lessons i learned this summer

These are some lessons I learned from Tesla. Of course, I am still a developing 21 year old college student, so view these thoughts from that perspective. 

Email - jdchen97@gmail.com

  • On the desire to feel at home – every intern I talked to has admitted to being lost at some point. We all know of those in-between moments, when you look around at this massive machinery of a company and try to figure out what place you have in it. That unwarranted pride I received initially was replaced by an unsettling nervousness, a hurried resolve that I must quickly contribute. What I found was surprising: this uneasy feeling was the most efficient motivator I could ask. It forced me to step in and noob around in circles until I found ways to help. It’s not about seeing how much others are doing and feeling nervous; it’s about seeing the depth to which others can think, and being inspired endlessly.
    • A lesson that accomplishing something new is synonymous with trying something uncomfortable.
  • On quiet moments and caring – one evening, in the haze of doing another GA4 night shift, I spent my lunch break at midnight walking around. After a while, you stop noticing who the associates are and which ones are the volunteers. That giant tent that had been alive not fifteen minutes ago was filled with corners of people, some chatting, most on their phones. But on the assembly line, I saw someone walking around with a microfiber cloth pressed up against vehicles and wiping away each fingerprint. I asked him why he was doing that (given that it would likely get dirty again soon), and his response was simple, “Well, they’re gorgeous cars aren’t they? Let’s keep it that way as often as possible.” It was a beautiful, small thing. 
    • A lesson that care is difficult to articulate but obvious to sense.
  • On humility  - the Microsoft Outlook Scheduler is a curious tool. At a glance, you can see how much of your time you spend in meetings, and how much time is dedicated to thought and reflection in solitude:  those too-rare, unoccupied time blocks of yours that we interns so incessantly wish to fill with romantic notions of mentorship and guidance. And despite this, the weird part about Tesla is how gracious everyone here is with their time; whether I was struggling on a design or simply wishing to know what to buy at Rice Rockit, there is a sense of “flatness” that is fresh and conducive to talking to someone else. People were so generous with their schedules. The reality is that I received mentorship and feedback from some of the brightest minds around. That they carry such humility is testimony to our kindness for one another.
    • A lesson that the most valuable gift we can give or receive is our attention.
  • On Occam’s razor – someone I deeply admire mentioned this thought to me: GA4 is often hailed as a hallmark of speed and progress. After all, the decision to build it was made only one day after I started in May. Within 3 weeks, a car rolled out of the tent as people cheered at Tesla’s sheer ability to will ideas into existence. The thought is this: not to GA4 took a mere 3 weeks to build, and 1 month to substantially improve. GA3 had been chugging along for many months by this point. If a design you had been working on for a year could be supplanted by an idea that takes 5% as much time and still achieves (to a lesser extent) the same goal, then the original design must have been too complicated. After asking around, everyone seems to nod their heads, stating something about how the original intent was to build the ideal machine that builds the machine. But for GA4, it was as Steinbeck said, “Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
    • A lesson that perfection is the enemy of progress.