To use a somewhat trite but effective metaphor, if the East Valley-founded Intel MAPS program is a tree, than the acorn it sprouted from is the collection of mouse droppings its founder volunteered to clean up.
It’s not the most distinguished of beginnings, but it is what inspired Intel Corporate Manager of Operational Excellence Rudy Hacker to find a more efficient way to volunteer his services while providing a greater benefit to local communities.
But back to the mouse droppings, which the slightly taller than average Hacker — he’s about 6-foot-2 — was asked to clean for two days in a row while volunteering at a police department. It wasn’t exactly the cleanest or most exciting project, but good ideas can come from unattractive circumstances, and it made him realize there were better things he could do with his time.
That led to the creation of Intel’s MAPS program in Chandler. Through the program — short for Mentoring and Planning Services — employees of the company work with local agencies using their professional skills to better the agencies’ operations in the short and long run.
“You want to set up your improvement plan so it has some longevity,” Hacker said.
Hacker said the first MAPS project had him work with the Mesa Police Department to see how it could store its cold-case evidence in a more efficient manner. It wasn’t too dissimilar from what Intel does when it stores things, as it entailed finding a way to store as much evidence as possible in a limited amount of space. It’s akin to when a parent tries to stuff as many boogie boards and coolers into the trunk as possible when going to the beach.
Since then, Intel employees have applied their talents for a total of 40 projects over the course of five years — although Hacker pointed out 34 of those projects have come in the last three years — and the program is spreading across the many Intel offices.
Local employees have volunteered with a broad swath of organizations ranging from police and fire departments to Rio Salado College in Tempe and the East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa. At EVIT, Superintendent Sally Downey said Intel employees have worked directly with students to prepare them for careers in technology.
“They’re great; they have a cadre of people who are very smart,” she said.
Another project had Intel Systems Programmer Patrick Grogg create a better way for the Gilbert Fire Department to write down and track medical data during emergencies.
Gilbert Fire spokesman Brian Ruffentine said paramedics and other responders, prior to Grogg’s arrival, would arrive on the scene and have to write out all of the details about the accident, any potential allergies and other pertinent information on paper. If paper wasn’t available, Grogg said responders would use their arms to write down emergency information.
Also at issue was how long it would take to process the notes taken by the responders, as Ruffentine said that process could take up to 30 days.
Grogg signed up to work with his local fire department beginning in the spring of 2011 to develop a better way of tracking data, and he spent months working responders to tailor the system for their needs and abilities. His research was pretty hands on and kind of fun: he spent a lot of time at the fire station located a short bike ride from home, and even got to tagalong on the truck during emergencies.
“If I couldn’t be a software engineer, I’d be a firefighter for sure,” Grogg said.
It took until September 2012 to launch the pilot program for the tablet Grogg designed for the responders — it has spread beyond the first station that used it — and the new system has made the transfer of information more efficient for the department and for the patients the responders serve. That 30-day timeframe to process the information acquired onsite has dropped to 24 hours, and Grogg said the gap could become even smaller.
Taxpayers in Gilbert also benefited through Grogg’s volunteerism, as he said contracting with an outside entity to create such a program would cost millions of dollars, and an outside entity might not incorporate the needs of the firefighters while building it.
“This is really designed to work with how they flow and do their job,” he said.
Although the employees do not receive compensation for their work, there is a financial incentive that benefits another party involved in the volunteer process. The middleman in the Intel MAPS program between the company and the organizations is the Southwest Alliance for Excellence, which has worked with the Chandler-based tech company to connect with nonprofits and governments since 2009.
“We really work hand in glove; they’re trying to improve process efficiency in organizations,” said Southwest Alliance Executive Director Karen Shepard.
Hacker gave a lot of credit to the Southwest Alliance for getting the program rolling on a local level, and the Southwest Alliance receives $10 for every hour an Intel employee volunteers on the local level.
It’s one of the reasons why some variation of the phrase “win win” pops up frequently when participants discuss the MAPS program. For the municipalities and nonprofits, their benefits stem from receiving potentially massive technological upgrades for little to no cost.
For projects involving the municipal services like fire departments, the advantages extend to the people who are in the midst of an emergency situation.
“It saves lives; the end result is this particular process has saved lives,” Shepard said.
Intel receives a solid publicity boost, and the employees get a direct connection with where they live. Grogg, for example, was named an honorary firefighter in Gilbert during a ceremony in the town and even received his own fire cap.
The months spent working with the firefighters also added a little extra incentive to his day-to-day routine.
“It gave me a challenge that was outside my normal scope of business, which helped me get excited about my job,” he said.
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