From Student to Tesla Employee: What It’s Like to Get Hired and Work at Tesla After Graduation

By Maya Rector

Joanna on graduation day, May 2016.

UC Berkeley MEng graduate Jingxian (Joanna) Zhao, MSE ’16, was recently hired by Tesla to work on battery research at their facility in Reno, Nevada. Joanna credits her training in the MEng program as being useful during the competition for her coveted position at Tesla. We spoke with Joanna about how the Berkeley MEng program has helped shape her current career, and about how her new job is coming along.

It all started when Joanna decided to join the UC Berkeley Master of Engineering program’s class of 2016. She was inspired to attend UC Berkeley for her Master’s degree due to its academic reputation, specifically in Engineering. She mentions, “Berkeley was definitely a dream school of mine. The [post- grad career] destinations of most of the graduates from Berkeley MEng program are amazing, i.e. giant companies in the Bay Area and all over the world. It would be helpful for students to join the Berkeley MEng program if they are interested in building a successful professional career.”

It would be helpful for students to join the Berkeley MEng program if they are interested in building a successful professional career.

The MEng program provides many useful courses and resources to help students get into their desired industries after college. The program offers a Communication for Engineer Leaders course that teaches students valuable communications skills, and services such as career services prepare students for the job search.

Joanna recalls, “They provided me with another insight of professional study, which was different from my academic study experience before because it is not exam-orientated. What’s more, the staff from Fung Institute are extremely helpful. Julie and Jocelyn helped me to get prepared for behavioral questions, Alex spent hours working on improving my presentation performance before the on-site interview at Tesla.”

They provided me with another insight of professional study, which was different from my academic study experience before.

When asked what her advice would be for current MEng students, she says it is crucial to “Always be hungry to learn new things.” This has definitely paid off for Joanna in her current fast-paced job at Tesla, where she is constantly faced with new challenges to solve and new insights to learn.

Always be hungry to learn new things.
Photo by Matt Henry on Unsplash.

Although employees at Tesla are tirelessly working to come up with innovative solutions to technical problems, Joanna mentions that the work environment is “very positive and dynamic, since people are enthusiastic about their jobs. It is hard to find a parking lot after 8am, and it is easy to see that everyone’s still around at the workplace after 8pm.”

Challenges can be frustrating at times, but her favorite aspect of the job is the satisfaction in knowing that these challenges always get fixed by herself and her teammates at the end of the day.

Being a woman in STEM has made Joanna even more proud of her accomplishments, given the fact that most engineers are men. Because of this, she sees herself playing an important role in bringing much needed diversity to the field. She has also noticed several advantages to being a woman in STEM, such as bringing in new ideas that come from her point of view as a woman, and being more careful when it comes to figuring out the minor root causes of problems.

Besides the satisfaction of working for a highly desirable company in the Engineering field, there are a multitude of rewarding components to the work Joanna is doing at Tesla. To name a few, she explains that her colleagues are always encouraging, and they are all confident in one another to be responsible for something new. Last but not least, the most rewarding part of her work is “a feeling of satisfaction when you realize that you are doing something that is changing the world,” and we would have to agree that it must be pretty satisfying!

Congratulations on the new job, Joanna!