Pure Storage CEO Charlie Giancarlo plans slow reopening after Covid-19

SUN VALLEY, ID – July 11: (LR) Charles Giancarlo, CEO of Pure Storage, Robert Richer, former deputy director of operations for the US Central Intelligence Agency, and his wife Kim Richer arrive for an annual morning session Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 11, 2018 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Every July, some of the world’s richest and most powerful businessmen from the media, finance, technology and political circles converge at the Sun Valley Resort for the exclusive weeklong conference. (Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Drew Angerer

At the end of March, Pure Storage unveiled in an annual report that its CEO, Charlie Giancarlo, tested positive for the coronavirus.

Almost no one seemed to notice.

“There was a person who called me afterwards to say, ‘It’s amazing the kind of things you pick up in a 10-K,'” Giancarlo told CNBC in an interview on Friday. A day earlier, during a conference call with analysts, he mentioned that he had contracted the virus.

Giancarlo is a former Cisco executive who replaced Scott Dietzen as CEO of Pure in 2017, almost two years after Pure Storage started trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Pure, which sells products that companies use to store data, has yet to make a profit since its arrival, but revenues have continued to grow as subscription services, including those that rely on on cloud-based storage, have become a bigger part of the Enterprise.

A trip to Spain

Giancarlo believes he caught the virus during a trip to Spain on March 10. He flew to London, then returned to California later in the week. Friends came to dinner this weekend.

“I decided to isolate myself by following the protocol, without touching anyone, staying 6 feet from each other,” he said.

Saturday night, he woke up with night sweats. The next day, he kept himself in a room separate from his family. He monitored his temperature with an oximeter on his finger.

On Monday, he worked and took a lot of Advil and Tylenol, but he did not go to work. It was the day when local officials directed people to a shelter on site. Work life changed instantly for employees of Pure and other tech companies in the San Francisco Bay area.

Over the next few days, Giancarlo continued to work, staying in touch with customers and various internal teams over the phone and via Zoom. He had a fever, had chills, felt tired and had back pain. He neither coughed, sneezed, or breathless, he said.

That week it was tested twice for the coronavirus, and each time the result was negative. His doctor examined him for tuberculosis and other ailments to determine if he had anything other than the virus.

At one point, he called his assistant and said that he had noticed that consecutive meetings were being prepared and that he simply did not have the energy.

After that, he and the other senior executives made the decision to list his illness in the company’s annual report.

“I asked my senior team,” In the next few days, I don’t know if I can be full time. You may have to cover me, “” he said. At this point, he said, his health was deteriorating.

He passed a third test. This time it came back positive. It was about the time his fever started.

Giancarlo said he now knows how bad it can be to have Covid-19. His views have also shaped relatives in the medical field who have been at risk, he said.

A slow and careful return

Pure’s facilities have an open office setting – something that Giancarlo never liked because it reminded him of a sweatshop. This provision will be reorganized. Only a few people will initially be able to work in the same space at a time, he said.

He knows that different parts of the United States will reopen in different ways. Pure will be on the slower, more cautious side of the spectrum, he said. Some employees have cabin fever, and some managers feel stressed by heavier workloads, but many Pure employees have gotten used to shift work, said Giancarlo. He found that he was personally more productive than usual when he worked at home.

“It’s just more time than I can work,” he said.

During Thursday’s call, he told analysts that the company’s salespeople were actually more productive – they no longer had to travel for meetings with customers and prospects. The decrease in travel has also helped the company reduce operating losses.

The company’s results exceeded analysts’ expectations for its first fiscal quarter on Thursday, although, like some other companies during this earnings season, it chose not to provide advice for the current quarter or the full exercise. The shares rose almost 5% during Friday’s trading session.

As Google recently announced, Pure has offered employees money to buy equipment to help them work from home. Pure also organized “parent panels” for employees and offered medical and mental health support, said Giancarlo.

Executives from other companies contacted him to learn more about his experience.

“A personal story goes a long way in building relationships,” he said.

WATCH: 5G is “a great opportunity” for us: Pure Storage

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