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Elon Musk hires 2 Newfoundland interns who solved problems at Tesla factory (cbc.ca)
144 points by ranit 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments

Interns are awesome and smart. Never give them garbage work. Give them a challenge and see if they can handle it. Worst case scenario, you throw away their work after they leave, and they have learned some stuff.

Sometimes it's good to give them a repetitive project where you give them one task and have them repeat it. I once trained an intern to do molecular biology from basically nothing, he made 50 mutants and tested 25 in three months. He got a publication out of that.

On the other hand, I have an intern now, who I've taught go (she made a cli and learned tdd) and had her set up a tensorflow deep learning pipeline, which is not repetitive and very exploratory.

I want to be your intern!

Yep it comes with it's perks - I arranged a one-on-one lunch with a nobel laureate for each of my interns back when I was a scientist!

I thought this was the whole point of summer interns, the other point of summer interns being that it's a trial run before you decide to hire them full time after graduation.

That's what my old company used to do (who originally hired me as an intern). The interns were tasked with a brand new project, something that wasn't business critical but would be a great new addition to the product.

Then when we came on board full time were were slotted into the regular development flow.

Using interns as grunts seems like a poor allocation of resources.

If you're not using interns as a way to develop your future talent pipeline, you are doing it wrong.

Companies that are well run and growing do this. A lot of other companies uses interns (particularly unpaid interns in years past) as ways to save money on menial labor.

Unfortunately a lot of non tier 1 status companies especially in Europe and the developing world treat "interns" as a way to get cheap workers and abuse the system.

Non high end tech interns where always treated like grunts especially in high status industries and often had to work for free.

I can't speak for the developing world, but I wish they hadn't outlawed unpaid internships in the US. In a world where millennials are having a hard time breaking into the work force because they "lack experience" we should not have increased the barrier to getting experience.

One of my favorite Youtubers is Curtis Stone whose channel is about micro-farming, basically farming in your yard for income. He is a big proponent on education and used to allow people to come intern with him for a few weeks (unpaid) to learn how to start their own micro-farm and then they'd leave and start their own small businesses. Now he can no longer do that, he instead has to charge them tuition. The students basically have the same experience they would have had as unpaid interns, but now they have to pay for the privilege. This is the height of stupidity.

Even in other industries you will not remain unpaid very long if you are doing valuable work. If you get an unpaid grunt work job doing drywall, after a few weeks you can pretty much do drywall on your own. Quit and start your own drywall business if they won't hire you for decent pay. You'll likely make more as a small business owner anyways.

You havn't thought this through, unpaid internships massively massively favor kids unpaid internship at an IB or similar high status job- poor BAME kids or kids from a middle class back ground wont get a look in.

To the extent that employers might prejudice against bame kids, do you think raising the cost for employers to try them out helps that situation?

It stops rich kids monopolizing the desirable internships which are a pathway to high status/paying jobs - which is a start.

You mean the rich kids who already have the connections to get the better paid internships to begin with?

Don't think you read the thread - The really desirable internships are the unpaid ones at high status places where its who you know that counts no what you know.

I have read the thread. I agree that high status unpaid internships will largely go to already wealthy, connected candidates. I fail to understand how paying a wage to those wealthy already connected candidates will help the BAME kids.

>>often had to work for free.

At least in the USA it is illegal for an intern to work for free if that intern is adding value to the company.

The relevant guideline is this:

"The employer doesn’t benefit from work the intern is doing, “and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.” [1]

[1] https://www.propublica.org/article/when-interns-should-be-pa...

If you don't have tier one interns and you're not the kind of employer who knows Nobel laureates like elsewhere in this thread... Then you can probably just throw away your interns work after the summer. They are just "normal" college students after all. Personally, I know none of my student work should have been used in production.

yeh right and we know that labour law isn't massively flouted

Worst case scenario they spend 3 months banging their head against a brick wall making no headway.

Only if you don't assign a capable mentor.

Interns are great. It's really the only interview process that doesn't suck right now, and I have a newfound respect for new college grads after working at a company with a solid intern pipeline.

