine to live, that’s no life at all."

Politicians, seizing the chance to make political hay, eagerly jumped

in. A disillusioned Cleatus Masterson, head of the Holy Roller Rink

and Church of the Red States, told his congregation that "I am

beginning to think that all George W. Bush and his brother Jeb are

interested in is getting Christian votes, without actually doing the

work of God." Yet regardless of motive, a flurry of proposed

legislation swirled around the dying woman’s last days. Watching the

widely reported drama, it was natural for people to wonder how to

ensure the end of life that they would want were they in Schiavo’s

situation.

In hopes of sorting out the issue the New Jersey State Bar Foundation

invites the public to "Honoring Your Wishes on Care and Finances Upon

Disability: The Impact of the Terri Schiavo Case on New Jersey

Families." This free panel discussion is held Monday, May 9, at 7 p.m.

at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. Visit www.njsbf.com for

directions and more information. Speakers include Lawrence Friedman,

elder care attorney in Bridgewater, and Brenda McElnea, an attorney

with offices in West Orange.

If the only sure things are death and taxes, attorney Friedman has

them both covered. Friedman grew up in Jericho, New York, raised by a

tax lawyer father. After earning his undergraduate degree from the

State University of New York at Binghamton he returned to New York

City to earn a law degree, and then a master’s in taxation law, from

New York University. But even that was not preparation enough, and

Friedman soon saw the need for specialty in senior law. Today, in

addition to his personal practice, he gives senior citizen law

seminars and has served as the chair of the New Jersey State Bar

Association’s Elder Care Section.

"I don’t think you are likely to see the mad scramble in New Jersey

that took place in Florida," says Friedman. "The Karen Ann Quinlan

case made us a little better prepared and protected up here."

The Quinlan precedent. On April 15, l975, 21-year-old Karen Ann

Quinlan, after ingesting sedatives and alcohol, went into

cardiopulmonary arrest and slipped into a vegetative state. Legal

dispute arose between the hospital officials and the family. Seeking

to have their daughter removed from the life support system, the

parents sued for guardianship and right to refuse treatment. After

loosing in Superior Court, Karen’s father, Joseph, won in New Jersey

Supreme Court, and at his request, Karen was taken off the respirator.

In an ironic twist, after being removed from the respirator, Quinlan

continued to breathe and remained alive, though comatose, until June

11, l985.

The results of the Quinlan case were several and groundbreaking.

Hospitals began setting up bioethics committees with defined policies.

Precedent law transferred the definition of life away from working

heart and lungs into the realm of brain function. New Jersey passed a

bill stating that a patient’s privacy entailed the right to refuse

unwanted treatment. And probably most important of all, the state

recognized advance directives, allowing the patient to pre-state his

wishes on limits of care or to name a third party to make such

decisions.

The importance of written directives. The central issue in the Schiavo

was the nebulous nature of each side’s claim to know the patient’s

wishes. "The real problem was that no one in the Schiavo family or

list of care givers could produce any written proof of what Terri’s

personal preferences were," says Friedman. "This lack of documentation

is just asking for trouble."

If a Schiavo-like situation should present itself and both the

hospital bioethics committee and all family members agree both on the

time and course of action, everything is fine. Support systems can be

removed with no legal problem. But if, as is more likely the case,

some disagreement arises, family members will be sent back to old

letters and tidbits of vague hearsay, each trying desperately to

scrounge up snippets of patient intent that will support their side.

"Obtaining a simple, thorough advanced directive for yourself voids

all new legislation that will come out of the Schiavo case," says

Friedman.

Advance directives. As a legal document, the advance directive

expresses your wishes on all levels of health care treatment. It

should first express your personal wishes on how much health care you

want and under what conditions you prefer to exist. This need not be

surgically precise. Typically, in extended support cases, the hospital

will inform the family that they see the patient as "in the terminal

stages of an irreversible condition."

Secondly, the advance directive should appoint a guardian to make

health care decisions in case of dementia, disability, or even

temporary unconsciousness. "You want this guardian to have the power

to step in, even on routine health matters," says Friedman. He

suggests that the patient also give power of attorney to an appointee

to handle financial and other matters.

"If an attorney tells you he can write you up a full advance directive

for $100, go elsewhere." says Friedman. If it is done right, this

document will cost several hundred dollars. In some cases, if

concurrently writing the individual’s basic will, attorneys may bundle

it into the total cost. "You spend $400 on s Superbowl party," says

Friedman. "Isn’t this worth at least that much?"

