The Ins And Outs Of Being A Part Of The Elon Musk Workforce


MAR 8 2017 BY EVANNEX 21

Elon Musk at Universal Studios Debuting Tesla Energy’s “Solar Roof” Late Last Year


It’s been said that working for Tesla CEO Elon Musk is something akin to being in the special forces. But, according to Australian Financial Review Magazine*, deeper insights into the Elon Musk workplace can be learned from Brandon Spikes. Spikes is Musk’s former Chief Information Officer at SpaceX who “started working with the maverick tech visionary at his first business Zip2 (a digital Yellow Pages) and was the only [Zip2] employee to follow him to PayPal and then SpaceX.” Spikes says, “he wanted to keep working with Musk because of the ‘bright and fast-witted’ people he always hires.”

*This article comes to us courtesy of Evannex (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Matt Pressman.

So if Musk is the real life Iron Man, what are his superpowers in business? In an interview with Spikes, he explains that Musk’s “strength comes in saying no. It’s not something that average humans like to do because it doesn’t come naturally, but knowing how and when to refuse something is one of his greatest strengths because it creates an environment where excellence is required. Working with a leader like Elon involves proposing ideas, be it you want to hire someone or you want funding, and… he [Musk] is required to green light or red light these propositions and he says ‘no’ more than he says ‘yes,’ and that’s rare.”

And although Musk assembles great teams, he’s willing to (personally) get his hands dirty when problems arise according to Spikes. On the one hand, Musk is always “surrounding himself with excellent people and being able to maximise their potential is something he has always done.” On the other hand, “when necessary he’s also more than capable of being hands on, more so than anyone else. He knows every aspect of the business, but it isn’t micro management. When he has to be hands on, he really has a grasp of the controls and knows how to do it. Even in my area there were times when he showed some real IT skills.”

Above: Elon Musk talks about first principles (Youtube: innomind)

Inc. also writes of “Elon Musk’s surprising strategy for thinking about everything” in which he uses the physics-based first principles thinking. Musk has noted, “One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.” Sage advice. If you’d like to learn more about Elon Musk, be sure to check out this infographic*…


*Source: Australian Financial Review Magazine / Infographic: Entrepreneur

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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21 Comments on "The Ins And Outs Of Being A Part Of The Elon Musk Workforce"

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At least one error: Elon Musk is not a “co-founder” of Tesla Motors, even though he claims to be. Tesla was founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. Musk was brought aboard to run the funding after Tesla was incorporated.

And is Musk really invested in any Hyperloop project? He came up with the idea, but left it to others to develop. That’s not very surprising; he doesn’t exactly have a lot of extra time on his hands!

There are officially five co-founders of Tesla, including Musk:

Despite Elon being declared one of five “co-founders” by a judge, as the result of a lawsuit, I prefer actual facts and actual history.

The idea that some judge gets to rewrite history, so that we get pravda (roughly translated: “official truth”), smacks of Soviet-era official revisionism and Nineteen-Eighty-Four style doublethink and the “Ministry of Truth”.

For some actual Truth, rather than pravda, let me quote Wikipedia:

The company was incorporated as Tesla Motors in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning who financed the company until the Series A round of funding.

Musk led the Series A round of investment in February 2004, joining Tesla’s board of directors as its chairman…

Eberhard disagrees with you, based upon his Sept. 2009 comment, ending the dispute:

“As a co-founder of the company, Elon’s contributions to Tesla have been extraordinary,” Eberhard said.

I’ll go with what Eberhard said when he dropped his lawsuit, closed his website, and settled the matter with Musk. Since that is very much the legally binding current Status Quo.

I guess it depends on your definition of co-founder. a person who founds or establishes something with another.

The term has been used for others before, that were not there in starting the company, but were instrumental in helping the company to be established.

Elon is not a founding partner, but is considered a co-founder in the establishment of the company.

Personally I favor the word co-founder to mean they started the company day 1, but I think overtime the word has been liberalized by others who want the respect/reputation of someone who started the company.

As long as it’s made clear, that Elon did not create or start Tesla, I’m OK now with the term co-founder, but of course many articles do not make the distinction clear.

It was my understanding that Elon came abord after they picked the target vehicle for their first vehicle, but in between the first car prototype, and the increased costs of production needing more funding.

So as an organization at the creation, no, he was not actually a ‘Co-founder’, but as he was greatly involved before any customer got their Roadster, and had pushed Martin out of the CEO position by that time on concerns that Martin was out of control in the spending dept, due to poor cost controls, so Elon Was a ‘Co-founder’ of the company by the time the Roadsters started delivery.