Worst case they waste your time which is a big deal.

While I generally agree with your statement, that is nowhere near the worst case scenario.

I've experienced awesome interns who were worth their weight in gold, but I've also experienced interns who were nothing but a massive distraction for the team, a complete waste of time in a startup environment where time is the least available resource, and source of nothing but drama regularly disturbing the entire team.

I was really hoping this was about dogs.

I think this is a nice motivational story for local kids to get excited about finding their place in the workforce.

When I started working I had no idea that the key to success was as simple as giving a crap and being consistent in your good work. I figured that it would take me decades to work on some secret skills to move up, but now I know that's not true.

Amen. Turn up when you say you will, deliver what you promised, on time, and generally give a minimal damn, and you’re already ahead of 95% of your co-workers. I don’t think it will ever stop amazing me.

Why is this news? This happens in pretty much every company.

I think this kind of submission shows how favorably some business leaders are treated when they've passed a certain threshold. After that point anything they do or touch is considered newsworthy, no matter how trivial. Furthermore, everything under the sun is attributed to this person's personal and direct influence.

Did you actually read the fine article? This was not your average intern experience. They had guts, insight, and (probably) luck and got the personal recognition of the CEO. This is obviously different.

Yeah exactly. Compare the self-driving fatalities from Uber and Tesla and see the immense bias.

There are other variables at play in that disparate treatment. Uber has a much longer track record of actively malicious behavior - sabotaging competitors, stalking journalists, building tools that blacklist inspectors and law enforcement, plus the overall toxic culture that got Kalanick pushed out.

Thats the bias though! I dont care about those things, I care about the safety of self driving cars.

I don't really like putting my safety in the hands of malicious actors.

Because this is Canadian news, and you'd be surprised how little happens in a country with gun controls, Police who take protect and serve seriously regardless of your skin color, and a tenth of the population of our neighbors to the south. The bar is pretty low for news in Canada, and that's the way we like it.

I have great respect for Canadian law enforcement. But its not all roses. Canadian native women have a shameful unsolved murder rate - the 2nd worst in the developed world. So some room to improve.

Canada's native population has suffered. But it's important to put things in perspective. In 2016 there were 142 female aboriginal homicides total in all of Canada [1].

In comparison it takes Chicago alone only 2 months to hit that number.


What a strange comparison - apples to gang war zones.

If Chicago is too violent then it's equivalent to 6 months in NYC which most people consider safe these days.

There seem to only be 718500 Aboriginal females in Canada and there are 8.5 million people in NYC and in 2017 there were 334 murders.

So 1 murder per 5000 Aboriginal females in Canada and 1 murder per 25000 people in NYC.

With those numbers it sounds like Canada's police force needs a lot of help in lowering that murder rate.

Well there ain't been anything new on that front for quite some time.

Ever hear of the Highway of Tears? Canada has its own racial issues.

As a fellow Canadian, you're way overstating things. Canada might not have the same problems as the US, but oh boy, do they have problems.

As my (Ontarian) friend said just now: "Smart Newfies is always news".


And this is the reason some of us Newfoundlanders don't like the word "Newfie."

The negative stereotype exists regardless of the word.

It is nonetheless _reinforced_ by it.

Hahahahahahaha! Making fun of people because of where they were born is so funny!

Getting personally hired by the CEO of a $50B company happens in pretty much every company?

If that CEO micromanages the company the size of the company doesn't matter.

AFAIK he is known to fire all micromanagers, and let the engineers solve the problems in their style. On the other hand GM is known to be union infected. No certificate to turn that knob? Sorry, not me. Will have to wait.

GM is worth $50 billion. Do you really want to claim that Tesla is as big as GM? Tesla has 1/5 the employees of GM, 10% of the revenue, and has sold about 200,000 cars total compared to the 9.6 million GM shipped last year alone. The story is the same for any other big manufacturer.

Tesla is a pipsqueak. It's just ludicrously overpriced.

Your valuation approach would have suggested that Facebook was ludicrously over priced at its IPO and that it was a pipsqueak compared to Google. Investors were betting the Facebook business would do what it has done: grow dramatically and more than offset the valuation having been pulled forward. Your approach collapses in the face of accounting for high rates of persistent growth.

