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The Skills Tesla is looking for when filling Jobs for Engineers

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

It's simple enough to get an idea of the types of jobs Tesla is trying to fill. Just head over to their careers page. Whether you are looking to work at Tesla specifically or not is irrelevant to the value of understanding what skills they are looking for when filling jobs for engineers.

We know that Tesla looks for and attracts top tier talent not only because of their Silicon Valley positioning, eccentric leader Elon Musk or very ambitious mission to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy, but because it's super cool. They are building reputation and notoriety, while simultaneously expanding their footprint. Gigafactories are going up all over the place with the 3rd one in China and the 4th Gigafactory set to be in Germany, the solar panels are rolling out and Tesla charger network is ever increasing.

So, yeah. There's alot going on and it is definitely on the cutting edge.

Why do I highlight this?

Well, it's simple. Contextually these are one of the leading engineering houses. Whilst there are bigger companies with more engineers in the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook and more, these are largely internet companies or consumer electronics. Whilst still bolstering impressive amounts of engineering, Tesla requires a wider range of engineering by and large.

Going through the job requirements of the varying engineer types, we start to see some similarities emerge for what it is that they are looking for, regardless of engineering type.

Take the Automation Controls Engineer for example, the very first requirement is a bachelors degree like all the other companies but usually they don't list literally different verticals of engineering "Bachelor’s degree in Electrical, Mechanical or Mechatronics Engineering, Computer Science or equivalent industry experience".

In the past (2 years ago or so) they have listed for "Experience with Rockwell and/or Siemens PLC's" this has now been changed to "Program ladder logic and structured text on multiple PLC controller platforms (Allen-Bradley, Siemens and/or Beckhoff)"

So there has been this progression to multi-skilled, multi-platformed, with different lenses that has become more of the appetite.

With this mix I thought that what Tesla is looking for in their engineers could serve the best blueprint for the widest range of engineers to think about for themselves. Think of this as the meta engineers skills list.

The Meta Engineers Skills

How we will do this exercise is to first list out the high level set of skills that we found amongst the jobs. So one role requiring programming skills in C++ and another requiring GO will both be listed as "role specific programming". Remember, for specifics you can look at any given role - this will change, but for the Meta Engineer we will look as high level as is practicable.

Second, I will give you the list of types of engineers these sets of skills were extrapolated from to give context so you don't simply say, meh this doesn't apply to me and get caught up in those specifics.

Third, I will provide you the stats describing the number of times a skill was specifically mentioned in a description as a "requirement" in percentage. This might give an idea where to make sure you should have skills in that you can demonstrate. Some generic skills aren't looked at as much as you might think.

Last, Some special mentions of skills listed that I thought was noteworthy, or rising. Surprisingly these are listed in some but these would more likely be Tesla recruiting specific to mention whilst likely being important to majority of good companies.

So Firstly, here's the list of skills and requirements we extrapolated:

  1. Engineering Degree or Equivalent Education

  2. Equivalent Experience

  3. CAD

  4. Subject Matter Expertise

  5. Cross Functional

  6. Leadership or Influence

  7. Communication Skills

  8. Travel

  9. Role Specific Programming

  10. High Quality or Standards

  11. Troubleshooting Skills

  12. Problem Solving Skills

  13. Data Analysis

  14. Multi Tasking and Time Management

  15. Creativity

  16. Teamwork

Now as you can see, that is quite the list. Some generic you see everyday and others maybe less so. The point isn't to say here's skills that's important, because you can probably guess, "they all are".

We've rolled up some of the skills so I'll quickly breakdown some of them for clarity for your reference.

You might have noted troubleshooting skills and problem solving skills were listed separately. This distinction was troubleshooting may refer more to the ability to reverse engineer something, diagnose a situation, debug, look at data and logs to find out what's wrong with something. Problem solving skills were more focused on critical thinking, coming up with design solutions and specific mentions of problem solving.

Equivalent experience was listed where a role wanted multiple years or existing experience as a requirement. Whilst most roles generally required experience in the field, only some of them were specific of having equivalent experience.

Subject Matter Expertise meant you needed to know or have skills in environments that are subject heavy. Either the physics, math, concepts, ideas, tech, programs, ideologies, etc related to something.

