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Tesla intern, UHCL student aims to support cleaner energy

Tesla internship: 'Cleaner energy aligns with my values,' says UHCL student

Most people hear the name "Tesla" and think about a very expensive car that's fun to drive. Janet Rivera would agree, but as she begins her internship at the Gigafactory in Austin, those things have nothing to do with why she's interested in working for Tesla.

Rivera, who will receive her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management in May 2022, said what appeals most to her about Tesla is its mission.

"They are a company that believed in electrical vehicles before it was trendy or popular," she said. "I don't like the idea of working for a company that changes its business model to follow a trend. They were already ahead with electrical vehicles, they are not doing this because others are. They are about cleaner energy because it's always been their mission."

She said she'd had multiple positions during her career in the oil and gas industry, with her last assignment on a drilling rig in West Texas. "I felt very lost working for that company because I didn't feel connected to their mission," she said. "Knowing what that company did was contributing to climate change caused me to feel I couldn't get behind them. That experience prompted me to think about my 'why,' question myself about my purpose, and ask myself what kind of company I want to give my time, talent, ideas, and energy to. It needed to be a company that aligned with my values and what I care about."

Rivera will begin her four-month internship in January at the Gigafactory, adding that she'd chosen this career path after an upsetting experience while on a trip to Thailand.

"In 2016, I was in Thailand on a boat," she said. "I saw how contaminated their water systems were. There were two boys fishing in those waters, out of necessity. That's when it hit home for me — seeing that really broke my heart. A lot of companies dispose of their waste into water systems and the local people are suffering the consequences because that's their only source of water. That's why I wanted to study this and make a difference."

She said her internship will focus on some aspect of environmental management. "I hope to gain understanding about the electric vehicle manufacturing process, and because Tesla is big on innovation, I hope to learn where they are trying to go," she said. "I would like to learn how I can fit in and help the company meet their mission within my scope."

Learn more about UHCL's Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management online.


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