With Micron’s 40th anniversary fast approaching (it’s Oct. 5), we’re bringing you stories from the “Pioneers of Micron” — employees who were here in Micron’s early years.
Today, we’ll hear from Package Technology Vice President Mark Tuttle about how innovation and tenacity have been important values at Micron since the beginning.
Corporate Communication (CC): When did you join Micron?
Mark: I started in May of 1981 and I’m employee No. 21. When I got here, I started in the dentist’s office. And of course, the company was small; there were about 20 people.
CC: Can you talk about the culture and values, then and now?
Tenacity and innovation were huge when we started. You had to have incredible tenacity or we would have gone under 50 times. You were really fighting for the life of your company and fighting for your livelihood all the time.
It’s interesting that Sanjay is focused on these values. Tenacity is embedded in the culture, and through all the downturns it reinforced itself over and over and over. So that’s still here — maybe not quite as strong as fighting for your life all the time, but it is still here.
Innovation was the other aspect. When you have a startup in the desert in Boise, and you’re competing against Silicon Valley and the many other companies that were in DRAM when we started, in order to compete against them, innovation was one of the ways. It wasn’t so much large technical innovation, where we reinvented the transistor, it was the little things — making everything just a little better.
CC: Can you share an example of one of these values at play?
Mark: Okay, tenacity … one night, there was a storm that came through the desert. A lot of times lightning storms would come through and hit the lines and take the power down. So one night and we all got calls at home that the power was out in the fab. Everyone in the company was in the parking lot at 2 o'clock in the morning, waiting for the power to come back on. The fab was shut down, everything was off, no power at all. When the lights came back on, about 3 o’clock or so, we all went inside and scrubbed down the fab and got it going again as fast as we could. We just worked 24 hours, whatever you had to do to bring things back up.
That level of tenacity is not here now, because you don’t have that kind of problem. In fact, because of that problem, we put a substation in with two different feeder lines, so if one feeder line got hit by lightning, we still had another one and we could switch over to it, so it solved that problem. Sometimes, when you have enough money, you can solve it with technology, but if you don’t have enough money, you do it with horsepower.
CC: Can you describe your first memory of Micron?
Mark: When I got here, I started in the dentist’s office. And of course, the company was small; there were about 20 people. We had a meeting on my very first day. Everybody was sitting around a U-shaped table. Joe Parkinson was acting president; he was part-time when I started. He was a lawyer in Boise and then part-time president of Micron, and Ward (Parkinson) was the chairman. Anyway, Joe was leading the meeting with everyone; they were going around the table and asking everybody what they were going to be working on. Well, I thought I knew what I was going to be working on because I know diffusion and CVD (chemical vapor deposition), so I knew what type of equipment I needed to order and what I needed to do. But, when it came around to me, he said, “We’re gonna skip you, because you don’t know what you’re going to be doing.” I was kind of insulted that he thought, my first day, I didn’t know what I needed to do. But it turned out, he came back to me, he said, “The reason I skipped you is you’re going to Salt Lake City tomorrow.” And I said, “OK, why am I going to Salt Lake City?” He said, “We’re actually building the part at National in Sandy, Utah, and we need you to go work there first, because the fab isn’t ready here yet. So, while you’re ordering equipment and waiting for it to come in you’re going to work in Sandy, Utah.” So, I took off and went to Sandy, Utah. And, people don’t know this in general, but the first Micron 64K DRAM was built in Sandy, Utah, by National Semiconductor .
CC: What advice would you give 1981 you?
Mark: I don’t know about 1981, but buying more stock would probably be one of the first things.
One of the things I learned about survival was that you need to do whatever is necessary. What I would tell people is to prepare for this. You need to be able to do whatever is necessary to get the job done to make the company successful. Of course, in the ‘80s, if you didn’t do that, you just went under. It still makes a difference today if you want to be successful. The people we are competing against are doing that. So, you have to work hard, and you have to be tenacious. There’s no question about it.
Thanks to Mark and the other pioneers for sharing examples of the values that have made Micron strong and getting stronger as we approach our 40-year company anniversary. Be sure to check out the other blogs in this series: