Two years ago, in November 2018, I was about to finish my semester studying abroad in Montreal, Canada. One evening after school, I was talking to a friend over the phone and he suggested applying to internships abroad. He said there were several opportunities in the US and that it might be worth it to take a look at. There was one in particular that caught my attention: Tesla.

The opportunity

I had seen those cool cars around, so I started doing some research on their intern programs. As I searched through Tesla´s website I applied to several roles. At that point in my life, I must admit I had the “I don’t need work experience, as I will probably work the rest of my life” mindset. Little did I know that life had something prepared for me.

Two weeks after applying I received an email from the recruiter about setting up several interviews. After going through the whole process one month later I received my offer to move to the bay area and intern at one of the most groundbreaking companies. 

Everything seemed to have aligned until I returned to Mexico and started working on the process to get a working visa. I made several attempts with no luck. It was a tough time since I arranged to get some school credits for my internship and if I didn’t get the visa approved, I would lose the semester and the internship opportunity as well. I felt like everything was tumbling down. But I decided I would not give up unless Tesla told me otherwise. Nevertheless, Tesla sponsored me and helped me throughout the process until it finally got approved. 

After all the delays with the visa back home, there I was, moving to another country, crossing new borders. On my first day at work, I was beyond excited, I could not believe I was moving to Silicon Valley for the next 6 months. And I was going to work at a company that was redefining mobility against all odds. 

My insights 

We learn by doing

Shortly after I joined, I had a mentor assigned. He explained he had some things in mind to optimize the Business Systems teamwork. But first, he assigned me to embed within the team, study and understand the dynamics and come up with process improvement strategies and an action plan. I would be lying if I said that didn’t scare me, what if I didn´t deliver to the expectation? Getting fully immersed from the beginning not only helped me to deliver great results. But it also made me believe in myself, take full ownership of every project I worked on and be hands-on. 

Teamwork is key

Working collaboratively with my team made me realize they had different perspectives and views of things. Once I understood the support process, if I was able to connect the dots, it would translate into valuable insights for the team. I was able to work and help great people from production, maintenance, manufacturing engineering, IT, and even Factory Software teams streamlining response time factory-wide, making their job both easier and increasing efficiency.

It’s ok not to be the smartest in the room

Every single person in any room, hallway, or even bathroom came from a background of tremendous experience and knowledge and knew so much more than I did about something. But that is one of the best things about Tesla, the presence of such brilliance and intellect formed me into the most talented version of myself. It pushed me to be curious, talk to them, and learn about the projects they were working on. I may have not been the smartest but being surrounded by them allowed me to learn tremendously from the way they communicated to the way they approached issues effectively.

Asking questions, no matter what

Whenever I had a question, I would first do my research. If it was still not clear to me I would go ask someone I believed could answer it. If that person didn’t have the answer, most of the time they would direct me to someone who did. By daring to ask, I was able to deliver a project by mapping and verifying how every single system integrated into a 5.3 million square feet manufacturing space. For that task I interviewed +20 people, they all provided the dots to create a powerful tool. It allowed upper management a big picture overview, points of failure, and system integration opportunities.

Embracing change 

After completing my first internship I got an offer to extend by moving to the Industrial Engineering team. My work there took a spin since the team was going through some management changes. I transitioned from working on projects I defined to supporting ongoing ones. Embracing the change enabled me to learn to build capacity models, create dashboard reports, etc. Even jumping into creating financial analysis to inform make vs. buy decisions to save the company millions of dollars.

Moving  fast 

The fast-paced environment not only kept me busy figuring out how to solve complex problems but boosted skill development in a short time-span. I discovered that everything I learned so far in my degree was not a box where I should fit in but rather a tool belt. One in which I could fit different things. It was up to me to use that opportunity to develop myself and learn from others. I was an intern, but I was always expected to deliver as a full-time employee. I had the opportunity to host online meetings with stakeholders from different countries. Things didn’t go as planned every time, and those times tested my ability to make things work. I made sure everyone was on the same page of all aspects of a huge project to ramp up systems for manufacturing.

The Tesla culture

Tesla has an organizational culture that consolidates employees into teams that work towards a common purpose: accelerating the world´s transition towards sustainable energy.  The core strength of the company, in my opinion, is having a strongly defined WHY along with leaders that portray it. Tesla recruits people from all around the world making the workplace tremendously diverse. Diversity drives learning and respect towards other cultures. It helped me understand different perspectives within the world I live in. I believe this unifying cultural approach enables innovation throughout the organization.

Wrapping up 

Looking back to the amazing things I learned during my time at Tesla, it amazes me how everything that seemed uncertain worked out for the better. During my last weeks at Tesla, I was sad to leave the team. But I was also beyond thankful and excited to share that knowledge with the world. I exited that door in Silicon Valley knowing that there is no such thing as impossible. If one is willing to put down the effort and willingness to learn, possibilities are infinite. 

“The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.”-Elon Musk

*Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of Tesla.*

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Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].