So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

To my colleagues and friends at Merck and on the Internet,

Due to a corporate realignment, my last day with Merck is the 9th of May.  I thought I’d take a few minutes to reflect on my career at Merck.  In the over sixteen years at the company, I have grown, both professionally as well as personally.  To those who are reading this blog post, whose paths have crossed with mine in real life, there is no doubt that I learned at least one thing from you.  When I started at Merck I was a mere twenty six years old and realized that there is a lot to be learned.  Starting at the old Technology Support Center (TSC) I got to meet some great people who have become more than co-workers, but friends as well.  Working at Merck has been a truly wonderful experience for me.  Professionally, I learned so many great skills.  I learned about proper help desk methodologies in an industry that was still young and developing.  I’ll never forget the “tap taps” I’d get from Cathy Wilson when I misclassified a ticket in Vantive.  Who can ever forget the evening staff meetings after working a long 8 or 10 hour shift?  Merck was not always about work.  I remember playing indoor golf or video games as part of our weekly team building events.  The beeps of the SYMON board when the queue got high will forever be ingrained in my brain as well as how quiet the phones got on September 11, 2001.  Christmas at the help desk was always a fun time.  We had the support team of Cohen and Bernstein (yes, it does sound like a law firm) waiting for the phone to ring.  This gave us practice for Y2K when absolutely nothing happened and I mean nothing.  I think we were on “ready” for 90 minutes before a call came in and it was a minor issue with some obscure Oracle database in China.

I developed so many new skills and found ways to make good ideas better.  I remember how David Wilson‘s Techtionary (aka “technical dictionary”) was a giant, 100 page Word document that was printed out every few weeks.  Oh, how I would frantically flip through that thing to find out what app the customer/client/end-user was calling about just so that I can sound reassuring on the phone that I knew what they were talking about.  I then made it easier by introducing the new Techtionary and as a result, my skills in MS Access, IIS, Oracle (and thanks to Jason Victor‘s expertise), JSP grew.  I admit, that it was one of my greatest “claims to fame” at Merck.  Yes, at this point I was still not known as the “Outlook guy.”

Not all of my development at Merck was technical.  There were a lot of personal growth and “new chapters” in my life.  In 2005 I took a major leap of faith and bought my first home (well, a condo) and went through all the stress of construction delays, lawyers, inspections, mortgage approvals, etc.  In April 2006, I became true to myself, my family and my co-workers and told them I am gay (see my post about that here).  Thanks to a supportive family, friends and co-workers, this opened up a whole new world for me and I embraced my true self wholeheartedly.  With the encouragement of my family and my best friend Neil, who is like a brother to me, I became a member of GLEAM, legacy Merck’s LGBT employee resource group.  This opened up a whole new world of Merck people in my life.  I got the opportunity to get out of my “IT silo” at Merck and work with other people from the business side of the company.  As a result of this, I made some new friends like Shari Johnson, Brian Bernstein (no relation), Eric Thalasinos (via Schering), Dean Hancock, Kar-Chan (Casey) Choong, Alex Kelly, Rachel Feller and countless others.  Thinking to myself that GLEAM’S web site could use some work, I decided to run in a contested election for the Technology Chair.  To my complete surprise, I won the election and became a member of their Steering Committee.  It was the only time I ever won a contested election.

2005 was also an interesting year in my Merck career.  I remember getting a call from Lorraine DeBrodi on Valentine’s Day.  I knew something important was going on because a director never calls me, much less at home on a weekend.  Apparently a VIP was having a remote connectivity issue.  This led to the establishment of the Expert Help Desk (EHD).  Without so much as an interview, thus began my second job at Merck.  Being a founding member of the EHD brought new challenges and new experiences.  I now wasn’t so tied to phone metrics and was afforded the flexibility to be on new and interesting projects.  I handled the tough tickets and got those we could not resolve to the right folks who could.  I got to interview people for the first time.  This was new for me, after all, I have had lots of experience being the “interviewee.”  My role at the EHD allowed for some personal growth and adventure as well.  I flew by myself for the first time and it was an international trip to Canada.  I got to provide in-person EHD support to the Australia help desk located at Ajilon in Montréal.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Schering-Plough.  While I am considered a legacy Merck employee, my career started at Schering-Plough, first in Union and then in Kenilworth as an intern doing deskside support.  The merger was an interesting and exciting time for me.  Despite the world becoming smaller with the Internet and social networking, seeing “long lost” Schering colleagues was a bit like a high school reunion.  I don’t know what they got in the water over at S-P, but I swear none of them aged in the intervening years.  This merger gave me the opportunity to be involved in integration activities.  I got to be part of “day 1” hyper care support.  I remember needing to test “Merck Today” with a corporate vice-president to see if it worked with people at various levels of the company but I was a little afraid to “annoy” a VP with a “friend request.”  Luckily George Llado was sitting next to me and I got to “annoy” him with my friend request.  The merger also allowed me to take my first trip to Mexico and meet some truly wonderful, dedicated and hardworking analysts of the Americas Help Desk (AHD).  I had the opportunity to provide integration support for when the AHD started providing support for our new co-workers from Schering-Plough.

The merger afforded me the opportunity to work with new colleagues from the Rainbow Alliance Network (RAN), Schering’s LGBT employee resource group.  Due to my role as Technology Chair, I got to work on integration activities as we merged GLEAM and RAN to form the Merck Rainbow Alliance (MRA).  A new web site was created using SharePoint which allowed for prospective members to electronically join the group, plus each chapter got its own web site which allowed for more member engagement.  Eventually I would go on to be the New Jersey co-chair of the group, which allowed me to have new opportunities.  I got to learn leadership skills, organization, and planning.  I got to meet new colleagues from other companies and industries thanks to participating in the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Los Angeles, Dallas, Baltimore and Minneapolis.

