Our Stories – Michal Kočárek

I have loved programming ever since I was in high school. I couldn’t wait to start a real programming job after finishing school. However, the passion that I invested into work and the fact that I also perceived software development as a hobby led me to a couple of burnouts. That’s when I realized I needed to find another hobby to balance my enthusiasm for software development.

The best way for me is to combine fun with something meaningful or something which brings people joy. When a friend of mine offered the chance to DJ at a small party, I fell in love with DJing. I am trying to keep it as just a hobby, so in general I only perform at alternative or non-profit events. It’s much easier to match the music styles I like with these audiences than at commercial gigs. I have performed at a few interesting and beautiful venues including several open-air festivals and places like Nákladové nádraží Žižkov.

One of the most thrilling experiences I’ve had was performing on the Pride Parade float. That’s where all kinds of unexpected situations can occur. Once it rained so much that me, my gear, and all the power wires were soaking wet, yet we still managed to entertain people and keep up the great atmosphere. DJing really goes along well with my philosophy of enjoying life and making people around me happy.

After spending so much time with people either at work, or outside of it, I sometimes need to be alone for few days because deep inside I am more of an introvert. I love walking alone in the mountains, across the land, being alone in my thoughts, and feeling connected to nature.

I hope I am on the right track to finding a balance between work and personal life which satisfies both my need to be alone as well as connecting with other people.

– Michal Kočárek

For the last few years, we have been a proud Partner of mDevCamp, the largest conference for mobile developers in Central Europe. 2020 was no different regardless of the lockdown and social restrictions.

This year mDevCamp did something completely new and introduced a very innovative format for the event in virtual 3D space. Instead of a large stage at the Congress Center with live spectators, they broadcast from a service corridor in the largest Central European data center.

Virtual participants could attend 3 different stages with various speakers. As well as the usual series of talks, the participants could fly around the whole virtual space using their avatars. In addition to this cool feature, mDevCamp was structured as a regular conference. Participants could spend time in a private space to chat with others or explore the virtual world and visit partners’ stands.

At our MSD stand they had a chance to discuss our projects and technologies with our mobile developers and get an exclusive avatar skin. Those who managed to walk through our MAZE turned into a virtual hotdog 😊.

The virtual closing party went on until late and since it was opened to the public, we partied with our colleagues, friends, potential colleagues, and ex-colleagues.

We thank mDevCamp for their innovative and agile attitude which creates an environment where everything is possible. This is a core quality that we value at our Prague hub, where we accelerate the invention of new medicines and improved care through technology.

Are you looking for a new career opportunity? Check Careers at MSD Czech Republic.

OPEN CALL: Oncology Policy Grant Program

MSD is extending an open invitation to the research community in the Czech Republic to apply for an unrestricted grant as part of the Oncology Policy Grant Program. This grant request, which will be issued publicly, will be for research projects aimed at analyzing health policy system readiness to deliver sustainable and innovative cancer care.


For more than a century, MSD has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases. Cancer represents one of the world’s most urgent unmet medical needs. Worldwide, more than 14 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2012. This number is expected to grow to more than 20 million by 2030. At MSD, we remain committed to turning breakthrough biomedical innovations into novel therapies that help extend and improve the lives of people with cancer worldwide.

Through this Independent Oncology Policy Grant Program, MSD seeks to enable institutions to enhance their capacities in research, teaching and dissemination. Beyond supporting independent research, the Program will provide an international forum for researchers to share ideas on emerging cancer policy issues and identify new areas for policy study.

MSD’s Independent Oncology Policy Grant Program seeks to encourage research around the following themes:

a) The social value of cancer treatment

b) Financing approaches and access

c) Innovation in cancer treatment

d) Cancer and COVID-19

To be eligible for applying for this grant, researchers and research teams must meet the following selection criteria:

• Come from an accredited local and/or regional academic institution

• Have a proven track record in research in the cancer space

• Have experience working in and researching health policy

• Demonstrate ability to publish a quality, peer-reviewed publication within one year

This research will be funded by an unrestricted grant from MSD. Once the grant has been awarded, the researchers will remain independent and MSD will have no involvement in the direction of the research.

Please read Oncology Policy Grant Program carefully for further information about the themes, the application process, eligibility criteria and assessment criteria.

The deadline for applying is August 14th, 2020. The application shall be sent via e-mail to MSD Global Oncology Policy at oncopolicy02@merck.com.

Queries can be directed to Václav Pláteník, Policy and Communications Manager for MSD Czech Republic at vaclav.platenik@merck.com. However, MSD Czech Republic will NOT be involved in assessing and selecting grant applications; this will be done by the Global Oncology Policy team.

Our Stories – Miroslava Šerpánová

I try to make the most of my life every day. Even though some days are demanding, I always try to find some quality time for myself. Working in a corporate environment is sometimes challenging and finding a work-life balance is important. Yoga is one activity that I use to take a pause, calm down, and clear my head.

