Tech, entrepreneurial community tackle coronavirus

Sharon Fisher//March 19, 2020

Tech, entrepreneurial community tackle coronavirus

Sharon Fisher//March 19, 2020

photo of micron
Micron, based in Boise, is attempting to stay one step ahead of the virus worldwide. File photo

Like everyone else, Idaho’s technology and entrepreneurial communities are dealing with the COVID-19 coronavirus, including locking down campuses and canceling conferences. This is particularly true because several technology companies have relationships with countries that faced the disease earlier.

“We have visibility into many of the different stages of the situation by dealing with our teams in Italy and China and Singapore and Taiwan and California and Boise,” said Scott DeBoer, Boise site leader and executive vice president, technology and products for Micron. “They’re in all different stages of the global situation.”

Micron began taking precautions months ago such as checking employees’ temperatures and looking for ways to reduce travel and allow employees to work from home, DeBoer said.

photo of scott deboer
Scott DeBoer

Now, about 50-75% of the Boise site employees are working at home, DeBoer said.

People who still work on-site are divided into blue and orange teams.

“Those are working 14 days on and 14 days off, alternating, so we have segments that never have exposure from other parts of our team,” DeBoer said.

In addition, breakrooms and meeting rooms are segmented to prevent the groups from mixing, he said.

Because Micron is in a quiet period before reporting quarterly earnings, DeBoer couldn’t say what effect the disease is having on the company’s production or its revenues. But so far no Micron employees have come down with COVID-19.

Micron is ready to ramp procedures up should an employee get diagnosed, DeBoer said.

“We do have different sets of protocols for every situation we can foresee,” he said. “Generally, in Boise, we try to stay one level ahead of where the actual situation has been.”

For example, while the company began implementing thermal scanning in Singapore and China as it started to see cases pop up in the local community, that program was implemented in Boise two and a half weeks before there was a case in Idaho, DeBoer said.

Similarly, Micron imposed its work from home program in Boise because of the escalation of cases in surrounding states, DeBoer said. And the company has plans for escalated cases in the community. For example, in Italy, everyone except the facilities people are working from home.

“We’re adapting, trying to stay ahead in Boise of recommendations from the Governor and ahead of the situation,” DeBoer said.

And it’s not just to protect its own staff. “We also feel that we’re a large employer and we need to do our part to set an example.”

DeBoer said it will be interesting to see what effect this will have on Micron going forward.

“I think it absolutely will change some things,” he said. “We’re having that discussion internally right now.”

For example, the company may find its employees don’t actually have to travel as often.

“If we do things better, maybe we don’t have to travel quite so much for certain activities,” DeBoer said. “We’re taking steps right now in ways we’re working together that we would have been afraid to do and finding ways to make them efficient.”

Conferences canceled

The outbreak has led to a number of cancellations in the tech and venture capital fields.

The Women Entrepreneurs Realizing Opportunities for Capital (WeROC) conference, which had been scheduled to occur in Boise for the first time on April 7, has been postponed. A new date has not yet been set.

The Angel Capital Association has decided to postpone its annual summit, which had been scheduled for May 11-14 in Denver.

“Though we are nearly two months out, we cannot safely predict what the upcoming weeks will bring, so we will be postponing ACA 2020 – The Summit of Angel Investing,” said CEO Patrick Gouhin in an email message. The board of directors is evaluating alternative plans and scenarios, he said.

The Idaho Technology Council has also decided to postpone all its in-person events until further notice.

Boise’s Hackfort conference, scheduled for later this month, was also postponed until September on March 11 along with the rest of the Treefort music and lifestyle event.