Albert Yu ’19
Internship: Tesla Factory, Fremont, California
Hometown: Arcadia, California
Favorite Yale SOM class: Negotiations with Barry Nalebuff
Clubs and affiliations: Veterans Club, Technology Club
Favorite New Haven eatery: Pho and Spice
Favorite professor: Ivana Katic
Bonus facts: Amateur apiarist, fly-fisherman
To say that my summer as a manufacturing innovation intern at Tesla was mind opening is a great understatement. I was able to work on projects ranging from strategic manufacturing development to design and aesthetics. More important, I was able to work with coworkers who work tirelessly to help accelerate our journey as a species to sustainable energy while also creating great vehicle designs that are seen on our roads every day. Everyone at Tesla is at the very core an individual contributor. This directly mirrors the journey first-year students at SOM take when working in their small learning teams, be it in the classroom or helping each other out in general during the course of the year. Tesla truly has a flat structure where ideas are judged based on merit, impact, and a sense of urgency—allowing for a constant flow of innovation. This was especially the case for the two projects I worked on.
My first project involved cost and resource analysis. I was able to quantify and detail how Capex (capital expediture) and Opex (operating expenditure) were structured within the organization and how to think about how these costs would help shape the future manufacturing process for next-generation vehicles. A cost model was then created to help inform what type of manufacturing processes would result in efficiencies and cost savings. Classes during my first year at SOM were a key factor in how to structure and calculate applicable cost and resource considerations. As an example, I applied principles from Thomas Steffen’s core Accounting course to determine how assets and liabilities would change if we used a new manufacturing process to create vehicle components.
Sourcing and Managing Funds was another course that was helpful in determining what the best cost drivers are in any given scenario. I still remember the sage instruction of Geert Rouwenhorst and Jacob Thomas in case studies involving appropriate cost drivers for projecting entries within income statements and balance sheets. For example, a cost driver for Capex in a financial model could involve the number of stamping dies (dies that would stamp the steel and aluminum body of the Model 3, for example). As a result, the work that was produced would directly influence how future vehicles would be manufactured.
Another project I worked on used lasers to both increase the utility of a vehicle and optimize aesthetic designs. This project was something I personally dove into, and I was allowed the freedom and space to creatively think about the best way to approach this project. Tesla’s prime location in Silicon Valley allowed me to talk to numerous companies within an hour’s drive and allowed me to quickly iterate and consider different approaches and outputs. Negotiating with potential suppliers on deliverables as an intern was interesting, but best summed up in Barry Nalebuff’s words, as echoed in Negotiations class, on using “creativity as a first resort, not a last resort.”
As a person with an appetite for risk, it was great to have the opportunity to work at Tesla, where my mindset matched company culture. A distinct aspect of my internship was that my mentor and supervisor allowed me the freedom to experiment with multiple projects, and within that, to explore multiple approaches to problem solving. Some of the most difficult problems we solved were based on experimentation and testing to validate whether or not the calculations we produced on a specific problem would be mirrored in an actual production environment. This type of approach allowed me to test basic assumptions in the office, carry out the experiment in the field, and then analyze the results back in the office. In doing so, I was able to make quick recommendations that were quickly implemented on both the assembly line and in new technology development.