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  Work It Off

MDLinx LogoOn April 3, 2000, I took the jump into the dot.com world. I joined Internet startup MDLinx.com, Inc. as chief technology officer. I was employee number three of this e-health company that provides news and information to healthcare professionals based on their specialty and subspecialty interests.

By the middle of May 2000, we'd already doubled to six employees, and doubled again the beginning of June, at which point we moved to larger quarters near Union Station from our original, small Dupont Circle digs in the English basement of a converted townhouse.

A year later, we were up to over 20 employees, still surviving the Internet economy downturn --having stayed really pretty lean and focused over the past year, unlike many dotcoms that spent incredible sums of money-- and getting ready to move yet again, in August, 2001, to larger, more professional space on Vermont Avenue downtown. We were dramatically succeeding in the service component of our mission, at least, as I had been able to build out our network of nearly 40 database-driven, daily updated web sites and more than 600 electronic newsletters more than a year earlier than had been projected, and at significantly less cost.

I worked extremely hard at MDLinx, putting in typical dotcom hours of more than 60 to 70/week, but I also had a lot of fun, and certainly learned a great deal in the process. My colleagues were really terrific, and every day I left knowing that I personally made a significant positive contribution. With a senior management position in a company this small, I was able to influence almost every decision made and to participate fully in shaping the culture and business strategy. That was certainly very exciting. It was a shame it had to end.

Unfortunately, though, the overall economic downturn finally caught up to the company. Even though our expenses were quite low, our staff resources extraordinarily lean, and I'd personally realized savings potentially amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars per month, the company eventually reached the point where layoffs were deemed necessary. In October of last year, eighteen months after I'd begun, the CEO and board of directors decided to try to save the company by eliminating the entire marketing and technology departments, including the marketing VP and CTO --the latter being my position-- as well as half of the content department, in order to hire additional sales staff. It was a surprising and extremely disappointing end to my part of this exhilirating rollercoaster ride. Afterwards, during my ten-month long sabbatical, as I've taken to calling it, since it sounds so much less pedestrian than "lay-off," I was able to focus on volunteer work, some home improvement and craft projects, and spending more time with family, which was particularly fortunate given my dad's poor health during this period. Finally, in July of 2002 things started to go my way again and I was offered a new and interesting position with the federal government, and in mid-August I began that employment.

Cool Link: Startup.com, an interesting and fascinating documentary. I watched this film about another Internet startup, and the relationship between its CTO and CEO, with my own CEO months before I was eventually laid off. In hindsight, I realized that it had offered some very prescient moments.

thom @ elfintech.com Copyright 1994-2003 All rights reserved