Interning Abroad at Tesla Factory & HQ
Hello there! I am Albert, the one in the middle. I am an Indonesian currently studying in Singapore.
Last summer, I was very fortunate to intern at my favourite company in the world, Tesla! To me, it was an exciting adventure filled with lifelong lessons. I am glad to share some of what I’ve seen and learned through this medium! Hopefully, it can be helpful for you.
From Singapore to USA
The Flight Route (Source: laptoptravel.blogspot.com)
The journey began in 2017 in Singapore. I came upon a blog post by Tim Urban (https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/06/how-tesla-will-change-your-life.html). It tells a story of how Tesla plans to eliminate fossil-fuels emissions inon two categories: transportation and energy generation.
The deeper I researched the problem, the more I became interested in the company. Lo and behold, after countless preparations, the dream of interning there became a reality last May! I was offered an internship and signed the contract online. I am really thankful to the recruiter, Chris Garinger, and to my manager, Thanasis Gerokostopoulos, for matching me with a project that I can fill in.
Within 2 weeks, Tesla bought me a ticket, and I flew from Singapore to San Francisco. I moved constantly between AirBnB houses to meet as many people as I can in Silicon Valley.
The First Neighbourhood Where I Lived In
Becoming A New Hire
I arrived at the Tesla new hire building three hours early at 6 AM, as I was too excited! Here I was about to be lectured again about the mission, the employee’s responsibilities, and the products: electric vehicles, big batteries, solar panels & roofs.
Sustainability at Tesla
Tesla’s impact amazed me. It has provided sustainable energy to the Samoa Islands and to Australia. It made its patents freely available on the internet. Most importantly, it changed people’s skeptic perspective of electric vehicles.
Tesla Energy at the Samoa Islands
The day hasn’t finished yet. I’m yet to go to the famous Tesla Factory, which bizarrelybizzarely referred to as “an Unstoppable Alien Dreadnought.”
Inside the Factory (Source: MIT Technology Review)
This place was like a Disneyland for engineers. There were red giant robots everywhere. They carry heavy silver aluminium body parts and weld them together. On the corner, one can see smartly-dressed engineers, macho tattooed technicians, and the robots collaborated together.
Here I met with Thanasis, my manager, and Luke, my mentor. Along with Arisha, four of us formed the field reliability team.
The team uses data analytics to pinpoint the most frequent problems of the vehicles. The goal of that is to increase the lifetime of the vehicles and decreased the rate at which a vehicle has to go to service. What I do daily is talking to other engineering teams about problems on their systems/subsystems/parts and developing the necessary SQL queries and Python scripts to analyze them.
The other famous place I usually worked at is the Tesla Headquarters. It’s about 45 minutes of driving away, and to get there I can take one of Tesla’s free shuttle buses.
Tesla Offices in Silicon Valley (Source: electrek)
In Front of the Headquarters
The headquarters sits on the beautiful hills of Palo Alto, where I literally saw a cowboy riding a horse. Here I build the supporting visualizations for my team’s analysis results. This is also where I meet other Indonesians who work at Tesla! You can read Moorissa’s story on her Medium (https://medium.com/@moorissa/how-life-in-silicon-valley-changed-me-f4587e432dbc).
Edwin, Dhea, Junaedi, myself, and Moorissa
Mini Section: How I Got the Internship
I learned from Sean Lee (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJZCUhxNCv8) that to get most jobs, it boils down to two things: (1) get the interview, and (2) pass the interview.
To get the interview, I (a) acquired the skills and qualifications required and (b) applied in advance. I put only very relevant work experiences on the resume. They were about how I worked on social projects, overseas competitions, and my previous three internships. The skills they are looking for are particularly rare among fresh graduates (like CAN-bus, RTOS) so I pursued them since my early years of college.
To pass the interview, I (a) listed the projects I truly master and (b) practised problem-solving skills. I documented the design decisions of my projects, learned how electric vehicles and batteries work, and practised technical interviewing every day.
#Note: Tesla’s acceptance rate, in general, is 0.5%, so I don’t actually expect to be accepted.
The most memorable part of the internship was definitely meeting the people. One day, I attended a presentation about SpaceX’s Starship projects by Charles Kuehmann. The other day, I listened to the stories of the early days of Tesla from Jerome Guillen and Drew Baglino. On the weekends, I went with the other interns to Yosemite. I also got to see and hear Elon Musk and JB Straubel talking from up close. Last but not least, I am most grateful to have met Chris, Thanasis, Arisha, and Luke for giving me the summer that I will remember for the rest of my life!
The other memorable part is the lessons I’ve learned. I learned to keep searching for a work that I think can be important, that motivates me internally. It’s how Tesla’s mission has driven me to prepare to apply, years in advance. Secondly, I learned to approach things using the first principles or the fundamentals. To increase the lifetime of a vehicle, go down to systems, subsystems, then finally to individual parts. To get an internship, get the interview rigorously and prepare well to pass the interview. Lastly, I learned to act without expectations. So, apply to that dream job, go abroad, or reach out to the people you are inspired by!