Tesla is growing radically faster than GM, which hasn't increased its sales or global market share meaningfully in 15 years.

Tesla, 2016 -> 2017 sales growth: 67%

GM, 2016 -> 2017 sales growth: Negative

That kind of growth by Tesla universally gets you a huge valuation adjustment vs a company with zero or negative growth.

Investors are betting that GM's future is not particularly bright, that there is no growth in the business. It is discounted accordingly, which is why it has such a hilariously low PE ratio (six times earnings in real terms).

When Amazon passed Walmart in market value, it had minimal profit profit and 1/6th the retail sales of Walmart.

The market isn't primarily valuing Tesla based on what it's doing today. It's a bet that Tesla will continue to produce considerable growth for many years to come.

>Tesla, 2016 -> 2017 sales growth: 67%

>GM, 2016 -> 2017 sales growth: Negative

If I sold my car on craigslist today, I'd have an ∞% sales growth rate.

Worth doesn't always correlate against size. Worth is what someone is willing to pay for something. Tesla may be overpriced but to disregard Tesla's value based on a size comparison is ill-conceived.

We're talking about size here. Supposedly the CEO of a $50 billion company is too busy to concern himself with a lowly intern. But that $50 billion company is actually pretty small, just with a disproportionately high market cap.

But also, hell yes does worth correlate with size. It's only in postmodern Silicon Valley economics that a company with twenty employees and no revenue can be worth a billion dollars. All the standard ways of pricing a stock I know of take size into account, either directly or indirectly.

You are talking about size. The person you're replying to was obviously talking about market capitalization. It'd be nice if people talked to each other instead of talking past each other.

BTW, the standard ways of pricing a stock includes growth potential, which is why Tesla has that crazy valuation. It's totally fine if that's not the valuation technique you prefer, but it exists.

Tesla has 10% of GM’s employees? That’s nuts. Does GM have a lot more contractors?

This is based on the wikipedia stats, but GM built ~9,600,000 vehicles with ~180,000 employees in 2017. Telsa built ~100,000 vehicles with ~35,000 employees in 2017

Tesla is weird as a car company. They build more stuff in-house than usual, and they have a huge luxury car division.

I doubt he personally supervised and hired them. He probably never met them but someone else recommended them being hired. This is just PR.

As an intern, no less.

I've got plenty of friends who works at the Big 3. Doubt that any of their interns solve production problems in their car factories. Then turn around and solve problems in an entirely different type of factory that is as far away from cars as you can get. Usually the interns get coffee and deliver paperwork from one floor to another.

Which Big 3? No one delivers coffee in tech.

The "Big 3" in the US usually refers to Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler

I assume he meant GM, Ford, and Chrysler/Fiat

Ford - GM - Chrysler.

because they are canadians and this is a canadian newspaper

And not many people live in Newfoundland.

Hey there are tens of us.

I spent a summer in Newfoundland a while back. Really wonderful place. I would not want to be there during the winter though.

Tesla/Musk has incredibly good PR.

Reality is catching up though.


this is paid advertising at most.

i can count 100s of companies that hire interns. that is the point of companies offering internships.

flag this to oblivion.

This story is just Elon trying to attract employees who're willing to work 60 hours for a shit salary.

I'm curious in what characteristics Elon saw in these individuals. Solving a problem once is great, but Elon clearly saw something deeper in them. I wonder if he sees what Nikola Tesla called the "finer fibers"...

“But instinct is something which transcends knowledge. We have, undoubtedly, certain finer fibers that enable us to perceive truths when logical deduction, or any other willful effort of the brain, is futile.” Nikola Tesla

Well, according to the article they solved two different problems.

They were good problem-solvers and Tesla needed a PR win. Let's not mysticize Musk more than has already been done.

"Startup hires 2 interns." is A1 news.

Can we say this is peak Tesla hype yet?

The hype could pull a 787

I wish we learned about what problem they solved.