The merger brought new management for the Expert Help Desk with Mike Landsman.  His new way of doing things lead to a more engaged and cohesive group.  The mix of Merck and Schering cultures had a good synergy that made our team a successful one.  As we moved away from Expert Services and the Hands on Helpdesk, I got a new job (again without so much as an interview) as I learned Service Management.  My role evolved from being an incident manager, to a problem manager.  This is where my ITIL certification and Six Sigma Yellow Belt training really came into play.  I got to learn how to find solutions to prevent them from happening in the first place, sort of like putting out the fires before the first spark.  I got to learn a new way of thinking and analyzing and as result; my skills with PivotTables have never been stronger.

As I look back at my career at Merck, I also look forward.  No one can predict the future.  Who knows, perhaps my path will someday intersect with Merck again.  My Merck experience has truly been a wonderful time in my life.  I know there are lots of people I didn’t mention who have been so influential in my Merck career, but they’re playing the music and it’s time for me to get off the stage.  I have often wondered what I would write, when the time came for Merck and I to part ways, though Markella Saliaris mentioned it first and wrote about it in her own farewell statement, the video below pretty much is how I feel.  Be positive!  Always look on the bright side of life!  Most importantly, be well.

Contact me at mbernste at gmail dot com

Indiana, Our Indiana

Spending the first weekend of November visiting my best friend in Indiana. I have been having a great time. We went to The Comedy Attic on Friday and saw some great comedians. Yesterday I went to my first IU football game. Unfortunately Iowa beat IU in a nail biter of a game, but it wasn’t a blowout like everyone feared. Right now I am unsure what we’re going to do today, but just spending time with my best friend is all I can ask for.

On another note, I added a Google Latitude widget to my sidebar. Anyone reading this on Facebook should go to my blog at to know what I am talking about.

Hoping to go to Indiana

I’m both nervous and excited today. I’m excited because I am going to Indiana later today. I’m nervous because I am hoping to go to Indiana later today.  It’s supposed to snow a little bit this morning followed by some wind.  I just hope my flight doesn’t get affected.  Newark Airport doesn’t like snow, while ERJ-145 airplanes don’t like wind.  With everything that Neil has gone through, he could really use a friend to take his mind off of things.  I just hope neither of us are disappointed.  I’m glad he and Mark worked things out, I just hope Mark and I do the same.  I want this to be a great visit for all three of us.  I might go out and get some Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast to start making the day special.  I just hope it ends with me being in Bloomington.  My bags are packed and overflowing.  I just hope I can get the zipper on that green Colette bag to close whenever I open it.  I’m looking forward to seeing the new airport as well.  On my last trip to Indiana the old airport was still being used.  I just hope Neil and whomever is picking me up (I’d be genuinely surprised if it was Mark) knows that they have to take a different road to get to it.  I just want to get there.  My mood is apprehensive/excited.

Map picture
Map picture

Newark Airport

Indianapolis Airport

My Recent Trip To Indiana

I took a trip to Indiana from October 16th to 20th to see my friends Mark and Neil.  I had a pretty good time.  On Thursday we went to Circle City Bar & Grille in Indianapolis with fancy, good food.  Unfortunately the waiter was quite unprofessional by complaining about the tip I gave on a $135 meal.  We then went back to their place in Bloomington.

On Friday Neil & I went to the Runcible Spoon and had a great meal.  Neil wasn’t too hungry so he just had some fruit and granola while I had the lox and croissant beanie on an english muffin (they were out of croissants).  It is a very interesting restaurant with a very unique ambiance, kind of a cross between house, library, coffee house and restaurant.  Afterwards Neil had to go to work so Mark and I went and got an office chair from Staples for downstairs since he totally fell in love with the chair we got back in May and brought that to his room (we got the same one).  Then he and I had a small Command & Conquer tournament where we each won a game.  The three of us got some fast food from Checkers.  It was great, but greasy.  On Friday night Neil & I went to The Bluebird and had a few drinks.

Saturday we had brunch at Denny’s and then we went to French Lick.  Mark being the good sport that he is, went with us and stayed in the car (since he’s not 21) while Neil and I did some gambling.  I played roulette (my first table game) and should’ve quit while I was ahead, but I got about an hour’s worth of “play time” on $40, so I can’t complain.  Neil managed to double his money.  By this time Neil was starting to feel a little under the weather, but being the great guy that he is, we went to Olive Garden

and despite having to stand around for almost 30 minutes for a table, he was willing to muddle through and we had a nice dinner.

Sunday Neil was not feeling well and stayed home from work.  Via Hulu we watched “Naked Gun 2 1/2” and just “hung out.”  Mark & I played some more Command & Conquer in which he destroyed me.  After Mark went to work, we ordered some pizza and Cheese Stix from Mad Mushroom and it was great.  We watched “Enemy of the State” and just had a good time enjoying each other’s company.
Monday Neil started his new job working at a help desk for IU in the Carmichael Center.  I gave him a quick hug goodbye.  Mark & I ate at Runcible Spoon and we hung out at the apartment until it was time for me to head to the Indianapolis airport.
The flights both going and coming were smooth sailing for me.  I have to say I had a wonderful time and I look forward to another trip.

Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana