In the early 1990s, I obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology from the Uni-
versity of California, Santa Barbara. Th e United States was emerging out
of the 1980s Reagan era, characterized by late capitalist fl exibility and an-
ticommunism, each of which had profoundly diff erent impacts within the
country. During the 1980s, manufacturing industries in the Midwest and
on the East Coast were steadily going bust as corporations went overseas
in search of lower manufacturing and labor costs. Th e state of California re-
mained afl oat partly because of defense industry subsidies that leaked into
other areas, including public education. But by the early 1990s a recession
had hit California, leaving thousands jobless.
I attempted to get an entry- level research job at the university, but grant
money for such positions had evaporated the year I graduated. And so, like
other newly graduated biology majors, I joined the migration to Silicon
Valley in search of a job in the emerging life- sciences industry, which was
fl ooded with new money from investors. One strategy used by the invest-
ment community to seduce these new sources of funds was to generate
plenty of hype that guaranteed new breakthrough products; future exorbi-
tant earnings promised a way out of the stagnation that had characterized
the industry in the early 1980s.
I got a job in no time, thanks to the temporary work agencies that catered
to creating the long- term temporary work force typical of this period. Th e
temp agency made more money per hour for my labor than I did, and I
remained a temp throughout my fourteen- month stay. Yet I felt lucky. Aft er
searching six months for a job, I had been hired not at one of the biotech
start- up companies that no longer exist but rather with a well- established
one— Genentech—which is now owned by Roche, and I worked in a
quality control microbiology lab. Genentech is well known for being the
very fi rst biotechnology company to provide an initial public off ering on
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