Updating. It should be obvious that stapling one’s advance directive

to one’s will is not a smart thing to do. Having the deceased’s wished

for hospice discovered three days after he is in the cold ground is,

to say the least, lamentable. Copies should go to all relevant

families, attorneys, and for anyone with a serious medical condition,

to the local hospital and the primary care giver.

This directive should be reviewed from time to time, advises Friedman.

"For example," he says, "anyone who has an advance directive that was

drawn more than a year ago has not considered the new privacy

legislation and may find himself unable to turn over medical documents

to the very ones he wants to have them,"

None of us knows when and under what conditions we will face our final

days. And the current new wave of right-to-die legislation may rock or

bolster deeply held personal convictions. But in New Jersey, with a

little forethought and some documentation, your wishes can be honored.

– Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Investigating Prescription Drug Fraud

Katherine Eban is a woman who grabs opportunities and runs with them.

Trained as a clown and trapeze artist, she was forced to abandon her

dreams for an entertainment career when she injured her back midway

into her freshman year at Brown University. After graduating with

majors in English literature and creative writing, she continued her

academic focus with a Rhodes Scholarship, but through a series of work

experiences gradually transformed herself into a medical investigative

journalist. She eventually landed a reporting job at the New York

Times, but after three years quit to follow a lead that she knew would

turn into the book she had been itching to write.

Through a contact she stepped into a story of mayhem and criminality

in the U.S. drug distribution network. "Even if you fill your

prescription at a large reputable drugstore, the medicine you take

could be mishandled, tampered with, even counterfeit," proclaims the

header of the March, 2003, Self magazine article where she broke the

story.

The tale she traces in her now completed book, "Dangerous Doses: How

Counterfeiters are Contaminating America’s Drug Supply," is one of

middlemen in the drug distribution network who are trying to

"arbitrage drugs by buying low and selling high." They can do this

because of discrepancies in the price at which pharmaceutical

companies sell drugs to different groups – drug stores, hospitals,

Medicaid patients, volume buyers, and Third World countries. Lax state

laws on licensing distributors and light criminal penalties make it

relatively easy and reasonably safe to pursue this exceedingly

lucrative activity.

On Tuesday, May 10, at 7 p.m., at the Princeton University Store, Eban

talks about her book, which tells the story of a Florida task force

devoted to cleaning up the drug distribution network. For further

information, call 609-921-8500, ext. 238. The book is excerpted in the

May issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

Once upon a time the drug distribution system probably worked pretty

well, with drugs shipped from pharmaceutical companies to one of the

big national wholesalers, and from there to local pharmacies around

the country. But then more and more middlemen, ranging from legitimate

companies with pristine warehouses to tiny back room operations with

bare light bulbs, started entering the network. When some of these

smaller companies started to offer drugs at cheaper prices than the

pharmaceuticals were charging, even the biggest wholesalers were

willing to buy them.

The reason the drugs could be discounted, says Eban, is that they

"were of unknown origin, substandard in some way, adulterated,

counterfeit… and they came with phony pedigree papers." These drugs,

which the FDA estimates as 1 percent of those that reach patients,

"are not fit for human consumption, because their origins cannot be

determined," she says.

One percent translates to 35 million prescriptions a year, and the

more expensive a drug, the more likely it is to be counterfeited. "If

you were a counterfeiter (of money)," Eban explains, "you would rather

counterfeit $1 than $100. You get a better return for your efforts."

Counterfeiting the more expensive drugs is not only more lucrative,

but is also more of a public health hazard, because generally these

more expensive medicines are for the sickest patients, who will suffer

most from any tampering.

Where, then, do these middlemen find cheaper drugs? Some are stolen

from warehouses or bought from Medicaid patients as they leave

clinics. Others come from people in the sales chain for exported drugs

who are willing to fraudulently sell these drugs at a

lower-than-market price in exchange for a kickback. This practice is

known as "diversion" from the legal supply chain.

Another approach is counterfeiting, where a drug is deliberately

altered or mislabeled and may contain either no active ingredient, a

diluted active ingredient, or the wrong active ingredient. In one

instance, Eban says, someone re-labeled a low dose of an injectable

drug to resemble a high dose, thereby increasing its value enormously.

