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Internship Spotlight: Kevin Park '17

What are you doing this summer? We asked rising second-year MBA students to check in from their summer internships, where they are applying the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM.

Kevin Park ’17

Internship: Tesla Motors, Inc., Gigafactory, Sparks, Nevada

Home country: Seoul, South Korea

Favorite Yale SOM Class: The Executive

My summer at Tesla has been priceless. I have worked on various projects within such a short time, and because Tesla is a unique place that is both a big company and a startup, everyone can make a direct impact. I learned to be agile and that, when employees are aligned with a mission like they are at Tesla, the organization can achieve impressive goals very quickly.

As part of the Gigafactory design team, I am building Gigafactory 1, a factory that is critical to launch an affordable, mass-market electric vehicle, Model 3. We refer to our work as “building a machine (Gigafactory) that builds the machine (Model 3).” I have been leveraging what I have learned at Yale SOM by taking into consideration multiple stakeholders—competitors, customers, investors, employees, innovators, and executives. I’ve also recognized three principles from SOM in practice at Gigafactory.

Tesla Model S and X

The first involved reinventing manufacturing processes by imagining the factory as a product and to never stop innovating. Similar to the marshmallow challenge in Innovator class, balancing innovation and structure is key to achieve this goal. Therefore, I designed a new workflow that optimized the engagement between teams and clarified deliverables. This helped reduce the overall factory design schedule from 17 months to only three.

Second, Tesla uses first principles physics analysis for all work, from development to decision making. As I learned in Modeling Managerial Decisions class, the frame that I use at the very first stage affects whole processes and results. I used this approach when designing battery manufacturing processes to optimize the speed and density of production, and suggested a plan to reduce inventories by 43% at the bottleneck process.

Third, I experienced the true value of vertical integration at Tesla, which I learned in Competitor class. The success of our mass-market vehicle depends on how we can eliminate double, triple, and quadruple marginalization. I am working on a battery recycling project to revise the supply chain by recycling raw materials from both manufacturing processes and end-of-life products.

On July 29, we had the Gigafactory grand opening event. I volunteered to run the test drive of Model S and X for our guests. My colleagues and I shared the very same passion for Tesla as our customers. We shouted with joy when Elon Musk gave a speech for the event, saying Gigafactory will have the largest footprint of any building in the world. This summer was the pinnacle of my life, and I am lucky to be on board in this world’s transition to sustainable energy. Thank you, Yale SOM and Tesla.

Watch a video about the Tesla interns’ experience this summer.