Tesla's Tragedy and IT Shop Continuity
By Tony Kontzer
Wednesday provided a harsh reminder of just how important--and fragile--your technology staff is, when a small plane carrying three engineers from electric carmaker Tesla Motors crashed into an East Palo Alto neighborhood, killing all three aboard and leaving a fiery path in its wake.
Clearly, the most important parts of the story are the family and friends each of the three victims--Doug Bourn, Brian Finn and Andrew Ingram--leave behind to figure out why these men were taken so soon. And let's face it: the folks at Tesla make up a big part of the family.
No doubt the coming days will be somber ones at Tesla's Palo Alto headquarters. (In fact, it's my guess one of them is behind the Doug Bourn tribute page that already popped up on Facebook.)
But there's also a business angle to this, as in how can a young company like Tesla--which is preparing for an IPO, mind you--withstand the loss of such a big chunk of its team?
Bourn, in particular, was a lead engineer wrapping up his fifth year at Tesla, where he specialized in the design of digital logic and analog circuitry, according to his LinkedIn page. Finn's LinkedIn page indicates he had been at Tesla since 2008, working on multimodal driver information and infotainment systems, while Ingram had brought his experience working on apps at Dolby Laboratories to Tesla. Not exactly a bunch of skills one can find on the average street corner.
Companies deal with such losses daily. People die. There's no getting around this. But to lose three in one swoop would be particularly devastating even to the largest of IT shops.
There are so many questions facing the company today. How will the company maintain any sense of focus in the coming weeks? How will it stay on track for its IPO? How will it prevent morale from falling off into the abyss? Who will assume the leadership role that an engineer of Bourn's seniority no doubt held?
I suspect these are all issues the Tesla brain trust will struggle with, if not today, then soon. In doing so, they'll certainly be able to use all the help they can get from folks who've dealt with such tragedies. They'll want to figure out how to respectfully pay tribute to their fallen colleagues while also keeping the company from veering off course. They'll want to know how to keep moving forward without seeming like they're callously doing so too quickly.
In other words, if you're a CIO who's had to navigate these waters, here's a chance to share your wisdom and help an ambitious young company continue on its journey, albeit with a heavy heart.
We invite your comments below.