Tesla’s military veteran hires are a perfect fit for Fremont’s high-tempo culture

In California, US military veterans are finding a place where they could thrive. Through its “Veterans at Tesla” program, Tesla is putting a special focus on placing more former military personnel in leadership positions. In the Fremont factory alone, veterans are utilizing their skills to help the company in its mission to accelerate the transition to renewable energy.

Navy and Marine Corps veteran Kristen Kavanaugh is one of these leaders. The veteran, who served in Iraq and joined the electric car maker in 2016, currently serves as the head of Leadership Development for Tesla. She also heads the electric car maker’s Veterans Task Force, which helps former military personnel grow and advance to leadership positions within the company. Speaking with the CBS San Francisco, Kavanaugh notes that Tesla’s intense work culture is familiar territory to former military personnel.

“Our veterans have deployed. They’ve worked under stressful conditions, they are used to high operational tempo, and that’s what we have here at Tesla, and it just seems like a natural fit for what veterans are bringing to the table, and then what Tesla is offering them from a career advancement standpoint,” she said.

The “Veterans at Tesla” program has been growing steadily over the years. The Fremont factory, for one, employs about 10,000 workers, and so far, around 800 are former military service members. The number continues to grow, and members of the program are continually looking to move up the chain of command.

Speaking to CBS, Ryan (last name not given), who worked as a logistics specialist in the Marine Corps, noted that his work at the electric car maker is quite similar to his tasks in the military. He further stated that his civilian career had been all but re-energized by his work at Tesla.

“Instead of beans, bullets, and band-aids, we make sure that this plastic or aluminum part gets delivered on time so it can be put into the cars. Not since I left the Marines have I felt a sense of purpose like I have at Tesla. We’re not just making cars. We’re changing the world and history has its eyes on you,” he said.

When Elon Musk was trying to get SpaceX off the ground, he and his growing team of employees wanted the best that the talent pool had to offer. Operating under Silicon Valley principles, the company expects its employees to push incredibly hard to meet targets. Thus, for the private space firm, its recruiting pitch was simple — SpaceX was “special forces” — and it was this pitch that ultimately attracted talent that helped the company achieve the milestones it has attained over the years.

The same could be said of Tesla. The company has grown significantly over the 15 years it has existed, and it has reached a point where it is disrupting the auto market and challenging legacy carmakers like Ford and GM head-on. As noted by Elon Musk in a recent interview with tech journalist Kara Swisher at the Recode Decode podcast, though, Tesla’s growth over the years was only possible through exhausting work from himself and the company’s employees. When asked what Musk gives credit to with regards to Tesla’s survival so far, the CEO noted that it was due to “excruciating effort,” and “hundred-hour weeks by everyone.”

As proven by the company’s profitability in the third quarter, such exhausting efforts are starting to pay off. With these accomplishments in mind, much credit is due to the company’s own “special forces,” who have gone from the frontlines of the battlefield to the demanding pressures of Tesla’s production lines.

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