Resilience Leads to Co-op at Tesla
When the co-op of Jared Covell, E’22, mechanical engineering, was canceled by the pandemic, he secured a design engineer co-op position at Tesla, a dream company for mechanical engineering. His co-op coordinator’s support, mentoring and network of connections made it possible.
When his co-op was canceled by the pandemic, Jared Covell, E’22, ended up working as a design engineer at Tesla.
In the spring of 2020, Jared Covell, E’22, thought his future was certain. A third-year mechanical engineering major, he had a great co-op lined up, spanning July through December. Unfortunately, Covell learned devastating news when he arrived for his first day to work: the company was not able to fund the co-op due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was one of those moments that changes your life,” recalls Covell. “The manager who spoke to me clearly felt terrible, and he offered to help me make other connections. But I knew exactly what to do.”
Minutes later, Covell was on the sidewalk outside the building, calling Heather Carpenter-Oliveira, Northeastern’s assistant director and associate co-op coordinator for mechanical and industrial engineering. “Heather had already helped me secure a co-op at Parker Aerospace in my second year,” says Covell. “I knew she had a network of connections, and she was already familiar with my skills and strengths.”
Carpenter-Oliveira immediately sprang into action, leveraging her relationship with recruiters at Tesla. “I knew Tesla was committed to hosting co-ops during the pandemic, even if that meant having students work remotely,” she explains. “I knew Jared’s experience on the Northeastern Electric Racing team, and his ability to work independently made him an ideal candidate.” Within two weeks, Covell had lined up a job as a mechanical design engineer at the electric automotive leader.
Driven to (virtually) succeed
While Tesla is the dream co-op opportunity of just about every mechanical engineering student, working remotely in a pandemic was not without its challenges.
“At first, I wondered how I could really collaborate with the engineering team in Palo Alto from my apartment in Boston,” notes Covell. “But Tesla did a fantastic job of giving me real, hands-on 3D modeling work that contributed to the success of its automotive drive units, or ‘what makes the car go.’”
As a project lead on Tesla’s Drive Systems Structures team, Covell modeled components for a dynamometer assembly used to test a new electric motor. He led design reviews among the company’s structures, lubrication, and motor teams — then applied their feedback to optimize his models in the next iteration.
“A huge takeaway was becoming comfortable with quick design cycles to meet the demands of a fast-paced company,” Covell says. “Working remotely in this environment meant becoming more resourceful and better at communicating. I learned to master the art of asking the correct people the correct questions, at the correct time.”
Tesla flew Covell to California for in-person visits in September and October. “I got to tour the facilities, meet my fellow team members and do some work on-site,” Covell states. “This wasn’t a typical co-op, but Tesla successfully pivoted and made it work.”
The importance of connections
According to Carpenter-Oliveira, Covell’s experience wasn’t unique. “In 2020, a lot of companies had no choice but to cancel or reduce their co-op commitments. But we worked with both students and our partners on a one-on-one basis to help them meet their goals. In the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering alone, we work with over 500 employer partners, so we had an opportunity to implement new, flexible options for our students that included remote and part-time jobs.”
In the end, Covell claims this experience made him more resilient―and better prepared for a changing world. “I learned to trust myself and my ability to succeed in any situation,” he says. “I also learned the value of networking. The connections I enjoy as a Northeastern student are an incredibly valuable asset that I didn’t fully appreciate until 2020. I’m so grateful to Heather and the entire co-op team.”