It Was A Strangely Unexpected Decade Inside Tesla And The Fledgling California EV Industry

Ten years ago, in December of 2009, I walked into the SpaceX headquarters wearing a suit and holding four copies of my resume. I was there interviewing for a job at Tesla; at the time their Los Angeles office was co-located inside SpaceX. The receptionist took me to the cafeteria just outside of mission control to wait for my interviewers. A guy wheeled a rocket engine by me, making a turn to avoid the FroYo machine and a full-size replica of an Iron Man suit signed by the cast of Iron Man 2. Mickey Rourke signed the crotch. I realized pretty quickly that Iron Man and I were the only two people in the building wearing anything resembling a suit.

I thought this company’s success was unlikely, but that’s part of what made it interesting. I was far from the only one in doubt; all of my friends in the automotive industry thought I was making a huge mistake. A colleague who had worked with Tesla through a software supplier told me, “They have no idea what they’re doing.” My OEM friends had variations of the same theme that could be summarized as: “Look, nobody is buying electric cars, and if they do, we’re just going to swoop in and crush you.”