A former Tesla employee weighs in on Elon Musk’s slam that Apple hires only its worst engineers

Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

The rivalry between Tesla Motors and Apple reached a new level this week after Tesla CEO Elon Musk ridiculed Apple for hiring all the engineers that his company fired.

Now a former Tesla employee is joining the fray, arguing that Musk and Tesla are on a noble mission rather than simply offering workers a “sexy company.”

Victoria Danahy, who purports to have worked full time for Tesla during college, took to Quora to provide more context for Musk’s comment, noting that her comments were intended to be less of a “hate message” towards Apple as they might appear.

The comments follow Musk’s anti-Apple broadside earlier this week.

“We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard,'” Musk told German newspaper Handelsblatt. “If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.” Apple is reportedly working on an electric car, which could present a big threat to Tesla.

Danahy notes that while she worked at Tesla, an Apple recruiter approached her about a “much more lucrative position” with a better title. Ernestine says that the reason why she declined the position had to do with Tesla’s mission statement.

The company vows to “accelerate the advent of sustainable transport,” and she writes that employees feel really loyal and committed to that proclamation. Working for Musk at Tesla is notoriously tough – employees are expected to show extreme hustle while putting in crazy hours – but people join anyway, because of the grand mission statement.

She believes that when Musk calls Apple “Tesla’s Graveyard” it’s because he believes that anyone would leave because of better pay means they shouldn’t have been part of the team to begin with.

By comparison, Apple’s mission statement is a bit less inspiring:

Apple’s 100,000 employees are dedicated to making the best products on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it.

Here’s the key part of Danahy’s response (emphasis ours):

The reason is, people who work for Tesla are immersed with, not the car or the “I work for a sexy company” status, but with the meaning it carries. Tesla’s mission statement, “accelerate the transition of sustainable transportation” isn’t taken lightly when it comes to the dedicated employees Tesla hires. So what (I believe) Elon means is, “we hired you because you believe in our mission and are ready to dedicate your time and energy to building a better future with us”-loyalty and commitment is the key underlying message here. So when a well established employee decides to break the promise to join another tech company, such as Apple, with the promise of better pay and free time, Elon suggests that you are at fault and should not have been part of the team in the first place. It is a known fact that Tesla employees work long hours, and don’t get paid as well as other tech companies, but they aren’t taken advantage of because they KNOW very well what they are in for before signing the dotted lines. And people seem to forget, Tesla is still in a financial struggle. It cannot be compared to Apple or Google, and yet it is because of its exponential growth in demand and popularity. The message Elon brings across so bluntly isn’t a hate message towards Apple. Remember Tesla’s current marketing strategy screams Apple all over. If anything Tesla looks up to Apple, and by Tesla, I mean Elon and the rest of the executive team.

You can read her entire Quora post here.

(Update: The original post referred to “Victoria Ernestine,” a Quora alias, but Vicotoria’s real last name is Danahy.).