We want to personify things. It helps us to understand — or think we understand — something when we can put a human face on it. In the case of large and complex institutions, we are prone to putting far more weight than is logical on one single face of the institution. For example, the president of the United States gets absolutely hammered if gas prices rise a lot, even though the president has very little influence over such prices, especially in the short term. Similarly, we frequently judge companies by their CEOs or even just their most notable figures — Bezos at Amazon, Zuckerberg at Facebook, Musk at Tesla, the Jolly Green Giant at Green Giant, etc. CEOs certainly set key matters of strategy, decide where to deploy funding, and hire or fire executives underneath them. These things matter. But it’s the people creating the products, coming up with the specific innovations and improvements, putting their own inspirations and ideas into the output who make a company what it is. Elon Musk has given much thanks and weight to the tens of thousands of Tesla employees in recent years as the real source of Tesla’s success, but I think that has typically been under-acknowledged.
A CleanTechnica writer, Kyle Field, was just visiting me here in the area of Southwest Florida where I live. He noted that he hadn’t seen a higher concentration of Teslas anywhere outside of California. (He had just driven across the United States and is fond of good, long road trips in general.) I had started to get that suspicion myself after a few trips elsewhere with clearly lower concentrations of Teslas and other EVs. And something came to mind a few days ago. One of my friends here, another CleanTechnica writer (an occasional one), is David Havasi. David worked at Tesla from 2012–2019 and was the person whose job it was to pick a location in Southwest Florida to open up a Tesla store and start selling Teslas in the state — or on this side of the state, at least. For a variety of reasons, he’s got to be one of the best Tesla salespeople the company has ever seen. He’s got a truly impressive and unique skillset for the job, was/is fully immersed in the vision and mission, and put his mind toward understanding customers, where they were coming from, and what they wanted. David retired a few years ago, quite young, thanks to all the Tesla stock he got early on that he 100% held onto, but I think his influence on this region has been large and dramatic. I was talking last week with a mother at my girls’ school who has a Tesla Model X and whose husband has a Tesla Model S (and has read CleanTechnica for years but I’ve only briefly met). I mentioned David regarding something and she immediately knew who he was and perked up. I’ve talked with Tesla sales managers and service people who clearly saw David as a special historical salesperson at Tesla. I wonder how many fewer people would be driving Teslas in this little area of Florida if David hadn’t been on staff for several years. Would we have multiple Teslas at seemingly every intersection?
David is just one person. When Kyle, Chanan Bos, and I toured Tesla’s main Fremont factory and seat factory a few years ago, we talked with a number of manufacturing leaders who were clearly top-notch people who were improving Tesla vehicles almost every day. We also interviewed Jerome Guillen, President of Automotive at the time. Jerome was famous in the Tesla community for years for being a core leader at the company who made good things happen. He was also the person who basically saved Model 3 production more than anyone else when Tesla was struggling to get out of production hell before running out of money and crashing as a company. He was also the person who came up with the idea for a Tesla Semi, and who led that project for years until it stagnated due to lack of enough batteries and he moved on from Tesla. (Though, I just recently found out that, according to reports, he left for much more controversial reasons that don’t don’t put Elon in great light.) Jerome Guillen was clearly critical to Tesla’s success for years, and he was just one person. There was also JB Straubel, Tesla CTO for years, who set up many of the key technical solutions and products that made Tesla what it is. And there are and were people on a much lower level title-wise who have been responsible for countless improvements on Tesla’s production lines and in its product designs. We have a reader who worked there for just a few months and contributed a manufacturing improvement that the company adopted.
Many people who don’t like Elon or who see his many wrong assumptions and statements on other topics pull that into a hatred for Tesla and critiques of Tesla that just aren’t even close to true. Such people may get over that barrier if they read and believe the following statements from someone who claims to have been a former intern at SpaceX. You can read the full blog on tumblr or Twitter (embedded below), but here are a few highlight paragraphs from the beginning:
“Back when I was at SpaceX, Elon was basically a child king. He was an important figurehead who provided the company with the money, power, and PR, but he didn’t have the knowledge or (frankly) maturity to handle day-to-day decision making and everyone knew that. He was surrounded by people whose job was, essentially, to manipulate him into making good decisions.
“Managing Elon was a huge part of the company culture. Even I, as a lowly intern, would hear people talking about it openly in meetings. People knew how to present ideas in a way that would resonate with him, they knew how to creatively reinterpret (or ignore) his many insane demands, and they even knew how to “stage manage” parts of the physical office space so that it would appeal to Elon.
“The funniest example of “stage management” I can remember is this dude on the IT security team. He had a script running in a terminal on one of his monitors that would output random garbage, Matrix-style, so that it always looked like he was doing Important Computer Things to anyone who walked by his desk. Second funniest was all the people I saw playing WoW at their desks after ~5pm, who did it in the office just to give the appearance that they were working late.
“People were willing to do that at SpaceX because Elon was giving them the money (and hype) to get into outer space, a mission people cared deeply about. The company also grew with and around Elon. There were layers of management between individual employees and Elon, and those managers were experienced managers of Elon. Again, I cannot stress enough how much of the company culture was oriented around managing this one guy.”
Former #SpaceX employee explains that $TWTR is a shit show because it doesn’t have an intermediate layer of management that knows how to manage Elon to protect the company from him. Sounds pretty accurate. $TSLA $TSLAQhttps://t.co/0AFL155Tg8 pic.twitter.com/bnNgU5ipfx
— Yoloking of $TSLAQ (@yoloption) November 23, 2022
One can choose to trust the comments of this one former, alleged SpaceX intern or not*, but if you have been following the many illogical and embarrassing tweets coming from Elon lately — and his expected reversals (or quiet tweet deletions) on some of those as reality hits — you may have been worrying about his actual adherence to science, good management, and logic at Tesla. In fact, I have heard similar things to the above SpaceX anecdote from Tesla employees over the years, including some very high-level employees. Keep in mind that it’s thousands of Tesla engineers, designers, salespeople, etc. who work to improve Tesla every day at the granular level who make this company the success it has become.
Tesla continues to lead the EV revolution forward, and that’s thanks to thousands of people working there who believe in it. Critics who see flaws in some of Elon’s tweets and decisions at Twitter shouldn’t assume that Tesla is no longer far ahead of the curve on important topics. The tens of thousands of workers at Tesla are the people who are making Tesla what it is on a day-to-day basis.
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Source: Clean Technica