I embraced yoga so much that I became an instructor at my friend´s yoga studio. What I enjoy the most about that role is sharing all the things that really work for me and bring me happiness. I prefer a more dynamic style of yoga that stretches the whole body. I also ran the summer edition of our MSD yoga classes for colleagues last year in the beautiful confines of our outdoor terraces. Yoga allows me to simply be myself and focus my perceptions on the present moment.

I like think of myself as well-rounded. When I get excited about something I just go for it. That’s the reason I’m involved in sports and many other activities. I’ve competitively danced in waltz, tango, and quickstep for a long time and have always been into drawing. When I finally took a course in drawing, it led me to calligraphy.

The need for change brought me to MSD two years ago. I came from a non-pharmaceutical marketing environment where I worked for 8 years in different roles. Even though I didn’t have a background in pharma, MSD gave me the chance to be a part of it. That’s one of the things I respect a lot about this company.

What I really like most about MSD is that what we do really makes sense because it saves lives.

– Miroslava Šerpánová

Our Stories – Lukáš Liebich

January 2012. Back in my management consulting years.

It was 7:50am and I was making a tough choice: To play or not to play another online match of Starcraft II.

You bet I wanted to. I loved that game. The problem was that it took me almost an hour to get to the client’s office where I was supposed to be at 9am – and a match of Starcraft II could take anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes.

The job itself was cool. The one I always wanted. But somehow, I realized that there was a drastic difference between my enjoyment from analyzing spreadsheets in the office and wiping-out human bases with my Zerg (alien) armes in Starcraft II.

On that morning I switched my computer off, got to the metro and arrived on time. But I realized I was facing a question: “Is it okay that I’m not that crazy about my job?” Following the line: “Follow your passion”, should I drop my career in management consulting and follow my passion, go play Starcraft II full time?

If you’re hoping I went for playing Starcraft II full-time… Sorry to disappoint you. 

The world of pro gaming is fiercely competitive, most players starting at very young age. Realistically speaking – I would have no chance. At that time, I made a different choice: Stick around in consulting to get better at it. Drop Starcraft II altogether. Find a brand new hobby that would be enjoyable – but also useful for my career.

That’s how I joined Toastmasters. A group of 20-30 people who met every two weeks in a so called “gym for the mind” to practice the craft of presenting and gain confidence on stage. I thought that would be an easy thing to do. I signed up to deliver a speech in two week’s time, delivered it – and sucked. Luckily for me, the people in Toastmasters said they wanted to hear more from me (like they would say to anyone – they are nice people). Encouraged, I signed up to give another speech. I got hooked – and from then on, filled my free time with speaking in clubs, attending speaking conferences and reading books about effective presentations.

Fast forward 5 years: 2017. I joined MSD in the meantime. At work, large portion of my time was still dedicated to preparing reports and analyzing spreadsheets, while my one hobby was now delivering presentations. But some common denominators began to appear. MSD’s Prague IT Hub has its own Toastmasters club. And so my coffee- lunch- and afternoon-snack-breaks were filled with discussions about speeches, contests and plans to improve the presentation culture in MSD with my MSD Toastmasters colleagues.

By that time, I was already delivering workshops in different parts of Europe at Toastmasters weekend trainings and conferences – but still as a hobby. In the office, one day, I heard one of the directors of Prague IT say to a colleague: “These external trainers are crazy expensive. Our budget can’t cover all the requested trainings!” Before getting back to my desk, I went directly to our trainings department – and offered them to deliver a ready-made training on Creative Problem Solving.

Now it’s 3 years later and trainings and workshop facilitation are a large part of my working week – and that’s a fact even now in the “online times”.

It looks like, even though I’m not earning any money by playing Starcraft II today (in fact, I haven’t touched it, since 2012), I am getting paid for my hobby.

I just had to pick the right hobby in the first place.

– Lukáš Liebich

Our Stories – Anita Zubak-O’Connor

I have been reflecting lately on how all the things which happened in my life were pieces of one big puzzle which, once completed, brought me here to Prague. It all goes all the way back to my parents’ birth.

They were both born in different German-speaking villages in Vysoke Tatry in Slovakia. Towards the end of World War II, they were both sent alone to camps in Austria by the same train, but they didn’t know each other at that time yet. The rough post-war time brought them both to the US where they came penniless, struggling to make ends meet. They finally met in Philadelphia and even though they wanted to come back to Europe, they could never afford it and decided to start a family in the US. I am the youngest of 4 siblings; my closest sister is 12 years older. My family influenced me and formed me in many ways. My parents would often tell me of the war times, the starvation and constant struggle to survive when they came to the US. They also emphasized the value of hard work and being able to support oneself. As a result, I started my first job at age 11 and knew the importance of being able to take care of myself.

Having grown up hearing about war, I wanted to make a difference in the world so I went to study international relations with dreams of being able to help solve all kinds of conflicts. I have always thought that if people treated each other as humans, the world would be a better place. My first job was with law enforcement. I was helping the different police organizations (state, federal, national police) to communicate better and work together so they could achieve much better results in solving crimes. My second job was for a company supporting different pharma industries with trainings and workshops. This experience, along with the fact that my sister was a pharmacist and I spent summers working with her, brought me to work in a pharmaceutical company.

