On this page several Tesla-alumni will talk about their experiences regarding the Tesla minor.
He was a participant in 2019, and is currently finalizing his 2nd year of the MSc Physics – Science for Energy and Sustainability. He is looking forward to start a job in sustainability consultancy.
A different educational approach
To be honest I can only be positive about Tesla. What I like is that it deviated completely from an old fashioned educational program. At university most you do is read papers and books. I think especially in science you are shaped to have a strong focus on details, be critical but also be restricted in behaving neutrally and in a somewhat impersonal form. In real life, I think your social behaviour is as important as your knowledge and therefore should not be forgotten in education.
Tesla is focusing better on the social side. More attention will be given to gaining knowledge by people instead of by books. Because experts can tell you much better what is really important for your project. Another plus is that you get contacts for who you can work for after your study. Lots of workshops and lectures are given by successful people in order to develop more professional skills. A project with impact will be done for a real client taking into account social and business aspects next to science.
What I really like about Tesla
At first, I really like the theater classes. It helped me become less caring about doing something unexpected. In presentations I was always very impersonal and stayed more the scientist who is simply telling how something works. Now, when I have a creative idea I will just do it. I notice that people in the audience react very positive to my tryouts.
In presentation trainings you also learn to focus more on who the audience is and how to convince, inform or motivate them. It is sometimes not important to explain exactly how something works, but more that you leave a good impression.
With my group I did a project for FrieslandCampina in which we had to find out whether setting up a sustainable energy company is a good strategy for them. We analysed the whole energy landscape and came with an accurate cost estimation for the future of this energy company. We checked our findings with experts, such as CEO’s from energy companies in the Netherlands. We had lots of scientific appearing graphs, calculations and theories about the energy markets, which are very complex. At our presentation it was important to show in a simple way what the advantage is for FrieslandCampina. With a simple main question to answer, how does the farmer profit and when? A small amount of people is really interested in what we exactly have done and how. The ones who are can just read our report for it. It is not unlikely that this energy company will start in the future, which I think is very nice to have been involved in.
This was for me the first time I did a project for 5 months with others. Before, I was not enthusiastic about teamwork, because the chance was high that you got into a group with people, who are not motivated and do not care about the result of the project at all. Here I worked in a very ambitious team. Tesla assisted also a lot in the team process. We had to be completely open to each other in the beginning, about what we do not like in others and what negative feelings people could have by ourselves. We were 3 very different persons and by working 5 months together conflicts are inevitable. However because we were open to each other and all worked hard, we learned to accept each others needs and organised us in such a way so that everyone was able to do what their strength are.
Why you should you do Tesla?
It sounds a bit cliche, like someone who backpacked 3 months in Thailand and found himself, but I really learned more about what I want, what my strengths and weaknesses are. This is largely due to the open, ambitious and social attitude of the Tesla group. I can recommend this minor to anyone who is motivated, open and want to have an outstanding start for a broad professional landscape.
Milan Teunissen van Manen
She participated in the Tesla minor of 2014 and gave a speech at the end of the program about the Tesla minor and how it has shaped us. You can listen to the fragment here:
He was a participant in 2013, and is currently finalizing his 2nd year of the MSc Neuroscience. In a few weeks he will start his PhD in this field.
How did you experience the Tesla Minor?
Tesla was a very intensive program which focused on project work and the development of our personal and professional skills. Amongst other things I have hugely improved my presentation skills, but I have also gained competences related to how to negotiate, interview and approach people in a professional manner. The minor is actually focused on how to learn and how you can utilize and apply knowledge and information. In other words, you learn how to use content as a means to the objectives that you have set yourself. We spend a lot of time on informal peer-to-peer discussions, which helped in exploring how to deal with various difficult situations. We also had the opportunity to organize part of our own trainings. At a certain moment a large part of the students felt the need to learn how to host and structure meetings more efficiently. We decided to hire a trainer and arranged a training on this topic. Furthermore I met a lot of people working on the interface of knowledge institutions and business. It taught me a great deal about the world outside of University.
What was the most challenging part?
I found it difficult to constantly shift between the concrete and the abstract. Our project was focused on designing a student-run laboratory. It is quite easy to develop the concept of such a lab, but in practice you run into issues all the time which causes you to rethink your plans. You have to continuously react on what happens and thereby are forced to make tough decisions all the time. I found this very challenging since I was not used to work on projects that are not demarcated clearly beforehand. In Tesla it is your own responsibility to define and focus the project.
What did you like best?
That you have a lot of autonomy and numerous opportunities to do different things. But this is at the same time one of the most difficult aspects of the program. You have the freedom to make your own choices with regard to your activities, lectures and learnings. But with each choice you make, you have to really be able to justify why you do it and how it fits in the total scheme. I organized several lectures by professionals who told about the ways in which they bridged science and practice. I also helped arrange a training and a company visit. During these activities, I realized that companies will not help you just for fun, they need something of real value in return. This was relevant to our project, because our lab would be dependent on external funding. As a group we also took the initiative to develop our own website, printed business cards, and organized our final symposium.
What is the value of Tesla in daily working practice?
One of the things I learned a great deal about, is how to present myself and what I got to tell the audience. We had five theater workshops during which we worked on how to use your own characteristics and voice to convince our audience. Next to that we gave many presentations which gave us so much experience that presenting became a non-stressful activity.
I also learned about many aspects of the ‘non-scientific’ world, for example about how big projects are initiated and developed. When you are a student you can have the tendency to think that the Academic world is huge and that science is that what keeps all people busy. In practice it is just a small part of society. Where society needs science, science certainly needs society.
To whom would you recommend the Tesla Minor?
If you want to join Tesla you need to be very motivated and have a clear interest in your own discipline. If you do not like your discipline, Tesla is no escape for that. During the program you work on the interface between science, society and business and have a brief yet intense insight in how it works. A tip for future Tesla students: throw yourself at the knowledge related to your project. Make sure that you and your team are able to provide your client with an overview of knowledge that they do not have or for which they do not have the means to acquire. This is where you as a science student can really add value.