In another, an injectable AIDS drug was replaced with a fertility

hormone that was similarly packaged. All the counterfeiter had to do

was change the label on the vial. Counterfeiters can even buy

pill-making machines on eBay, she says, and set up in their own

basements and garages.

An ethical question quickly comes to mind: Why hasn’t someone been

asking questions about these deeply discounted drugs? "The discount on

drugs tells a story," says Eban, "and everyone in the industry knows

what that story is – that there is something wrong with the drugs."

One reason it is difficult to finger the criminals involved is that

although the buying and selling is national, the regulation of

wholesalers is the responsibility of individual states. "Some states

have gotten wise, and others are still totally behind the 8-ball,"

observes Eban. Criminals are exquisitely aware of where the best

places are to set up shop and where punishments are lightest. One

state, for example, has only two part-time drug inspectors to cover

the entire state.

Florida, where much of Eban’s book is set, was one of the most

accommodating to drug middlemen until the state passed a law in 2003

that closed many loopholes. Prior to the new law, Florida was giving

licenses to convicted narcotics traffickers with no background checks,

claims Eban. One of Florida’s bigger wholesalers, she adds, had been

an offshore bookie who set up a wholesale company to pay off a debt to

the Gambino crime family.

Eban got involved when, after nine years as a medical investigative

reporter, a government source advised her to have a look at how

counterfeit drugs were entering pharmacies and hospitals. "This was

not about Internet purchases, or going to Mexico," she says. "This was

about counterfeit drugs in the heart of the supply chain." Told that

the most active investigation was going on in Florida, she hopped a

plane and was the first journalist to meet with an investigative task

force dubbed Operation Stone Cold by its creator, 28-year-old

prosecutor Stephanie Feldman. As an insulin-dependent diabetic,

Feldman knew that adulterated drugs could be fatal to people like her,

who would end up literally "stone cold" without correct medications.

Feldman created the task force in response to what seemed then like a

relatively small-time case – one with light penalties. Two

pharmaceutical investigators who eventually became part of the task

force had asked her if she would like to pursue this case. Because of

her own health issues, she was able to see the dangers it represented,

and she was the first person to label these activities not just as

drug diversion and reselling, but as racketeering and conspiracy.

The task force she created to investigate drug distribution in Florida

was comprised of five men – one from the Florida Department of Law

Enforcement, two from the Miami-Dade Police Department, and two drug

inspectors. The members of the group, says Eban, "were incredible

characters. They were over 50, had had somewhat minor careers in law

enforcement, and here they were with a huge case, where they were

really making a difference." She adds that they had incredible team

spirit, calling themselves the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. When they

went out with a search warrant, they all wore black polo shirts with

an image of a Grim Reaper holding a scythe amid a cluster of horses.

"The book is the story of this task force, the guys in the task force

and their fight to clean up not just Florida’s drug supply, but the

nation’s."

Investigating this scene was often pretty scary for Eban. "I uncovered

some fairly powerful executives in large distribution companies who

were gaming the system," she says. "They were buying from narcotics

traffickers and convicted felons and getting kickbacks. What concerned

me was that I was their biggest problem." Once she even brought her

husband along to sit in the hotel lobby while she conducted a

particularly worrisome interview. To no avail, she told her family

about this "protection" in an effort to calm their worries about her

vulnerability. Her sister’s response was immediate: "You took an

architect from Brooklyn with you for protection – what’s that going to

do?"

So how did a clown from Brooklyn, who studied English literature and

creative writing, get herself into predicaments like this? The first

link in the long chain of events that transformed her into a medical

investigative journalist was her father’s edict that she had to go to

Brown instead of clown school for college. That road was cemented

when, in the middle of her freshman year, she injured her back falling

out of a window during a stunt. There would be no more clowning. After

spending most of second semester in the hospital, she decided to major

in English literature and creative writing.

She then received a Rhodes Scholarship, and after graduating from

Brown in 1988 moved to Oxford to study for a master’s degree with a

focus on 17th-century English epic civil war poetry. While there, she

got a call about a potential summer job from Brown alumnus Ira

Magaziner, the architect of the Clinton health plan, who was then a

management consultant in Rhode Island, and who had also been a Rhodes

Scholar. He was creating social policy blueprints, says Eban, partly

to position himself in a future Democratic administration, and he

asked her to spend the summer researching how European countries take

care of their elderly citizens. She pleaded no background in medicine,

but got this brusque reply: "Go to three countries in Europe, figure

out how they take care of their elderly, write up a report, and don’t

come back with a $30,000 bill."

