Company culture

What Is It Like Working at Tesla?

The secrets behind Tesla's coveted roles, culture and recruiting.

“[Tesla] from the outside appears to be an exciting young company to follow and work for,” a current employee said via Indeed. “However, things are not always as they seem.”

Known for its eccentric CEO and a passion for revolutionizing energy consumption, Tesla has been in the public eye since its inception in 2003. Their mission is "to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy," and they're certainly achieving it. With over 48 thousand employees, the car company is paving the way for electric cars and sustainable energy.

Tesla's prestige and brand recognition are undeniable. But what is it like to work for a company that's revolutionizing the automotive industry? We combed through reviews by current and former Tesla employees to find out.

What are the pros of working for CEO Elon Musk?

Many employees have positive things to say about their time at Tesla. The work is deemed challenging yet rewarding, and a lot of folks have fun with their jobs. Two major pros are consistent throughout the reviews: constant innovation and amazing coworkers.

Constant Innovation

As the pioneer for electric vehicles, it's no secret that Tesla is cutting-edge. Employees hear about new Tesla models and experience new Tesla vehicles on a regular basis. The exposure to advanced technology is unparalleled. 

The focus on innovation was often cited as a motivational aspect of the company atmosphere. Plenty of employees work there because they know they're changing the world. For example, this Quora user said:

“I’m in it for the phenomenal company vision, intellectual challenge, fast-paced environment, and the fact that this company is making sexy zero emission cars that revolutionize the way we think about fuel, energy, sustainability, marketing, service, and electric cars."

According to another current employee, this fast-paced, forward thinking environment gives Tesla a "start-up" feel.

“There is absolutely no doubt that my time with such a forward thinking, fast paced start-up has given me an unparalleled experience. It allowed me to learn about an entirely new field as well as explore my own talents and abilities.”

Amazing Coworkers

Tesla attracts a massive talent pool, with over 500,000 applicants per year as of 2017. Recruiters must select the best of the best, so it's no wonder that employees marvel at each other's passion, ambition, and brilliant ideas. 

Some employees say that their coworkers make the work meaningful.

“I loved working for Tesla, as a company,” one Indeed user said. “My coworkers were amazing and I felt as if we were all a family.”

The passion employees have for Tesla's vision is also a major pro. One former employee said this is what made Tesla an exciting workplace.

“Highly skilled individuals with highly technical and problem skills collaborating together with just one goal in mind: Achieve [a] sustainable future for the world,” the Quora user said. “And believe me when I say each and every individual is passionate about it.”

Are there cons to working at Tesla?

Tesla motors has a fast-paced, ever-changing environment. While this appeals to some employees, others focus on the issues it produces. Here are a few that came up in the reviews.

Stressful Work Environment

When a massive company feels like a start-up, it may come at the cost of employee wellbeing. Long hours and lack of proper staffing lead to burnout. One Glassdoor user says,

“Every department is grossly understaffed, just barely above the point of collapse. Nearly everyone has to work harder than they would if they were doing the same job at another company.”

Another reviewer echoes this idea, citing a few reasons the work environment is so demanding. 

“This job takes 10-20 years off your life, no wonder everyone is young there,” one former employee said via Indeed. “It takes advantage of the fact that we don't have families and works us until we are burnt out. The managers are demanding and try to be your friend, but then they just throw things on you for no reason....It is not worth your time.”

An employee working in Austin commented on Glassdoor:

"Tesla is a company that won't bat an eye at laying off or firing people to hit an earnings number — your employment is precarious. Working-class employees on the field and floor are at particular risk because they lack a safety net, but are sold [the] mission in place of financial security. A culture of overwork, typical of mission-oriented companies, drives team members to gladly forsake their time and leisure, and accept below-market pay, for the honor of being a Tesla employee."

This is causing employees to leave the company. Tesla has an even high turnover rate than Amazon. Just last year, their annualized executive turnover rate was 27%. One reviewer mentions this in their analysis of Tesla's stressful environment.

“Staff [morale] is very low, job security is very low, the staff turnover is very high and the work environment is extremely volatile."

Poor Management

Employees complained a lot about Tesla's management tactics. One former employee said the top down model was a major con.

“Mismanaged from the top down,” the Indeed user said. “No real people with automotive backgrounds to guide things in the right direction. Most management is ego driven. They refuse to listen to employees that could actually help management shine.”

Another user claimed that management is entirely haphazard, taking on different forms within each team. This results in horrible communication.

“Each manager is different and has their own vision of the store and what you should be doing,” the former employee said. “Communication was horrible. Be prepared to read Twitter for company news on critical things like pricing and configuration changes.”

According to some, Elon Musk gets in the way as well. Another employee said that, while the CEO has a great philosophy for Tesla's work environment, he creates a lot of stress.

“...he is a relentless micro-manager and singlehandedly derails production, reduces product quality, makes hundreds of people have to work much harder, and causes massive waste because he wants to see every little detail and change those details at literally the last minute,” the Glassdoor user said. “It’s grossly inefficient and is ruining the company bit by bit.”

Tesla's benefits are pretty standard

Let's take a look at the benefits you can get while working at Tesla (and what's lacking as well):

  • Free basic health and dental insurance
  • ESPP with a 15% discount
  • Flexible PTO with manager approval
  • 12 weeks maternity leave and 7 weeks paternity leave for new parents
  • $130 of Uber/Lyft credit
  • Tesla shuttle in the Bay Area
  • $15/day to bike to work and free valet & charging for EVs
  • 30% discount on apparel on the online Tesla store
  • Casual dress in the office
  • Free cereal, coffee, and soda, but no free meals (and many say the food is pricey and subpar)
  • No 401k matching

Employee benefits at Tesla are pretty standard — although some employees complain that the benefits are lacking compared to other top companies (except maybe Amazon).

So, what is the consensus on working at Tesla?

With so many different roles at Tesla, it's hard to get a full sense of what it is like to work there. A service advisor and a software engineer will have very different experiences, especially if they're on different teams.

“It varies hugely between teams and the projects you'll be working on,” a former employee said on Quora. “Tesla is growing quickly into a large powerful corporation and there's massive differences between each individual team. It's almost like asking what it's like to work for the state of California…”

While it's clear that experiences vary based on team, there are a few conclusions we can reach. The overarching theme: working at Tesla isn't for everyone.

Challenges involving communication, management, stress, and potential burnout are visible in multiple aspects of the organization.

For many Tesla employees, however, these challenges aren't deal-breakers. If you enjoy a fast-paced, challenging, and passionate atmosphere, you can still have a positive experience at Tesla.

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Third-party data has been obtained from sources we believe to be reliable; however, its accuracy, completeness, or reliability cannot be guaranteed. Candor does not receive compensation to promote or discuss any particular Company; however, Candor, its employees and affiliates, and/or its clients may hold positions in securities of the Companies discussed.