EDINBURGH — To South Africans, Elon Musk is a business inspiration. He left the country, building a massive business empire in the US, joining the ranks of the world’s great young tech pioneers – like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. But, the PayPal co-founder and Tesla and SpaceX founder is developing a reputation for having a large ego and has been putting himself at loggerheads with powerful institutions, like the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC last month asked a judge to hold Tesla billionaire Elon Musk in contempt over a fresh tweet the regulator believes could have misled investors. Musk, says City AM, told his followers on 19 February that “Tesla made 0 cars in 2011, but will make around 500k in 2019”. Later: “Meant to say annualised production rate at end of 2019 probably around 500k, ie 10k cars/week. Deliveries for year still estimated to be about 400k,” Musk tweeted. Within Tesla, Musk is much-feared and much-hated. He goes on rampages, wildly firing people, as Wired magazine reports. – Jackie Cameron
By Thulasizwe Sithole
Elon Musk behind the doors of the Tesla organisation is allegedly a tyrant. In an in-depth feature on “life inside Tesla’s production hell”, Wired magazine has described the South Africa-born entrepreneur as akin to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
It tells how Elon Musk embarks on regular rampages through his operations. Breathing at the wrong time or ‘checking him skeef’ can easily lead to a summary dismissal, it seems.
“Sometimes Musk would terminate people; other times he would simply intimidate them. One manager had a name for these outbursts—Elon’s rage firings—and had forbidden subordinates from walking too close to Musk’s desk at the Gigafactory out of concern that a chance encounter, an unexpected question answered incorrectly, might endanger a career,” says Wired.
To sum up the Elon Musk approach, the magazine tells the story of a young engineer who was fired by Elon Musk on his first real job.
At about 10 o’clock on Saturday evening, an angry Musk was examining one of the production line’s mechanised modules, trying to figure out what was wrong, when the young, excited engineer was brought over to assist him.
‘Hey, buddy, this doesn’t work!’ Musk shouted at the engineer, according to someone who heard the conversation. ‘Did you do this?’
The engineer was taken aback. He had never met Musk before. Musk didn’t even know the engineer’s name. The young man wasn’t certain what, exactly, Musk was asking him, or why he sounded so angry.
‘You mean, program the robot?’ the engineer said. ‘Or design that tool?”
‘Did you fucking do this?’ Musk asked him.
‘I’m not sure what you’re referring to?’ the engineer replied apologetically.
‘You’re a fucking idiot!’ Musk shouted back. ‘Get the fuck out and don’t come back!”
The young engineer climbed over a low safety barrier and walked away. He was bewildered by what had just happened. The entire conversation had lasted less than a minute. A few moments later, his manager came over to say that he had been fired on Musk’s orders, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
The engineer was shocked. He’d been working so hard. He was set to get a review from his manager the next week, and had been hearing only positive things. Instead, two days later, he signed his separation papers.