She wrote the report, finished her master’s in philosophy at Oxford,

spent a third year in England getting a master’s degree in creative

writing from the University of East Anglia, and then returned to New

York. That was something of a low point. She was working on a novel,

getting "tons of rejections," and was broke, lonely, and living in a

tiny studio in Manhattan with only a hot plate for cooking. She knew

she had to "get a real job," but wasn’t sure where to look with her

"weird liberal arts background."

Somehow she got an interview with Bill Moyers, who, to her surprise,

turned out to be very interested in arcane 17th-century dissenting

sects in England – just up her alley. Needless to say, they hit it

off, and although he didn’t have a job for her, his friend Mark Green,

the New York City’s Public Advocate, did. On the basis of her summer

job studying care of the elderly in Europe, he hired her as a health

care policy analyst in 1994.

Eban spent a year investigating New York City hospitals and writing up

reports that got media attention. Then she got lucky, and one report

landed on the front page of the New York Times. As a result, she ended

up meeting the head of Bellevue Hospital, who invited her to write

about the hospital, promising to "open the place up to you." She was

allowed to sit in on meetings and was even put on the trauma pager in

the ER. Describing herself as "a real naif," she says she pitched the

story to the New York Times magazine and "unbelievably they said yes."

She quit her policy job and spent eight months reporting at Bellevue,

an experience that served her as "journalism graduate school." She had

to rewrite the article four times and was forced to change the main

character when her mentor left the hospital. "They almost killed it a

million times," she says, "and when they told me it was accepted, I

threw up, because I was so stressed out."

That article legitimized her as a healthcare journalist, and she got a

job with the New York Observer, a widely read weekly. There she wrote

stories on the politics of health care and ethical clashes between

money and patient care. "I broke a lot of stories," she says, "and

ended up getting hired by The New York Times." She worked as a

reporter for three years, but left after 9/11 "to do more magazine

work and longer-form writing."

It was fall, 2002, when she went to Florida and met for the first time

with the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They "were facing incredible

obstacles and felt what they were doing was a race against time to

protect patients from adulterated medicine," she says. The task force

was encountering incredible opposition, even from its own departments,

where people were fearful of rocking the boat. In addition, lobbyists

from the wholesale industry were making life difficult, and there were

fights with federal investigators over turf.

Eban spent two years with this colorful – and effective – group and

turned her experience into a book that reads like an adventure story.

It took a lot out of her – 16 long trips to Florida, travel around the

country, constant phone conversations, and two years with not much of

a life back in New York. She managed it with an advance from Harcourt

and two grants – from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and from the Fund

for Investigative Journalism. But, as she is about to set out on book

tours, she says, "I’m still totally broke, and Citibank knows where I

live."

Given current developments in investigations of the drug distribution

network, it is likely that her "address," or at least the URLs for her

book and related articles, is known to others as well, because she has

brought into the foreground a serious issue that may be affecting

millions. In early April, for example, New York Attorney General Eliot

Spitzer issued subpoenas to the three largest drug distributors,

McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp., and Cardinal Health Inc. –

apparently in a probe into their buying practices. All in all, not a

bad achievement for a former clown from Brooklyn.

– Michele Alperin

Top Of Page
Spirited Speeches

‘My vision is to take the boring out of the board room," says Eileen

Sinett. As a speech and presentation coach she has worked for over 25

years to "give people comfort and authenticity in speaking to groups."

Sinett’s company is Comprehensive Communications Services, at 610

Plainsboro Road. She is the guest speaker at the Mercer County Chapter

of NJAWBO’s meeting on Thursday, May 12, at 6 p.m. at the Harrison

Conference Center on Scudders Mill Road. Cost: $38. To make

reservations, E-mail to rsvpmercerdinner@yahoo.com.

"Presentation Transcendence: The Mind, Body, Spirit Partnership: The

Thinking, Doing, and Being Elements of Presentation Success," is the

title of Sinett’s talk. "I want the speaker to transcend the

information," she explains. "The speaker should be as memorable, and

as remembered."

Sinett divides the skills for giving great presentations into three

categories: thinking, doing, and being.

Thinking. The thinking, or planning, portion of a presentation can be

subdivided into "The three Ms," says Sinett.