Elon did say they were having a hackathon to fix problems on the two major bottleneck robots the other day...

It has an undertone of humor, because in Canada people from Newfoundland are often the butt of jokes, sort of like in America we have jokes about rednecks or Fark-style "oh, Florida again!" observations.

So to have 2 "Newfies" fix problems at a high tech enterprise like Tesla is both a bit of pride and a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor.

Woah, there! Don't use the N word. It's Newfoundlander.


Honest question here, it's my understanding that a bunch of states have laws that state something along the lines of:

Interns can only be interns if they do work that A. Primarily benefit their learning and growth and B. Their labor would not normally be done by a full time employee.

Is this understanding correct? If it is, wouldn't these two interns constitute a breach of said policy?

The rule you mentioned is for unpaid interns only. Paid interns can do any work that full time employees do, and that's exactly what all big tech internships are about.

Ah, thank you for the clarification!

I guess they never got a chance to negotiate offers...

Great for these guys.

But it really makes me think that Tesla has big problems. There just shouldn't exist problems that relatively untrained eyes can spot and fix in short order. Maybe this is related to production difficulties overall?

And don't get me wrong, the fact that the solution was accepted, implemented and rewarded so quickly is a testament to Musk (and his managers). My point is just that either this was lightning striking or the production line has inexcusable issues -- that is low-hanging opportunities for improvement.

> There just shouldn't exist problems that relatively untrained eyes can spot and fix in short order

Many companies have big glaring inefficiencies that employees become blind to over time. Often times, new hires will be acutely aware of them, but won't speak up because they're new. Within a few weeks or months, they just become acclimated to the situation and work around it.

I second this. I work in a rather large company, and believe me, there are "opportunities" everywhere. The trouble is there is usually such a level of bureaucracy, that it takes real effort to push a change.

> There just shouldn't exist problems that relatively untrained eyes can spot and fix in short order.

There exists no such thing, at least in the current workplace. We give importance to speed and agility (which makes sense) and this always leads for rooms for improvement even to a bystander. A direct corollary of this is that you will also have some problems/optimizations to be done and it helps to fix your biggest problem always.

>There just shouldn't exist problems that relatively untrained eyes can spot and fix in short order.

Where is your history that you find these uncommon?

I can't think of a place I've been where there one isn't surrounded by opportunities to improve (although I've definitely been in large organizations where they just become part of the everyday cruft that never gets addressed).

I'd of course expect more in an organization like Tesla that is massively scaling at the fastest possible rate.

So yes, it's an example of a problem they've got probably 1000s of, but also a great example that the fixes were online so fast...

What a pile load of propaganda.

For Tesla or Newfies?

TLDR; Two engineers with marketable skills get jobs. Slow news day in Newfoundland?

I was traveling in Newfoundland last summer (Deer Lake) and someone phoned into the radio station reporting that they saw an overly large moose. This may be the biggest story of the year.

Having to listen to CNN during lunch breaks this is refreshing. The world needs less exciting news.

Amazing that they used to be their own country.

"Local boy makes good" is still an article that sells local papers.

In the tradition of The Press & Journal and Aberdeen paper "Titanic latest; NE man dead".

What actual problems did they solve?

As somebody who has been in a similar situation, I must warn that accepting Elon's offer could be perilous to them in long term. It looks like at least one of them will be dropping out of school before graduating to start working for Tesla. Later in his career, he might regret that. It is cool to impress big company and get a job, but if he is as smart as it sounds, he will have no problem finding a job after graduation.

Speaking from the software side, it pretty much always seems better to take the job and leave school if you have to. Once a person has a couple years work experience I don't really even care if they went to school at all.

Not all employers are as broadminded I suspect I didn't get past a screen for one of the FANGS. I suspect the Spanish recruiter saw I had not got a degree. But ignored the fact my fist Job was on the campus of Cranfield at a world leading RnD organisation - Cranfield being a Masters and Phd only University at the time :-)

This may be true if you assuming that a degree is only important as a way to get a job. However, if you put a value on stuff they actually teach, getting a good foundation education in your field will make you a better specialist in a long term.

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