The back story of an Indian working at Tesla! In conversation with Saiman Shetty.
on Saturday June 3rd, 2017, By Team Ten

Ever wondered what’s it like to work at TESLA?

Ever wondered what’s it like to build things knowing that your work has the potential to influence the entire world?

Meet Saiman Shetty, an Indian working at TESLA.

Team TEN recently got in touch with Mr. Saiman Shetty over a phone call all the way from Silicon Valley, California!

So, let’s dig in to know more about this inspiring Indian.

(​Everything discussed in this interview were Saiman’s personal opinions. He is not representing any organization for this article)

  • Your journey in few words from Karnataka to Silicon Valley!

I completed my schooling and college in Karnataka. I went to a college named Nitte which people call one of the best Engineering colleges in Karnataka. I studied ‘Electrical and Electronics Engineering’ there and one of the subjects that fascinated me was control systems , mainly because of its applicability in many fields and not just one.

I wanted to do a Masters and I thought to myself that ‘Control Systems’  will be the right field to pursue my higher studies in and that’s when I moved to Arizona State University.

Later I moved to Atlanta where I worked for a couple of companies designing control systems for their products.
Meanwhile an opportunity at Tesla came by and I moved to Silicon Valley!

  • You have mentioned in your blog that you used to sit for other classes too (like product design, management) apart from your scheduled engineering classes during you engineering days at Arizona state University, how has this helped you?

I believe that the technical knowledge  people get through  ‘Engineering’ programmes to make a product or provide a service is not possible just by using engineering knowledge alone.
If an engineer possesses designing knowledge, the overall management strategy to take the product to the market, he will definitely have an upper hand.
If a person is agnostic to other  sectors and focuses solely on the technical side of the product,  he may overengineer  things and develop products which do not serve any practical use.

   (Saiman at ASU graduation ceremony)

  • You have experienced the Indian as well as the foreign education systems and industries. People say there is very less innovation in India and just refining of established and proven technologies. What are your views on this topic?

As far as refinement of technology is concerned, I personally don’t think it’s a bad thing because it’s just a group of people wanting to bring something that is already proven in some other place.

And if you take a step back and see many people are benefitted from this, that’s what technically matters.

But that said, one of the things I think is the technological and infrastructure barrier that results in a certain lag.
If you compare with other places, India has a significant cost advantage over the countries in the west.

Like, for example, SpaceX  is coming up with reusable rockets, but even before that  if we consider  the cost of a rocket, India successfully developed them at much lower costs.
That’s true innovation! That’s something to be proud of!

  • How is the selection process at Tesla? Is there any interesting story you want to share?

As far as the selection process at Tesla is concerned, Tesla is one of the hottest companies most people want to work for. There’s a humongous number of applications that come in for few thousand openings that you can see online. Tesla doesn’t mind interviewing several applicants to select the best fit out of the lot. It is a company driven by merit.

As far as my selection is concerned, I was grilled through several rounds (healthy laugh)!

From my overall experience (not only at Tesla), I can say that nobody asked me what’s my  GPA and which school I went to, the only thing that matters is what I did during those days.

  • What is the Tesla’s mission? Why should the company exist?

The mission of Tesla is to accelerate the world’s transition towards sustainable energy. Earlier, the mission statement was to accelerate sustainable transport, and now it has changed to sustainable energy to complete a cycle.

So basically it’s based on three tier system : Energy generation(Solar Panels and Roofs), Energy storage (Powerwall and Powerpack) and energy consumption (Transport vehicles).

  • Based on the latest press release Tesla stated that they have plans of opening a manufacturing plant in India if the response is good. What’s your take on this? What are the challenges Tesla might face while entering into the Indian automobile market?

I will not talk on any plans of the company, for that you’ll have to approach Tesla directly.
However, what fascinated me was that recently I read about the Indian government planning to only allow the sale of electric cars by 2030.

Well, I would not say it’s impossible but it will be difficult for most existing vehicle owners to scrap their petrol driven cars and buy a new one in 13 years.

But yaa, it’s up to the entrepreneurs, to explore if  we can come up with a sustainable, cost effective solution of converting the petrol driven powertrain into electric powertrain.

  • How is Mr. Musk’s vision and execution? How different is it to work at Tesla?

I personally endorse him, I think he is capable of doing things he sets his vision onto.

As far as the environment at Tesla is concerned, its heavily driven by his vision.

Its pretty much exciting knowing that your work has the potential to benefit so many people and nations. A very satisfying experience indeed knowing that between when you stepped into work in the morning and when you stepped out in the night, you’ve done your small part for the future of the planet.

  • Any advice for young budding entrepreneurs and engineers back in India?

I think entrepreneurs should focus on generating value to their customers, developing sustainable products which do not die out in the long run and if they die out it should be only because of some other better product coming in and not any substandard product.

  • Finally, what is one thing in the Indian education system you would like to improve if given a chance?

Ha Ha Ha! Well I would reduce the number of hours we spend in the classes and increase the number of hours we spend outside actually making and building stuff!

You can connect with Saiman via his blog or facebook:

Interview by : Kairav Shah

Team Ten

TEN is an organisation that aims to bring new innovations, startups and innovators in front of the world. We are starting with a new series 'In conversation with' where we will interview young people already creating an impact.

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