Engineering jobs

Okay, so now, Secondly we move onto the types of jobs for engineers that were included in the research:

  • Passive Safety Test Engineer

  • Rendering Engineer, Software Infotainment

  • System Validation Engineer, High Voltage Systems

  • Integration Engineer, High Voltage

  • Field Support Engineer

  • Software Engineer, Data Platform

  • Site Reliability Engineer, Fleetnet

  • Thermal Controls Engineer

  • Autopilot, Systems Software Engineer

  • Product Support Engineer, Product Liability and Field Performance

  • Backend Engineer, Toolbox Software

  • In-Vehicle User Experience Engineer, C++

  • System Validation Engineer, Powertrain Thermals

  • Battery Algorithms Engineer

  • Mechanical Engineer

  • Software Engineer, Computer Vision and AI

  • EMC Test Engineer, LV Systems

  • Functional Test Development Engineer, LV Systems

  • Autopilot, Deep Learning Infrastructure Engineer

  • Mechanical Design Engineer - Geartrain

  • Red Team Security Engineer

  • Video Games Engineer, Infotainment

  • Software DevOps Engineer

  • Software Engineer

  • Automation Controls Engineer

Now obviously some of this skews towards software but it will still be interesting to see how some of the numbers come out. Let's take a look at how the skills stack up for advertised Tesla Engineering jobs. So as promised, Thirdly, take a look at this data:

So some key winners here but before I delve into talking about some of these let me make clear, (DISCLAIMER):

a low percentage of jobs requiring a skill here does not mean you can get by without having that skill at all.

The number one skill or requirement

Subject Matter Expertise was the overall winner - you have to know your stuff! You should be exposed to, speak the language of, know the lingo, the history, the field or the concepts for the role that you want. Some roles you just need to go in generically and "perform the job" but this won't be most cases.

Engineering Degree isn't necessary, necessarily - either this is such a given it wasn't mentioned OR really as Elon Musk has stated before - it is not the most important thing. And the fact that this is third on the list of "requirements" speaks to that.

Coding matters

It seems, as 80% of the roles required some sort of programming that coding matters. Or at least the ability to use some sort of programming software or language. And no, not 80% of the jobs were software engineers or programmers. But even for mechanical or control roles you are seeing a need to be able to at least program in terms of automation, PLC programming, create sequences or breakdown repeatable tasks. If you're not already, get fluent in something.

Now, whilst teamwork, creativity, need to travel, leadership and influence , multi tasking, cross functional work appeared at the bottom end, this does not mean that these are not important. If you say you have everything but work bad in teams, that is not likely going to bode well for you.

Finally. Although not listed so far here's where I take you to land on the noteworthy skills. These ones we noticed were interesting that they were worded this way and may supplement as a more "evolved" push that underlies the lower skills listed.

  • Smart but humble, with a bias for action

  • Self-starter, motivated and guided by strong moral compass

  • An eagerness to learn and share acquired knowledge

  • Able to work under intense time pressure in the presence of stakeholders

  • Strong people skills and positive "can do" attitude

Take a moment to think about the words used in the above. How can I quantify or tell an employer I am smart, but humble about it. The second you mention you think you're smart removes a layer of "humble" instantly. Your moral compass, sharing knowledge, "can do" attitude are all indicators that to fit in a high achieving engineering company, you should be a "good person" whatever that means.

The environment, the fit, counts.

We've all seen "able to work under pressure" before but "in the presence of stakeholders" shows us that you need to keep your stuff together.

Now, take a moment to look back at that data and let us know what you think about those skills. It is far from a prescription and doesn't guarantee anything, but it might change your perspective a little bit.

But one thing I will say, is formal education is good, and soft skills are necessary, but for sure the bulk of what an engineering company wants is you have to be able to do stuff, subject matter expertise was right at the top, only practitioners of the craft can achieve and prove this, role specific programming means you need to have some technical skill and ability to problem solve in a way that lets you scale your problem solving and work in a changing environment. Although not every job listed minimum experience, half of them did and that aligns with what we said before.

Perhaps before you decide to bolster your skill set with another certificate, work on a project that will actually give you practical skills.

Now go and skill up!

Which practical skill should an Engineer start with?

Let's look at the data. Troubleshooting skills and Problem Solving skills both were relatively high at 32% and 24% respectively. Most engineers look at this skill like they do communication skills and developing it specifically is difficult to measure.

BUT. What if there was a method for engineers worth considering?

It works alongside field-specific problem solving techniques and is what i personally used in my career to get promotions and allocated to bigger projects.

It's called the 10+1 Steps to Problem Solving: An Engineer's Guide and it is an Amazon Best-Seller in the Industrial Technology category.

Engineers looking to level up their problem solving skills should start here

10+1 Steps to Problem Solving: An Engineer's guide

Address some of the top skills highlighted in this analysis of skills Tesla is looking to when filling jobs for engineers.

Is there an even easier way to start?

Don't worry, if you don't want to go straight into Amazon, you can read 4 chapters of the book completely free as a member of Engineering IRL! Sign up is free too, so there's not much to lose.

If you want more of this type of content or are interested in Engineering please subscribe and check out our engineering podcast. We cover things just like this topic and help you level up in your career. Breaking down engineering concepts and figuring out how to apply them to real life is what we do and who knows, maybe passively listening to the Engineering IRL show while you drive, workout or do your chores will help you immerse and solidify yourself as a subject matter expert.

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