New York City skyline

Alumnus Ben Conway Helps Convert Four Seasons NYC to Sanctuary

Ben Conway '17 MS in technology management, a principal technical account specialist at Ecolab, has helped transform a five-star hotel in New York City, Four Seasons Hotel, into a sanctuary site for medical workers to stay.

Working virtually from Eagan, Conway has been providing technical support for all matters related to cleaning and disinfection.

"Ecolab has worked with Four Seasons at the corporate level for several years," Conway said. "We have a strong understanding of their operation and they understand that we are industry experts in cleaning and disinfection. They turned to us for guidance on how to ensure they are effectively protecting their guests and staff by properly cleaning and disinfecting their spaces for this initiative."

From providing consultation, guidelines and best practices to helping the Four Seasons produce customized sanctuary housing standard operating procedures, Conway and his team at Ecolab have been the driving force in making the hotel a place where 225 health care professionals have lived.

Conway's contribution to the front-line hospital workers in New York City aligns with the St. Thomas mission of "All for the Common Good" by helping provide a safe and healthy environment for off-duty workers to rest and protect them from exposing loved ones. "As an Ecolab employee and a St. Thomas alumnus, both organization’s missions align to the common good of local and global communities through leadership and innovation," Conway said.

Conway shared how his time at St. Thomas and his work at Ecolab has contributed to this unique partnership with the NYC Four Seasons Hotel.

What about your time at St. Thomas helped prepare you for what you’re doing now?

I completed my master’s degree in technology management from the Graduate Engineering Department within St. Thomas. Through this program, I learned how to filter individual goals and needs out of the company’s goals and needs. Classes like Engineering Leadership and Human Factors in Technology Management were extremely impactful on my personal and professional development. I think it’s fair to say the whole technology management program was equally important and effective with my personal and professional development. When I first considered graduate school, there were two options I thought would suit me best. Ecolab, like many other companies, highly values MBA degrees so that became the first option. Out of curiosity, I attended an information session for the Master in Technology Management program due to the research, development and engineering (RD&E) focus, and because this is where I considered anchoring my career, I thought it might be a good fit. After I attended this information session, I decided this was the program that would best fit my professional goals as it emphasized research and development and leadership applications.

How has your job prepared you for your work with the Four Seasons Hotel?

Ecolab greatly values our partnerships with our customers. It is through these partnership connections that we are able to identify and solve our customers’ most pressing operational challenges and needs to help ensure clean water, safe food and healthy environments. When the Four Seasons wanted to provide a clean and safe place for health care professionals working on the front lines of the pandemic, they turned to Ecolab to help provide best practices and procedures, and the right chemistry for a clean and safe environment.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

I’d say the biggest challenge we had was navigating around an organism that there was very little data on, especially when there is not a test method to ensure product efficacy. We were already in discussions with the Four Seasons when the Environmental Protection Agency released additional surrogate organism for COVID-19 product approval. This helped open up additional solutions, enabling us to help protect their operations. When you consider a very high-end luxury hotel and the sensitive materials which need to be cleaned and disinfected (i.e., marble, fabrics, etc.), you want to ensure you are using products and programs that are compatible with those materials and effective against the organism.

What have you learned from this experience?

I have learned the value of great partnerships. During a crisis, well-established relationships can help you understand and focus on what is in the best interest for all involved. They also can help to expedite decision-making and implementation of the most effective solutions. We want to protect the health and well-being of their guests and staff with minimal impact to their current operation to ensure successful execution and efficiency.

Why do you think it’s important to help out in this way?

It anchors our belief that we are truly your business partner, and we can get through this together, especially during times of uncertainty and hardships.

Since Ecolab is a hygiene technology company, could you recommend some cleaning procedures or tips for us while we are quarantined at home?

The most obvious recommendation is proper hand hygiene. Here is the process at a high level: Wet hands, apply soap, scrub all hand surfaces for 20 seconds, then rinse hands. The most critical part of that procedure is to ensure you are scrubbing all surfaces on your hands for at least a full 20 seconds. This is the single best way we can prevent the spread of this and other organisms.

The next piece of advice I’d give is to do the research and understand what residential products are effective against COVID-19 (unfortunately Ecolab does not provide products to the residential market), and equally important the contact/dwell times associated with the product you choose. Contact/dwell time refers to the amount of time the surface must be wet with product to ensure it is effective.  Contact/dwell time is often missed and is the critical step in a good cleaning and disinfection program.