San Diego Companies Raced to Confront COVID-19. Their Actions Reflect the Simple Truth About Leadership

By Executive coaching News
Aerial shot of San Diego companies and infrastructure

San Diego companies helped the global community manage the COVID-19 crisis. Medical technology companies ramped up production, while leaders in biotechnology, communications, and computer technology opened supply chains and fast-tracked solutions for scientists and patients. Their quick action and definitive stance in the crisis proved one simple truth about successful organizations today: purpose-driven leadership matters.

Information technology professionals aren’t surprised to hear that 90% of the nation’s innovation sector employment growth in the last 15 years was generated in five major coastal cities, including San Diego, CA. The weather isn’t the only factor that contributes to the region’s attractiveness for employers and job seekers. Many companies in San Diego provide their workers with an intangible, highly-desirable benefit: purpose-driven leadership. 

San Diego is rich with career-defining opportunities, from early startups to Fortune 100 companies. But there are a few industries that stand out among IT professionals, most notably, medical technology, biotechnology, semiconductors, and communications. 

Are these San Diego companies well-liked by employees for their focus on innovative solutions? Yes, but that’s only half of the story. More importantly, they provide a clear sense of purpose for their workforce, enabling them to support a meaningful mission

Many San Diego companies deserve recognition for the problems they solve, especially when the world isn’t watching. Nevertheless, the COVID-19 crisis intensified the need for companies to do more, make more, and facilitate change beyond the usual scope of work.

At a time when shareholder relations and bottom-line revenues fall under scrutiny, what’s expected of people in highly visible leadership positions? The answer is always, lead with purpose.

How San Diego Companies Responded to COVID-19

While each company addressed urgent needs differently, trends emerged that pointed to well-defined leadership and a clear mission across each organization. The following crisis responses were timely, thoughtful, and impactful across the world. Here’s a summary of how each company responded to COVID-19.

Scripps Health

In response to COVID-19, experts voiced the urgent need for testing. And in most regions across the country, it didn’t arrive fast enough. In San Diego, however, Scripps Health addressed the problem of slow testing with its molecular point-of-care test for detecting the novel coronavirus. 

The test, used to detect a positive result in five minutes or a negative result in thirteen, was one of the fastest on the market. The innovative diagnostics showcased Scripp’s commitment to providing superior patient care. President and CEO Chris Van Gorder had this to say about the company’s speed to market,

“Testing is a critical part of the overall response to the coronavirus pandemic. Scripps moved that important tool to the front line of our fight against this devastating disease. The ability to deliver results in minutes at our hospitals for patients exhibiting possible symptoms of COVID-19 allows our physicians to make faster and better decisions about delivering the best care needed.”


Whether you watched the news or not, you heard about the global need for ventilators to keep virus patients alive. Messages filled screens from TV to social media. Cue ResMed, a global leader in respiratory medicine. Although the company played a pioneering role in the fight against COVID-19, it was their sustained effort that was most impressive, an all-in stance that focused on people and purpose.

The statements made by CEO Michael Farrell summarized the company’s unique position in the crisis — and display purpose-driven leadership at its finest. Imagine the pride employees felt after reading the following press release.

“As a global leader in respiratory medicine, ResMed stands with the world in the face of the latest coronavirus disease COVID-19 and is ready to help mitigate its effects, helping people breathe while their immune system fights this virus. More than 7,500 ResMedians are working in over 140 countries for this purpose.”

“ResMed is taking every measure possible worldwide to maximize the production of ventilators, masks, and other respiratory devices. We are looking to double or triple the output of ventilators, and scale-up ventilation mask production more than tenfold.”

“I’d like to call out first-responder ResMedians in China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, in particular one ResMed hero who, since early January, has donned a positive pressure hazmat suit, and helped set up thousands of people on ResMed ventilators and ResMed masks. There are also 100-plus ResMedians from Malaysia who in mid-March volunteered to keep working in our Singapore manufacturing plant when Malaysia closed its borders, relocating to live near our plant in Singapore, spending weeks away from their families, so they can continue to produce as many lifesaving ventilators and ventilation masks as possible.”

You can also watch Michael Farrell’s interview with Jim Cramer from Mad Money. In retrospect, How would you like to associate your work with a company that formed a COVID-19 task force? Talk about identifying a sense of meaning from one’s daily work.


Some people say that corporations must give back to the community in a time of need. Many companies in San Diego maintain robust charitable programs, showing their commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR). But what should be expected of an international organization during a global public health crisis? And what does purpose-driven leadership look like in this scenario? 

ASML, a leader in the semiconductor industry, with 24,900 people in 16 countries (ASML website), demonstrated the highest level of global citizenship during the COVID-19 pandemic. Company leaders engaged every internal and external channel and provided support where it was needed, from supply chain coordination to programming and boots-on-the-ground volunteer work. 