Mindset, or what we say to ourselves about the presentation, plays a

big part in success, she says. "So many times people go into a

presentation saying to themselves, ‘Oh, no, why am I doing this? I

hate being in front of a group.’ They have already set themselves up

for failure before they begin." Sinett attempts to shift the person’s

mindset "at least to neutral, if they can’t be positive."

The message is the next area to think about when planning a speech.

"Begin with the end," Sinett suggests. "Think about what you want to

leave behind. What is the outcome that you want from this speech?

The map, or plan, of the speech is the final step in preparation.

"This is not an outline like we learned in high school," says Sinett.

Instead, she sees the plan of the speech "more as a landscape or a

flow chart. It allows you to use both the right and left sides of your

brain."

Sinett suggests a number of formats to help the speaker plan the

presentation. She sometimes uses the outline of a hand to illustrate

her point. The thumb is the opening and the little finger is the

closing of the speech. The three fingers in between are the major

points of the presentation, while the webbing that connects the

fingers are the transitions from one point to the next.

Changing from an outline to a map strategy of speech planning, "gives

you double the benefit with no additional effort," says Sinett. A

second possible format for her presentation map is a quadrant, with

boxes or circles above and below for the opening and closing. "You can

color-code your quadrants and as you them, you see everything you need

at a glance," she explains.

By using color, text, and shape to develop the presentation, "you

improve your retention" of the content of the speech, she says. It

becomes one less thing to be worried about when making your

presentation.

A speech or presentation should include no more than one to three

concepts, says Sinett. "Most people can retain three to five ideas,

plus or minus two. That’s between one and seven ideas that they will

remember. If your presentation involves more concepts, you risk your

audience not remembering them," she adds.

Doing. The second major piece of the presentation is "what the body is

doing in front of the audience," Sinett says. "Speaking in front of a

large group is not the typical routine for most of us. "There is

adrenaline and excitement," she says. "The body reacts unconsciously

to that."

Unconscious mannerisms can often become distracting to listeners.

Small mannerisms, such as picking at nails or straightening a tie,

will distract the listener. The speaker may move too much, or may not

move enough, making themselves "seem dead," she says.

Sinett recommends rehearsing a speech by videotaping it or practicing

it in front of a coach or friend. "Don’t have too many people watch

you or you will get conflicting advice," she cautions. A coach who has

experience in giving presentations is the best critic, she says. "A

friend may mean well, but may not necessarily be trained to see the

right things."

Being. "The presence and connection between the spirit and the body is

the essence of the message," says Sinett. "You want to make your

presentation be alive. That is what makes it different from watching

something on a video or reading it in a paper. It should be memorable

and charismatic."

There is an "energetic electricity between the speaker and the

audience" when a connection is made, she says. But to make that

connection with the audience the speaker must be comfortable with

himself. "It is an energy of authenticity that comes when a speaker

loves his subject and is not afraid to show his passion to the

audience," she says.

"It is an invisible connection. When you put a power cord to an

outlet, but don’t plug it in all the way, you get no power, no juice.

To plug into the audience you must first plug into yourself in a

positive way. That is the connection between the speaker and the

audience," she says. "It is about not being self-conscious. It is

about being more of who you are to the audience." Some people, she

adds, "don’t feel like they can show their passion. They are not

authentic. They are pretending. They are afraid to reveal who they

are." The audience will pick up on that and respond negatively to it.

Sinett began her career with a focus on speech pathology. She received

degrees from Emerson College and Kean College and is certified by the

American Speech and Hearing Association. She draws upon her speech

pathology training and experience as she trains individuals and groups

in the art of making presentations.

She also has an interest in helping multi-lingual people overcome

problems in speaking, and volunteers at the Plainsboro Library with a

conversational English group. "Most of us view knowing more than one

language as an advantage. But many multi-lingual people see it as a

disadvantage," she says. Either because of an accent, or because their

English is not as good as their native language, "they are often more

unsure of themselves and need more support" in developing their

speaking skills.

She also runs "speaking circles" at her studio in Plainsboro. While

many of her clients are concerned about making presentations to large

groups, she also helps people who need to speak with smaller groups,

perhaps during sales calls or department meetings. "People see talking

with small groups as more about building relationships," she says, but

no matter the size of the group, "there is always a balance between

speaking with listening. It’s all about communication."

– Karen Hodges Miller


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