So you want to leave Lilly....

So you want to leave Lilly... Here is my list of things to know before doing that.

  • Family support is important! This usually means being able to provide basics things like health insurance, money to buy food, making the house payments, etc. It also means helping your family understand why you leaving Lilly, a place you may have been with for many years, is important to you.
  • Be honest with your reasons for leaving. The grass is not always greener "out there".
  • Have several plans in play. If you are leaving with a job already in hand, great! If it means leaving with several startup ideas being developed, great! Don't leave to just quit and get away. Planning helps.
  • Be flexible. Things may not pan out. Plan B or C may be needed. Don't stick to a plan if the plan is not working; adjust and move forward.
  • Who you going to call (think theme from Ghost Busters here)? Nothing you do can be done alone, period. You will need the help of many people. Getting a job, developing an idea, finding resources... They all require some help from someone else. Knowing who to call before you need to call helps. This would also be called "build your network". Some local (central Indiana) networks to join: Women & Hi Tech, IBEN, IHIF, TechPoint, Smaller Indiana. Each of these groups have many smaller sub groups that will certainly have something of interest to you.
  • Who you going to call, part 2... Many others have left Lilly and done well. Seek them out to learn their story.
  • Be persistent. Getting people's attention is always difficult. You need to be persistent and committed.
  • Let go of the culture of Lilly as soon as you can. This one is a hard one to do. You need to operate as your own person, not an extension of what you were while at Lilly. The longer you were at Lilly the harder this might be.
  • When you leave, stay connected to Lilly... Huh??? Yes, many of the connection you made at Lilly while there are still connections to maintain and develop. Lilly may become your customer, may be a source of ideas, or may be a place to work in the future! Lilly even started a group for those that had left Lilly, the Lilly Alumni Network, to help maintain your connection.
I used to work for Eli Lilly, first as a contractor then as an employee from January 2000 to March of 2006. Working at Lilly provided lots of exposure on how organizations work, access to many people, and venues to discover and participate in new ideas.

I started at Lilly in the law division, helping support product liability litigation. Over the course of my time at Lilly I was loaned out to the Indiana Information Technology Association (INITA, now part of TechPoint) to lead the careesINsite program, went in to the depths FDA regulation and computer systems validation implementations, and I helped create innovation via the e.Lilly organization.

e.Lilly is where I discovered that I really wanted to pursue ideas that were not core to Lilly's business. I did not consider myself a Lilly lifer (i.e.; I did not plan to retire from Lilly). I knew I wanted to start a company and and the many projects at e.Lilly were input to helping me understand what was involved and what the potentials were.

Here are a sample of several of the companies started at e.Lilly:, YourEncore, Scienteur, Coalesix, maaguzi, Chorus, Seriousity, Collaborative Drug Discovery, and Indigo Biosystems. I was also exposed to discussion and project design around information markets (NewsFutures), internal wikis, effects of people networks, application of Wisdom of Crowds, and podcasting.

After about 2.5 years at e.Lilly, Alph Bingham (e.Lilly's VP), announced his retirement and by the fall of 2005 new management was running e.Lilly. The philosophy and approach of e.Lilly changed and I realized that it was no longer the warm, cozy home that I enjoyed. This was the time to launch out and take on some ideas to develop.

I had some contacts, some ideas, and I put in place the steps to leave by March of 2006. My family was supportive of me leaving and starting a company so in March of 2006 I started full time on developing an innovation consulting company. Using what I learned while at e.Lilly, careersINsite, and my five years as a volunteer with the National Center for Creativity (helping kids with creativity, problems solving, and team building), I set out building InnovationCreation. It took perseverance, boldness, luck, and regular practice to get clients. Starting a small business has many hurdles but I felt I was prepared to tackle them.

Along the way I had the opportunity to develop one of the ideas started at e.Lilly as a stand alone company. The idea experimented at e.Lilly was utilizing the internet and iPods to deliver relevant information to swine vets and large swine production farm managers. In mid 2006 I helped form Truffle Media Networks to commercialize the idea. By the end of 2006 I felt that Truffle Media Networks would be better suited to me spending 100% of my time on. So I slowed down the InnovationCreation development and concentrated on Truffle.

Here it is April 2008 and I am still running both companies and both are paying well enough to continue my current path. Share your story or your three key points on leaving Lilly. Let's have lunch or coffee!

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