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Snake Oily

Updated: Jun 17, 2018

About the time this wily woman began massaging her snake oil on sensitive spots of investors greedy enough (and rich enough) to fall for her wild scheme to perform complete blood tests on samples of just a few drops and begin funding her gimmick to the tune of $6 million I had begun planning my own startup to be funded on a shoestring budget in a last-chance action to find professional bliss of my own before I died. I wasn't a good snake oil salesman, though, like she was. I just wanted to live here in wilderness, make an honest living doing stuff I loved to do on projects I could believe in. Getting rich never entered my mind. Survival was the goal.

The year her company was created and so heavily funded was a fairly good year for me in general. The main project I had been working on had been released and was not only in production, but was also being enhanced at a breakneck speed of three to five feature additions per release cycle. The release cycles were short, sometimes just a few days long including all steps of development from inception, design, programming, documenting, quality assurance, packaging, release and delivery validation. It required a lot of overtime work but it was really happening and stats from new features usage were rolling in as proof of their worth and quality.

Additionally, we had successfully implemented and tested disaster recovery for the project's rich web app and its underlying hardware and software infrastructure. This was before the Cloud, SaaS and all of that jazz emerged. We set up and ran our own app and database servers as well as the failover servers. The project was independently audited during this recovery test phase and was deemed a solid (based on weeks of in-production performance), affordable solution which actually worked beyond expectations and could be scaled. I received a decent raise in salary for the work, a letter of commendation from the CIO and a promotion (which mainly meant a lot more work for me and our small development crew). Observing all of this as the Lady in Black with the wild scheme and apparently faked voice raked in millions of dollars without producing much of anything verifiably real, I decided I had a good chance to succeed because unlike her, I stayed in college and earned a degree now bolstered by twenty years of practical experience I could readily apply to contract jobs of all kinds.

And all of this happened while helping someone survive and recover from treatments to halt the spread of cancer which was by that time in its third year of remission. After living in constant fear of bringing home some deadly bug (the flu was my main concern) and accidentally killing her, I had plowed on at work daily and nightly even as the months of severe treatments stretched out ahead of us without any guarantee of them stopping the advance of cancer. I feared our oncologist was just a mad doctor playing with deadly poisons he barely understood. Snake oil.

But she survived (to the very date of this post). I gained some hope that the remission was going to be long term and that I could soon switch my focus from working for other people's successes to creating some of my own. A couple of years later, I found myself kicked out of the house by the person I had just busted my ass helping survive onslaught of cancer and stood explaining myself to the cops called to stop me from going into the house to get my stuff. It was surreal and had me wondering why I should put up with anyone and everyone else's bullshit any longer. A quick self-filing for the second divorce in my life, final twist off from gainful employment a few months later and I was off and running.

About the time I was going to give up and return to life working as a salaried employee in some stinking city somewhere I didn't want to be, the Lady In Black with the fake voice was being discovered as a classic con artist. A lot of people had known for years she was running a scam but an investigative reporter had finally uncovered enough hard evidence to nail her at last. Then I landed the final contract of my professional life at the last moment, was able to stay here working happily in the home/studio doing fun stuff which helped others do good things to improve the world.

Three years later, the questionable ingredients of the Lady in Black's snake oil were exposed. Yesterday she was indicted for wire fraud and removed as CEO from the startup company she founded. In the meantime, I have retired after just over a decade of hard, honest labor worked for clients I feared at every turn I would somehow disappoint with the quality of my work and be held fully accountable for. It was scary and hard and exciting, possibly just as scary, hard and exciting as selling snake oil would have been if I had decided to take that route.

I watched the rise and fall of the Lady in Black while I was struggling to be an honest business owner/operator and wondered if I was just too stupid to cash in the way she had. Her indictment yesterday makes me feel better about taking an honest path in life providing ample positive memories of accomplishment even though I still do not roll in big dough for it. Memories last. Money never does.

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