ASML assisted national and regional Dutch crisis teams with the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE), using its global procurement network. Additionally, the company offered engineering expertise to support companies and organizations to increase the manufacturing capabilities of medical equipment that was in short supply.

Regional leaders took a more granular approach to impact local communities, where they deployed their workforce to feed frontline healthcare workers, distribute computers for students, and share IT training tools for kids learning from home. All levels of the company played a crucial role, including the design and implementation of thoughtful support programs. 

What does a detailed support initiative look like in this scenario? The team in San Diego, for example, joined forces with Frontline Foods to feed healthcare workers with meals from local restaurants impacted by the crisis. 


How a mission-driven company reacts to a crisis reflects the authenticity of their mission. And what the company does to fulfill its mission is crucial. For San Diego, CA, based global communications provider, Viasat, COVID-19 challenged the company to remain connected to their customers and partners. 

The pandemic effectively shut down cities, including business and residential areas, all of which impacted Viasat’s customers. “Business as usual” wasn’t a viable mindset under the circumstances. So, at a time when people lost their jobs and businesses either downsized or closed, Viasat offered immediate assistance. 

With their purpose in focus (to keep homes, airlines, businesses, and governments connected — no matter how difficult), the company pledged to keep Americans connected with the following aid:

  1. Not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
  2. Waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
  3. Open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

Purpose-driven leadership doesn’t hesitate to put the customer first. Viasat’s actions likely reduced the heavy burden many businesses faced. Employees were positioned to offer help on a human-to-human level. And in the long-run, as their mission states, the company kept people and communities connected at a critical time. 


COVID-19 impacted the world, some regions more seriously than others. Then we witnessed the actions business leaders took to help communities, from local authorities to political figures. What we couldn’t see, however, were the scientists working tirelessly to understand this novel Coronavirus. And that’s what they did in record time.

Interestingly, researchers’ ability to sequence COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, was attributed to solutions created by Illumina, a leading sequencing and array technologies company in San Diego, CA. Few people outside of the company knew that Illumina’s innovative technology identified the virus. And fewer people knew how quickly their leadership team responded to the discovery. Within days, Illumina’s technology was available globally, an effort to support laboratories worldwide. Their mindset, supported by the broader scientific community, emphasized tracking the virus, its evolution, and epidemiology. 

It’s not every day that a biotechnology company disseminates a workflow for virus detection and sequencing with the world (with charitable intentions), so why now? Purpose-driven leadership. Sentiments shared by Illumina staff members, ‘the outbreak is an important reminder that the global community must strengthen national and international programs for early detection and response.’ 

Illumina’s mission to combat COVID-19 was transparent and multi-faceted. In addition to sharing innovation with the global scientific community, the company published a guide on Coronavirus detection. Imagine how much time was saved in the fight to slow the pandemic, and how rewarding it felt for the brilliant minds that developed the solutions.

Why Purpose-Driven Leadership Matters 

During a global crisis, purpose-driven leadership influences and inspires people to be agile in a fast-changing world. Additionally, bold people are needed to address urgent needs and create long-term solutions. And often, those people are empowered by companies that have the knowledge and tools needed to create change. 

Scripps Health, ResMed, ASML, Viasat, and Illumina are five examples of San Diego companies that empowered their employees to be part of the crisis response. However, their response to the crisis reflects years of experience and cultural development across the enterprise. 

One thing is for sure: these companies integrated their people (workforce) and purpose (why they go to work every day) long before COVID-19 arrived. If you look closely, you’ll find that their mission statements embody everything we know about purpose-driven leadership; without them, we wouldn’t be so optimistic about tomorrow. 

Purpose Statement Examples

Scripps Health

Scripps strives to provide superior health services in a caring environment and to make a positive, measurable difference in the health of individuals in the communities we serve.


Our team of 7,500 ResMedians is making a positive impact on millions of lives every day in more than 140 countries. We’re passionate about being accountable to the communities we’re in. Our work is guided by an environmental policy that promotes waste and pollution reduction, the use of reduced-impact materials and fair labor practices across the globe.


Unlocking the potential of people and society by pushing technology to new limits.


We’ve made it our business to solve high-value, hard problems that create a real impact in the world and deliver the experiences that people want, need, and expect.


Increasing production three-fold, opening a new supply chain, donating PPE and computers, and sequencing a novel coronavirus across borders wasn’t the result of pure luck. Instead, dedicated employees and focused leaders accomplished these momentous achievements. Each one of the individuals involved worked with a clear goal: the desire to do good and help others. They knew what they were doing and why it was important. And that’s the value of purpose-driven leadership. The positive impact of their combined efforts is why it matters.

Header image by: Blake Weyland