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What’s it like to be a Tesla intern?

Tesla Internship Experience

When you think about interning at a typical car company, say somewhere like Ford, you may not immediately think of long hours and an extremely stressful and incredibly challenging work environment. After all, some internships are as much about wining and dining impressionable college students as they are about putting interns through the ringer.

But if there’s anything we know about Elon Musk and the way he runs Tesla, an internship at the electric automaker likely centers more on proving you belong at the company rather than the company trying to prove how great and fun of a work environment they can provide. Tesla is admittedly looking to change the world, and only hard and decidedly serious workers need apply.

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Or so we thought.

As it turns out, interning at Tesla, while challenging, may not necessarily be the gulag of a work environment some might have assumed.

Recently, one particular Quora thread detailing what it’s like to be an intern at Tesla yielded a few surprising answers.

For instance, one answer from a former intern named Eddie Lin describes a day filled with breakfasts, cups of Chai, games of ping-pong, and of course, a few solid hours devoted to work. Overall, the work/life balance Lin portrays seems so, well, normal.

At the same time, Lin intimates that his experience may not have necessarily been the norm. When describing “The Other Intern Experience”, to contrast his own, we see quite a few references to days filled with work and panic.

8:30AM – 12:00PM
1. Eat cereal while trying every different kind of milk available (there were a lot)
2. Be assigned a new project that needs to be completed in a ridiculously short timeframe utilizing skills that are either unfamiliar or underdeveloped
3. Panic
4. Panic w/coffee
5. Work on projects
6. Work on projects
7. Panic

Still, the overall consensus seemed to be that Tesla, while a challenging work environment, is less harrowing than most reports make it out to be.

For instance, one powertrain engineer added:

Free breakfast in the morning horray, then work on your main project for most of the day and side projects are fillers for when you need a break. Have lunch with other interns. Mentors always there for consulting and the work hours are reasonable so you can have a life outside of Tesla (if that’s what you are into..). You look forward to getting to work each day!

Another Tesla experience worth highlighting is this Reddit answer penned by a former Mechanical Engineering intern at the company. The answer is a year old, but we can’t imagine that the company culture hasn’t changed that much over the last 12 months.

The answer reads in part:

The role I was in was very similar to that of a full time mech eng. They dumbed it down just a tad but it was above and beyond what other typical companies would expect of their interns. Tesla is not a typical company and you should not work for them unless you’re willing to put in 200%

-You will find out about your compensation if/when you get your offer. Glassdoor will give you a ballpark figure. Monetary compensation isn’t the most important issue when choosing an internship. I would work for Tesla even at minimum wage.

-Pros: Great experience for MechEs. Totally changed my resume and has given me a lot of confidence in finding the right job after graduation. -Great environment. The culture is amazing because you are surrounded by smart people. The cleanliness of the factory is another biggie for me having been in other dirty MechE environments.

-Independence: I was thrown in the deep end with my projects having received very little help from my superiors. They wanted to whip me into shape, ready to perform as a full time engineer. I initially saw this as a negative but I prevailed and am glad they treated me this way. This may be a con if you’re looking for a place to mentor you to further hone your MechE skills. You should go in to Tesla well equipped with technical skills. -Resources: A lot of resources are available for you to use in your designs/tests/etc. By tools I mean materials, machine tools, softwares, and money.

Cons:-Long hours, this is typical for all employees. According to some media article, Elon has called out others for not working enough Saturdays. Not sure if this is true. -Not as cushy in terms of corporate perks compared to say Google which provides meals to their employees.

Overall: I loved working at Tesla. Looking forward to a few more years with them. It is a great place to be a mechanical engineer.

Elon being a jerk: I have met him personally and I do not believe this is accurate. Use common sense and don’t approach him while he is working away at his desk. Several interns have done this and I’m not sure what they were thinking.

Curious for more? Well, we’ve got you covered. Tesla recently started posting a few promotional videos highlighting what life is like as an intern at the company.

And one more for good measure.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.