Student stories

Engineering student completes supercharged co-op at Tesla Motors

Marc Laventure

Tesla Motors

It’s hard not to notice the incredible innovations coming out of Tesla Motors. From world-leading sales of its fully electric cars to the Powerwall home battery, this company has a lot of people talking. If you’ve ever thought, “I want to work at Tesla between my study terms” – you can! Just ask Marc Laventure, who is completing a degree in UVic’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He completed his final co-operative education (co-op) work term with Tesla Motors and loved every minute of it—his code is currently running in Tesla Vehicles as you read this!

Marc’s engineering journey didn’t start with cars. In fact, he had little experience with automobiles just a couple of years ago. Originally interested in mechanical engineering, his interest switched to Computer Engineering after participating in a class project. “I got to work on the circuit design and programming for an autonomous robot. It was really neat to make something that moves on its own!” Marc says.

This passion was further sparked when he joined the UVic Formula Hybrid Team in 2015. He took the lead for vehicle software and helped with the powertrain team. Not only did this increase his knowledge about automotive engineering but also taught him vital teamwork skills. “Clubs like Formula Hybrid mixed with personal projects are the best way to set yourself apart”, according to Marc, who believes these experiences were responsible for him getting the green light to work for Tesla.

Sustainable transportation and energy are Marc’s biggest passions, so when he saw a co-op posting at Tesla for Quality Assurance he applied immediately. Several interviews took place, including a standard behavioural style interview and a live technical interview. During the process he was referred for a different role as a firmware engineer for the Model S and Model X Tesla cars – a rare opportunity for co-op students! He wrote low-level C code for an electronic control unit to add features and fix bugs. Marc was extremely impressed with the rigorous code review, validation, testing and quality of work seen on the job. So much so, in fact, that he’s even convinced his mom to buy a Model 3.

So what was it like to work for such a famous company? Marc was very keen to answer: “There was a start-up feel to it…super fast paced with passionate people striving towards the goal of sustainable transportation.” He also appreciated the office layout, saying that “it was an open-office concept and my seat was right across from the director of Firmware, which was pretty cool.” The work was so engaging that he would often forget to eat lunch!

One of his most memorable moments came early in the term. “I was given a bug to fix so I figured out the issue, validated it and went through immense testing. The next week the code was in Tesla cars on the road – it was such an awesome moment!” He also made very close connections with his coworkers during his term, living with five of them who he is still in touch with to this day. Just recently Marc returned from a personal trip to California where he sat with a few of the CEOs to seek advice about investment for Lumo, his own start-up company.

Looking back on his co-op experience, Marc feels like he was able to make an impact by not only contributing to sustainable transportation but also by making Tesla vehicles safer for people to drive. The co-op program was instrumental in helping him to achieve these goals.

“I think the co-op program is the best part of UVic. Not only do you get paid and gain real world experience, but you also meet people in the industry and are able to figure out if you actually like what you’re doing.” Marc also enjoyed co-op’s hands-on approach and applying lessons from the classroom in a collaborative environment.

Does Marc encourage students to work for Tesla? “Absolutely!” he says with obvious enthusiasm. “These were some of the most phenomenal, hard working and talented people I’ve ever met. I strive to be like them as I progress in my career.”

More about Engineering and computer science co-op