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Dwayne Lemos

SFU Student Undergraduate
Applied Sciences › Mechatronic Systems Engineering

Organization
The size of Tesla as a company allows for many different types of engineering to happen side-by-side. Don't be afraid to look past your own team or role to learn something new.
Experience Details
Semester
Spring
Summer
Year
2023
Application and Interview Tips

There are so many teams at Tesla doing similar/related work in different offices. If you don't see the team you're looking for in the office you want, don't be too worried - they might not have applications out yet. 

Interviews can vary drastically from team to team. My 3 back-to-back interviews were semi-technical and mostly focused on previous design experience, but have heard other interviewers focus heavily on theoretical knowledge and ask questions related to things taught in classes.

Introduction + Preparation

Do research about the area you will be working at and what people who also work there recommend (in terms of where to live, how to commute, how long you should expect to work, what the working environment is, etc). If possible, contact your direct manager or mentor and work through your expectations and goals before you start so they have a good plan set out for you.

Previous Experience

I had worked at StandardAero (an aerospace company with a location in Langley) doing mostly mechanical design and manufacturing R&D. This experience was very relevant to my ability to get the role I discuss here. It showed I had design experience and could work with similar machinery that related to the team I worked on, which was building.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

Generally getting into the workflow and systems used are pretty straightforward, but different teams use systems, software, rooms you might need to request access to. Get this sorted out ASAP so you can start moving on actual tasks. 

My experience with this was unfortunately negative because software I needed access to required me to jump through many hoops and took significantly longer than expected (more than 2 weeks compared to 1 week for people I helped). My manager did help me when I asked but as they were constantly busy, it was difficult to interrupt them for the multitude of questions I had. If I was to do it again, I would be more bold (and pushy) to get moving faster, especially if it's for a 4 month term.

Day to Day

Being a design intern, the majority of my day was spent on SolidWorks either drawing or simulating parts and assemblies. However, the process is unique for the R&D lines where engineers are also responsible for installing and monitoring equipment and so towards the end of my term, I spent a considerable amount of time installing or observing equipment during runs.

The workplace is casual enough to be able to converse with other interns or coworkers during a coffee chat or lunch. Depending on the team as well, taking time to play ping-pong or pool is acceptable too. Importantly, Tesla is known for long working hours and this was generally the case for the entire work term (averaging around 50-55 hours / week).

Learning and Adaptation

My manager was very aware that my main goal at Tesla was to learn more about engineering and try new things. To foster this, he allowed me to work cross-functionally with other teams with responsibilities interns on my team wouldn’t usually have. For example, I got to work on and learn about PLC programming, spending a lot of time with the controls engineers on tasks that weren’t exactly what I was hired to do. I was able to do this because I set out my expectations for the co-op term.

To adapt to the working environment, I would try to set a good standard for work by completing tasks quickly and with good quality. Coworkers and managers notice “good work” and are more open to collaborate or give more influential tasks.

Accomplishments and Challenges
  • Designed a guard door to save machine downtime in SolidWorks, installed on tool, wrote custom function block with state machine and integrated into machine PLC using TIA V16

  • Led an initiative to reduce machine setup and turnaround time between runs by implementing simple, low impact tools for production workers

Cultural and Environmental Observations

Tesla culture is relatively standard across the engineering organization. There is a strong focus on producing high quality work by utilizing all the available tools, especially in a development environment. A way to think about the engineering mindset is that specific departments operate as a startup with nearly unlimited funds. This means that there is a lot of pressure to complete projects quickly with fast-changing priorities, but also with the funding to be able to try all possibilities without having to argue for feasibility.

There is a strong emphasis on first principles of problem solving, meaning breaking down problems to their core causes that can be described using physics and then solving from that point. This usually means being able and willing to explain out a free-body diagram (in mechanical problems) or flowcharts (in software) is encouraged and is very common.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

Outside of work, team demographics really determine how much teammates interact. I found that finding coworkers interested in similar things or of similar age to be easy to interact with outside of work. However, I mostly spent time with other interns outside of work rather than team members.

Reflection & Tips
Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

The most valuable aspects of this experience were the ability to live in the US and get started at a company I might be interested in coming back to for another co-op term and after graduating.

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

This co-op experience was very relevant to my academic program as I got to use a lot of the kinematics and general physics knowledge taught in the first 2 years of the Mechatronic Systems Engineering program. The Siemens certification program offered also covers some of the controls engineering work done with machine control.

Advice for Future Students

Even living in the Bay Area really requires a car. Although taking the bus or train is technically possible, your living situation needs to be ideal to make that work. Biking (if less than 5km away from work) or driving should be your method of transit. This also gives you lots of options outside work with coworkers or friends.

Author

Dwayne Lemos

SFU Student Undergraduate
Applied Sciences › Mechatronic Systems Engineering
visibility  254
Sep 6, 2023