@AlphaEdge: Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Perhaps I need to consider that the term “founder” may have a broader meaning than how I use the word. Looking at the root word, “found”, my Merriam-Webster dictionary gives three meanings; the first is “to take the first steps in building” and the third is “to establish (as an institution) often with the provision for future maintenance”. Within the parameters of those definitions of “found”, I don’t see any way to justify calling Musk a “co-founder”. He wasn’t there when Tesla Motors was established, nor when the first steps in building occurred. However, if I remember what the judge said when he made his ruling, it was something along the line that altho Musk wasn’t there when the company was incorporated, he had great influence on what the company has become, and that influence started not that long after the company was incorporated. I can’t say that this changes my opinion, but I’ll allow that reasonable people may have different opinions. * * * * * @Nix: I read Martin Eberhard’s blog faithfully when it was on the Internet, and I find it a travesty that he was forced to take it… Read more »

Edit: Credit goes to Benjamin Franklin for the “A man convinced…” quote.

@Pushmi-Pullyu Thank you for your thoughtful reply also. I agree, the word co-founder implies “founding”, and thus the word is being misused. I greatly admire Elon in a lot of areas, but his actions in forcing an actual founder of the company to admit that he is a co-founder is sad, and reflects poorly on him. But I also can see how he feels strongly about this, as he was instrumental in the very early days of the company, and I can’t think of another description or word to describe his contribution. Others have co-opted the word “co-founder”, for their efforts in other companies, even though they were not founders, so I can see why Elon also decided to use it for himself. And it’s not exclusive to him, as you well know, as he included JB Straubel, and Ian Wright. This article help form my opinion: I think the Wikipedia article was even changed recently to make it more clear, as at the top it says: “The company was initially founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, although the company also considers Elon Musk, JB Straubel, and Ian Wright amongst its co-founders.” Before it listed the… Read more »
I have no position on this article, really, except the dopey remark by former SpaceX Head of Talent Acquisition Dolly Singh (who still gets quoted from time to time), that working for Elon Musk is “like being in the Special Forces”. No, it’s not. I am not a SOCOM type myself (and on the internet there are plenty of those guys who will gladly share their “secrets” with you about their exploits). However, I worked with several teams on Special Operations up-close and personal on Active Duty and on occasion as a Reservist many years ago. One gent with whom I became a good friend helped me to learn to shoot competitely in 3-gun events and tried unsuccessfully to get me in decent shape. Their professional environment is just not comparable to what the rest of us do. I’m not referring to danger or physical exertion; rather I mean the ultimate practice of precision, teamwork, and commitment to a degree that isn’t knowable to most of us. It’s a silly thing to keep repeating (about any company — not poking at Musk here). I know the author here is just summarizing the EVANNEX piece, but it bugs the hell out… Read more »

It’s just a metaphor…if someone says their laptop is the “Ferrari of laptops”, please don’t sit on it and attempt to race a Lamborghini!

Just ribbing you 🙂 If I worked with Special Ops, I’d probably take any opportunity to talk about it too.

Yeah, my take was how tough it was requiring dedication,conditioning, effort and expertise. I remember UDT, and SEAL teams and how hard they worked.

I work in a petroleum industry manufacturing environment and if people looked a little further “upstream” from the gas pump and saw all of the waste, inefficiency and complexiity associated with extraction/production of hydrocarbons, they would see gasoline and diesel fuel in a different (negative) light. Compared to the elegance of simply taking solar radiation and converting it to energy for automotive and other uses, many people don’t see how much better things can be. As for the petroleum jobs, a parallel effort must be carried out for retraining workers to “renew” the energy infrastructure. The economy that does this will provide cheaper, cleaner power and happier, better educated and more flexible workers. And that’s what my “first principles” analysis yields!

I agree. This is an interesting article that equates the loss of democracy to the use of fossil fuels:

You know what? People don’t care about waste and inefficiency. They know gasoline and diesel is a dirty business and they don’t care. They just care about what works for them and what it cost them and who can blame them?

Work on making electric cars and solar power work for them the same as what they know and cost them the same and they will change. “Educating” them, or lecturing them will accomplish nothing. Show them the savings and the benefits. If you can’t, work harder.

As for saving the petrol industry jobs, you can’t. In your own post you said extracting oil and making gasoline is complex and that solar panels to electric cars is simple. What that means is- loss of jobs. The more we use technology to innovate and advance, the more jobs we lose. A troubling problem for the 21st century.

And yet, what is it, like 2% of the population today works on farms? So maybe 5-10% tops grow some food in a back yard? Maybe some of the retraining could include relearning how to grow food, and growing more than you need, so you can sell to those who want locally grown food!

I’m no green thumb myself, but in my experience with others who garden, it’s almost difficult NOT to grow more than one needs!

I appreciate your comments. Sometimes I think these comment sections are far more interesting and revealing than what can typically be gleaned from looking at what the politicians are telling us. It’s kind of raw democracy in a way.

“They just care about what works for them and what it cost them and who can blame them?”

Who can blame them? Maybe their children, for starters?

I appreciate your point that the product should be made so superior to outdated ICE that consumers want it *despite* it’s positive effects on the environment, but just wholesale ignoring those negative externalities is certainly not blameless in a civilized society nor should it be encouraged.

Anybody still in dought that Musk is a living genius? His accomplishments speak for themself.