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Industrial and Systems Engineering student, Alejandra Hernandez, interned for Tesla.
Alejandra Hernandez, an undergraduate industrial and systems engineering student, interns at Tesla. | Image: Tesla

Alejandra Hernandez, a student from the industrial and systems engineering department at Texas A&M University, has spent the last eight months as a process engineering intern for the production control (PC) team at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California. Tesla Inc. is an American multinational corporation based in Palo Alto, California, that specializes in electric vehicles, lithium-ion battery energy storage and solar panel manufacturing. Their Roadster vehicle accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 1.9 seconds, even faster than a cheetah.

The PC team optimizes the internal logistics and operations necessary to supply the assembly line with parts and materials. Anytime the parts are delivered late to the assembly line, even by a few minutes, the downtime associated with the delay costs the company thousands of dollars. Solid support and orchestration from the team is essential to achieving the company’s overall goals.

As a process engineering intern, Hernandez supported the team with manpower calculations for different processes, cycle time studies, warehouse designs and routes for material conveyance. After a few months, she was given a leadership position to represent a team of engineers in solving the manual material flow for 25 percent of the assembly line. She designed, defined, piloted and/or improved more than 12 material storages as well as their material flow (material storages are on-site warehouses that hold inventory to accommodate for parts that have a fast turnaround).

Hernandez started each project from scratch. “These projects were significant to me because, like my mentor used to say, I was given the opportunity to start off with a ‘white canvas,’” she said. “Not only did this opportunity demonstrate my technical skills, but it also gave me the opportunity to express my creativity by thinking outside of the box and solving different problems.”

The industrial and systems engineering classes Hernandez took taught her how to compute technical calculations such as cycle time studies, while her extracurricular opportunities developed her interpersonal skills. “Participating in Aggies Invent and completing my capstone design project prepared me to work as both a teammate and a leader,” she said. “What I learned in the classroom transformed into meaningful habits.”

Collaboration was a significant part of Hernandez’s internship. She explained that cross functional teamwork was the key to successfully finishing multiple projects. During her time with Tesla she worked with engineers, associates, managers, full-time staff and other interns. “Regardless of their position, every Tesla member has the opportunity to make a huge impact in the company,” said Hernandez.

The Tesla internship also helped Hernandez decipher what she wanted to do after graduating this December. She envisions working for a consulting firm and gaining more supply chain experience before one day starting her own. “It assured me that I was on the professional path I wanted to grow in by continuously improving everything around me,” she said. “I would hands-down recommend this experience to anyone who wants to test themselves and find out how far they can go in their career.”

The most valuable lesson Hernandez learned? “The fact that there is always room for improvement has taught me that industrial engineering is not a profession — it’s a lifestyle. Now I always ask: How can I get the job done, but better, faster, stronger? The secret is to strive for the best work possible at everything we do.”

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“Tesla and Elon Musk’s companies have always attracted my attention because of their missions and goals,” she said. “A few years ago Tesla redefined their mission statement from ‘Accelerate the world's transition to sustainable transport,’ to ‘Accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.’” By changing only one word, they changed humankind’s hopes and future.”

A Texas A&M networking event gave Hernandez the opportunity to interact with Tesla recruiters. After speaking with them, she knew she wanted to support the acceleration of worldwide change. She credits many people with helping impact her internship and preparing her for the work there: “From Texas A&M: James Wilson, Rodney Boehm, James Donnell, Jose Vazquez, Jeana Goodson, Alaa Elwany and Angela Winkler,” said Hernandez. “From Tesla, everyone in the PC department — especially my manager and mentors Sachin Malik and Eugene De Mesa.”