I started in MSD writing training materials about software development and testing, which made me understand both the processes and the users’ needs. I found I could use my diplomatic skills, negotiating requirements, and release planning between the users and developers. After that, I was leading the implementation of various business projects with technology enablement where we utilized lean thinking, Six Sigma and change management methodologies. I made the move into IT three years ago, and love how being in IT provides a unique view of the entire company. Even though I have been here for 20+ years, I am finding there are still endless things to learn about in with such a large corporation. The opportunities to learn are the best in the hub because so many functions are able to co-exist in one location and we can all learn more quickly from each other about how to collaborate to drive business value.

I must say that I am very happy that the overall feel of life in the Prague hub is positive. Of course there are always issues and conflicts, but they are solvable if we can be honest with each other and work together. What’s unique about the hub is the energy created by bringing people with different talents, cultures, and backgrounds together to work in an agile way. It is truly diversity and inclusion in action!

So, as I said in the beginning, there are multiple people and circumstances that have occurred in my life that all influenced my ending up in Prague. Whether it was my family, co-workers, friends, a chance encounter at a work conference, a special book, a certain song…I am so grateful for all those experiences and those individuals. Looking back, I know it all happened for a reason and now being here in the hub feels a little like closing the family circle.

– Anita Zubak-O’Connor

MSD Helps Students Start Their Careers

On Feb. 29, we organized a workshop at our premises for 18 students (age 14-21) in cooperation with a non-governmental organization, (NGO) Nadani a dovednosti.

This session was part of a four-month long mentoring program called “Rozhled” provided by the NGO. The aim of this program is to help students from orphanages and socially disadvantaged families focus on choosing the right career and talent and skills development for future independence and orientation in the labor market.

The workshop started with a short introduction of all participants. This warm up was followed by an interesting but hard topic focused on the types of employment contracts (their advantages and disadvantages) in the Czech Republic. After lunch, students reviewed CVs and tried to improve them. They also got many tips for writing a good and catchy CV or motivation letter. Our colleagues also showed them Czech job portals and demonstrated how LinkedIn works.

A special guest, Jiri Rostecky, a young business man who inspires and helps people through interviews on his blog, shared his interesting life story and captured the students’ attention for the rest of the day.

The students had positive feedback about the session. We are looking forward to helping another group of students kick off their careers!

– Karina Vasinova

MSD Prague Hosted 2nd Informal Gathering for Parents

On 12th February, we opened our „doors“ to welcome MSD parents on maternity and parental leave. This gathering happened for the second time and we hosted 16 moms and their kids.

This time our event started with warm welcome words from our Hub lead who also shared her experience while being on maternity leave as well as news from the company.

As there were many questions related to HR topics there was also an HR part dedicated to taxes, flexible job arrangements etc.

The main part of the event belonged to the coaching workshop with a topic „Wheel of Life“ where MSD parents could think about a balance and reboot of their life.

We received a very positive feedback so will definitely plan another session for our parents soon.

– Karina Vasinova

Giving Tuesday Donation in Prague

Every year, we support Giving Tuesday and connected activities. This time, we not only arranged a clothes donation but also donated computers to children in orphanages.

The clothes donation was a huge success! There were many bags full of clothes, toys and home decor items our colleagues didn´t need any longer. All these items went to the NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) Boruvka which has a great sustainability concept. Volunteers from Boruvka send everything to Boruvka second-hand shops. The money gained from the sales supports disabled people, and the clothes not sold are sent to another NGO that uses it to create mats, dish towels or toys for pets.

The PC donation was a huge success as well. We were able to donate 100 computers to 20 orphanages. Although we couldn´t satisfy all the demand, we received amazing feedback. Orphanages were so grateful and thanked us not just for thinking of them but also for making their kids happy.

– Karina Vasinova

Code Retreat Meet-Up

Last week, our developers’ community organized the second Code Retreat which was open to the public. It was attended by both external developers and our colleagues from MSD.

Code Retreat is a workshop where participants have an opportunity to practice the fundamentals of software development. The goal of the event is to practice writing clean code, get focused on tests, and try to refactor the code.

There were three sessions, each 40 minutes long. During each session developers worked in pairs. The pairs could select to work on a classic Code Retreat task, Game of Life, or array operations. For each task there were basic boilerplates ready in JavaScript, Java and Swift. The participants could use them or to set up their own local environment. Some of the developers were programming in different languages such as Python or C#.

During the sessions some constrains were introduced. Each pair could choose which restrictions they wanted to implement. Constrains were of different kinds; for example, one person was only writing the tests and the other only the code or the pairs were avoiding using loops. Some pairs tried not to use a mouse or a touchpad and it was considered the funniest challenge.

The participants enjoyed an opportunity to learn new things, experience a friendly atmosphere, and receive support from the coaches.

We look forward to organizing another workshop like this in the near future!

– Natalia Vokrouhlecka