Tesla's new hiring strategy

May 25, 2018 08:13
Tesla is undergoing a thorough reorganization in order to improve its operational efficiency. Photo: Reuters

Tesla is suffering a brain drain. Recent departures from the electric-car maker include Matthew Schwall, the director of field performance engineering; Jim Keller, autopilot head; Will McColl, senior director of manufacturing engineering; Jon Wagner, director of battery engineering; and Kurt Kelty, director of battery technology.

Most of those who left are in their 30s. They had joined Tesla just three or four years and were already promoted to senior positions.

Despite the departures, founder Elon Musk remains calm. He said he would use the opportunity to conduct a “thorough reorganization” and keep “flattening the management structure” to improve operational efficiency.

It's been reported that Musk may remove some department head or director positions. The company may also rotate roles and find the most suitable staff to lead specific projects.

Apparently, Tesla is also hiring more fresh graduates and interns to harness their creativity. This approach appears to be working quite well.

Last week, interns Mark Comeau and Matthew Lane from Canada’s Memorial University of Newfoundland reportedly came up with a solution to a problem on the Model 3 production line.

Musk decided to give it a go. Their ideas worked and the pair was later hired by Musk as professional problem-solvers, positions previously limited to senior engineers.

Musk also uses hackathon in hiring or making promotion decisions.

He would invite all staff or job seekers to compete in fixing a problem within 48 or 72 hours. Whoever comes up with the right answer gets the job or gets promoted.

In the AI and big data era, experience is becoming less valuable. Yet these advanced technologies can still hardly provide the creativity much needed in the tech industry. This explains Musk’s new hiring strategy.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 24

Translation by Julie Zhu

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist