“We’re so close to Silicon Valley… We’re working so hard… I so strongly believe we’ll make it there,” wide-eyed, I shared to my roommate late one night, “I can see it so clearly”.
“6PM in New York” was topping Spotify playlists, Elon’s biography had hit shelves just a few months prior; it was 2015, early in first semester of first year - boundless freshman optimism galore. But the years wore on and so did tough realizations. Over time it became increasingly apparent just how out of reach such a trajectory might be. Competition is fierce for such opportunities, let alone at a company like Tesla (with their half a million applicants for only two thousand positions this past year). Only a select few at the highest echelons of their field are ever even considered.
Fast forward to fourth year, in arguably my last chance to pursue this deeply sought aspiration, I made a wish. I submitted an application to the company of my dreams. To work under the greatest visionary of our time, pursuing the most personally inspiring, globally important mission I could fathom. In four fateful days in September, I went from writing my MCAT in New York, signing a lease back in Hamilton, interviewing for the job, and on the night of my first midterm - securing the position.
What a dream!
It was now a race against the clock. Every commitment made to prop up a final school year at McMaster, barely coordinated in time, now to be deferred or immediately reversed. Every document renewed, immigration process followed, and airplane ticket booked. Flying in luggage in hand, no lease, no bank account, no phone number, no SSN, no car - an authentic dose of real life and the quintessential elements of a great story. At 20 years of age, no nothing but the California sun shining on the adventure of a lifetime.
At the fabled Tesla Factory in Fremont, where all orientations are held, was my first
day of work. I made my way across the bay extra-early, aiming for 6:30 AM to the 8 o’clock start time. On arrival I was taken aback - the energy and excitement in the room was striking. The hall was full to the brim with new hires. Over an hour in advance and I could barely find a seat! In my first minutes on-board, it was beautiful to see the immense passion and dedication Tesla’s employees have for the company and its mission, a quality that has only grow during my stay.
The first few weeks I was in heaven. How blessed this all is, to be an Engineering Intern in Palo Alto, California, at Tesla HQ, and out of all the places in the world, metres away from the CEO’s desk. Designing, developing, automating, with dynamic responsibilities across the Bay Area. Fulfilling, meaningful work.
After all, it’s a special time in Tesla history. In the third quarter, Mr. Musk announced Tesla’s first profit since 2013, a huge victory and inspiring result. Imagine the scene: the entire workforce eagerly listening in anticipation, followed by the outpouring of joy from the good news. The atmosphere in the office was simply electric, a euphoric enthusiasm coupled with the overwhelming good feeling of being part of something greater than oneself.
My time in Silicon Valley has been characterized by these amazing anecdotes throughout. It’s a pivotal time to be working for Tesla. As a society we approach a point of no return with respect to climate change. It is so crucial we are successful in accelerating the transition to sustainable energy. Tesla’s success is our success.
My contribution to our mission is through the Autopilot Hardware team, specifically safety systems integration. The work we do directly ensures the safety of our customers, and more broadly, the safety of our roads and communities. To know our small team is responsible for the “Best Safety Rating of Any Car Ever Tested,” three times over, is incredibly humbling. The calibre of engineers at Tesla is otherworldly; these are some of the most driven, creative, brilliant groups of innovators - and the magnitude of the aforementioned headline only scratches the surface.
And how about the weekends in California? They’re characterized by the sheer magnitude of things to see and do. From visiting the beautiful vistas of Big Sur, the coastal beaches, the peaceful trails, exploring San Francisco and LA, or skiing at Tahoe. From ice-skating, to VC events, there is always something to do. An example of this was within weeks of arrival, having the chance to compete at Stanford University’s Health Hackathon (the world’s most prestigious). We learned so much and had a great time. We came 2nd place, our project was funded, and it even made the news in Japan! There are so many opportunities all around it’s incredible.
You never know where life will take you. My undergraduate degree was dedicated to developing biomedical devices with the objective of empowering underserved communities. I am so grateful to Dr. Carlos Filipe of Chemical Engineering; a professor
equal parts brilliant, visionary, and kind. As an undergraduate researcher in his laboratory, I was given a platform to pursue impactful projects I was deeply interested in, simultaneously developing the qualities, highly specialized skills and learning the life lessons, which made my Tesla Internship possible. An unconventional journey in retrospect, but with a clear theme in common: that of never giving up in the pursuit of your passions.
I have so many people to thank. I am so grateful for everything. This has been an incredible experience so far and we’re just getting started.
Looking towards the horizon, the sun is rising.
Written by: George Padeigis
Edited by: Rica Yacon