By Brittney Wolff Zatezalo, June 26, 2020
Located an hour’s drive outside of New York City, our Wilton office found itself thrust into the US epicenter of the virus. Yet in the midst of a crisis, many of our colleagues went to great lengths for our business, but even more importantly, for our communities at large. Over the course of a week, several Connecticut hospitals will receive $250,000 worth of critical PPE, thanks to a determined local ASML team.
Vic Cappelli, director of Integration, Quality and Reliability Engineering at ASML in Wilton, Connecticut, has a daughter named Ariana who works as a nurse in a local hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU). In a situation like in many other hospitals around the world, Ariana works amid thousands of sick patients and has to contend with an overwhelmed staff and insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE). At one point she was even using the same mask for multiple 12-hour shifts, while seeing double the standard volume of patients infected with COVID-19.
Vic checks in with her every day on the phone but feels helpless to aid her. “There’s not much you can do except be there to talk when the phone call comes in,” he says painfully.
“We need to do something,” Vic thought to himself. He quickly found that his desire to help was shared by his local team and colleagues around the world. In the Netherlands, ASML donated more than 420,000 face masks to Dutch hospitals, 400 tablets to the elderly to help them stay in touch with their families, and 500 laptops to students in the Brainport Eindhoven region. These actions spurred a movement among colleagues around the world to support their own local communities.
Wilton takes action
Inspired by the news of the successful donation in Veldhoven, Vic assembled a cross-functional team in Wilton that decided to take local action.
One of the team, Philip Choi, who works in reliability engineering, reflects on the group’s first meeting one Sunday night in March: “We felt that despite everything that was going on, we were still pretty fortunate, so we wanted to help in some way. We had our jobs and our health, and we were in a pretty good space to support and give back to the community.”
Another team member, Thomas Liaskas, had built strong relationships with suppliers around the world in his role as project manager for ASML, so he helped facilitate an immediate ‘win’ for the team – donating 500 N95 masks to Nuvance Health Systems. It was tangible, rewarding progress. The team wanted to do still more, but never would have predicted what would transpire over the moths that followed.
Tackling the unknown, locally and globally
Although the team admits that they weren’t experts in PPE, they weren’t deterred and instead formalized a business plan to divide and conquer. By starting with small steps they eventually succeeded – in the end, ASML donated $250,000 to support the Wilton team’s community efforts.
Philip and Thomas tackled the local community outreach, immediately connecting with hospital representatives to identify what they needed most. Meanwhile, Rui Chang coordinated procurement of supplies with colleague Anthony Ni in China.
With her experience in System Integration, Rui shares that it’s natural for ASML to “pull people together. This helped make the process of collaborating quickly on a global scale much more streamlined,” she says. “If what you’re doing has value, people just jump in and help. That’s the type of culture we have.”
“If what you’re doing has value, people just jump in and help. That’s the type of culture we have.”
A last-minute pivot
On May 8, 2020, all arrangements were finalized for around 150,000 KN95 masks and the team was ready to pay the supplier. But two days before payment was due, the US Food and Drug Administration unveiled a new set of specifications for N95 and KN95 masks. Of the 80 manufacturers located outside the US, only 14 were approved according to the new rules. And as fate would have it, the supplier ASML had been working with was not one of them.
This roadblock was soul crushing for the team. “You build up to this moment, then you watch it unravel right before your eyes,” says Thomas. It was difficult not to be discouraged.
Meanwhile, Philip received word from one of their primary hospital partners that due to the risk of counterfeit products and the latest regulations, they no longer wanted to receive KN95 masks.
By sheer luck, they were able to stop and change course. They had a contingency plan and would make it work. After speaking with local hospitals, the group moved from the high-risk KN95 masks to surgical gowns and hospital-grade masks, additional products that were in high demand.
“Getting the right PPE quickly, in an environment that was changing on a daily basis, proved to be one of the biggest hurdles,” says Louis Bastone, who was leading the procurement process and quickly became a champion of positivity for the group.
Looking back on that frantic week, Rui attributes their ability to pivot quickly to ASML’s culture. “We never stop – finding solutions is part of our daily job anyhow,” she says.
Surprising connections and outcomes
Over the course of a week, several Connecticut hospitals will receive $250,000 worth of critical PPE, thanks to the determination of the team and supported by ASML’s generous donation.
“We are so grateful to ASML for their generous donation of masks and gowns,” says Belinda Foster, director of development at Stamford Hospital Foundation. “PPE is a crucial resource for our physicians and nurses who are working so hard to care for our COVID-19 patients. Every donation from the community helps Stamford Health during these challenging times. The support of the communities we serve is having a profound impact on our caregivers – know the community has them in their hearts.”
Today, the team has expanded to include around fifteen people, who plan to continue to support relief efforts for COVID-19 while working remotely. In May, they quickly galvanized a site-wide virtual food drive where Wilton employees donated more than $15,000 for the Connecticut Food Bank, an amount that local management increased with an additional corporate donation of $10,000.
Connecticut Food Bank spokesperson Paul Shipman was extremely grateful for ASML’s support. “It was a tremendous gift that will help so many people who are struggling with hunger during this pandemic,” he says.
The team couldn’t be happier with the outcome. “It feels good to work for a company that prioritizes our local community,” shares Philip.
Thomas adds, “It feels really good to know that we are doing something positive. It’s a blessing to work for a company like ASML where so many people were willing to do more for the community.”
“It feels good to work for a company that prioritizes our local community.”
Despite physical separation, everyone bonded through their shared experience. A collaborative spirit is nothing new to ASML, but in a time when people are craving human connection more than ever, it’s certainly more appreciated.
Philip reflects, “Most of the people in my group miss that person-to-person interaction, but we’ve learned how to connect in different ways. We’ve actually learned more about each other in some ways than we would have if we were still working on-site.”
It’s these surprising new relationships that will continue to drive change for the community and our business at large, as we continue to navigate this ever-changing environment together.
About the author
- Brittney Wolff Zatezalo
- Corporate communications manager US
- Brittney enjoys getting to know the smart people working behind the scenes and sharing their stories. Her mission is to make technology more accessible. She didn’t think she could be an engineer, but wants her daughter to see the potential.