Former NMC Auto Tech Student Shines in High-Tech Tesla Career

andrew-medleyWith his work ethic and a solid background in engineering, former Northwestern Michigan College automotive tech student Andrew Medley could have written his own ticket when it came time to take a job. And it appears he did. He landed a job at automaker Tesla, which might be compared to the car world’s version of working at NASA.

“A lot of my classmates in engineering at Michigan State were going to Ford or Chevy,” he said. “But the prospect of being an engineer for a big automaker didn’t interest me.”

Instead, Medley works in an atmosphere where cars can be programmed to drive themselves while the drivers breathe air cleansed by a “Bio-Defense” system.

Then there’s the issue of performance.

In a test conducted by Motor Trend magazine last year, the S Model Tesla S P90D pounced from zero to 60 mph in 2.6, pinned-to-the-back-of-the-seat seconds – faster than a Ferrari, Lamborghini and Bugatti. And it did so with the help of two ultra-quiet, electric, all-wheel drive motors, one driving the back wheels, the other the front wheels.

Medley’s teams at Tesla work on the auto-drive system and the high-tech “info-tainment” center and its 17-inch display. He described Tesla cars as “more a computer on wheels” than anything like the cars of the past.

That image also describes a dividing line of sorts for would-be auto techs these days. The mechanical side of auto technology is still important. But significant changes, especially in electronic control systems, have introduced an additional, complicated skill set for auto techs.

Medley said David Beajema’s instruction at NMC in hybrid and electric cars helped broadening his interest in new auto technologies and convince him “that the future is auto drive, hybrids and electric cars.”

Another NMC instructor, Wayne Moody, said Medley represents “a great success story” for the school.

“He’s a very smart individual. We’re all very proud of him,” Moody said. “He’s one of the students who really aspired to get involved in new technology. He and I talked about autonomous vehicles and other high-end technologies.”

Medley’s advice to auto tech students is to embrace not only the mechanical side of the trade but also electronics.

“What we’ve seen in the industry is a big transition first from carburetors, then to fuel injection, and then to computer controls,” he said. “A lot of people have been left behind because they couldn’t adapt.”

Today’s auto tech, he said, needs a well-rounded skill set.

“We have to diagnose systems [and] know electrical theory,” he said. “Working with computers is probably the most important thing at a place like Tesla.”

What he did not say was how much hard work still matters.

When interviewed, Medley had just returned from 24 hours straight at Tesla in Silicon Valley, a frequent assignment that often takes him away from his home and wife in Chicago for weeks at a time.

“It’s very rewarding,” he said. “I like a challenge, like thinking analytically.”