Rafa’s journey from BUET to Tesla

November 8, 2023

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Rafia Rahman Rafa’s pursuit of her dreams took her from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) to a promising career at Tesla. Now she dreams even bigger.

On a winter morning in 2001, Rafia Rahman Rafa, dressed in a sky-blue and white uniform and swathed in a black sweater, stepped through the gates of Viqarunnisa Noon School, accompanied by her parents. With sleepy eyes but brimming with dreams, she embarked on her academic journey. Her excellent academic results throughout her school and college years testify to the fact that she lived up to her dream and nurtured her aspirations.

As expected, Rafa earned a coveted spot at the institute that most students dream of—Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). In 2014, she gained admission to BUET’s Industrial and Production Engineering (IPE) department.

“It was a dream come true moment for me,” said Rafa.

This could have been her biggest achievement, but it apparently was not. Even she couldn’t imagine that she would end up at Tesla Inc., one of the world’s largest companies, where she has recently been hired as a Global Supply Analyst.

By the beginning of 2023, Rafa initiated her career at Tesla by undertaking an internship in their Global Supply Management department. Her dedication and diligence paved the way for her to be promoted as a Global Supply Analyst. However, her path at Tesla was far from effortless.

In a conversation with The Business Standard, Rafa shared her story of hardship and triumphs.

Rafa’s ambition to study at BUET had been a lifelong aspiration. She diligently prepared for it and subsequently realised her dream by gaining admission to her preferred department. Following her graduation from BUET, she worked for two and a half years, all the while preparing herself for higher education. This dream came to fruition in 2022 when she enrolled in the Spring-2022 session of the University of Texas at Arlington, where she pursued a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering.

During her post-graduation, Rafa also worked as a research assistant. After completing her studies, she made an entry into Tesla Inc., a prominent American manufacturer of electric vehicles and clean energy products. Tesla Inc. was originally established as Tesla Motors in 2003.

Rafa’s journey to Tesla

From the very beginning, Rafa had a clear goal in mind—to study and seek employment abroad. However, it was a bit difficult just out of BUET. And it wasn’t easy to break away from the familiarity of Bangladesh.

“The decision to leave my family and move abroad was a tough one. I was hesitant at first, then finally made up my mind to take the plunge. I was taking some time and meanwhile gained some working experience in Bangladesh,” shared Rafa.

In 2022, when Rafa initiated her internship search, her eyes were set squarely on Tesla. Her ardent desire to be part of the Tesla team drove her to submit approximately 15-20 applications for various positions within the company.

Her dedicated efforts bore fruit when she successfully secured an internship in Tesla’s Global Supply Management department, a pivotal milestone that ultimately culminated in a permanent position with the company.

“In the context of Bangladesh, Industrial and Production Engineering (IPE) is often undervalued, but its significance on the international stage is immense,” opined Rafa.

While Bangladesh is known for its garment and multinational companies, securing a job in a multinational organisation is no easy feat. According to Rafa, those studying IPE in Bangladesh should not limit themselves to the garment sector but should also explore opportunities in other manufacturing companies.

As Eleanor Roosevelt puts it “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Rafa believed in her own dreams from the beginning. “I didn’t want to settle for less than what I wanted. My goal has always been big,” she mentioned.

Work experience at Tesla

During her time in Bangladesh, Rafa gained valuable experience working in the garment sector, which helped her move up the first rung in Tesla when she began her internship with the company’s car seating team.

“Interestingly, the cutting techniques used for car seat covers are remarkably similar to those used in the garment industry, which made my transition smoother due to my prior experience,” acknowledged Rafa. After her dedication and success in the seating team, Rafa moved on to work with the car’s exterior team and is currently employed there.

Rafa’s journey challenges the prevailing notion that once you enter the garment sector, it’s difficult to switch to other fields. She firmly believes that one’s experiences can be leveraged in multiple ways, and it’s crucial “not to limit oneself to a specific area of expertise.”

Rafa noted that her internship at Tesla has been a more profound learning experience compared to her previous work in Bangladesh. She highlighted the fast-paced nature of Tesla’s work environment and the need for constant vigilance and quick decision-making.

Preparation starts from the university

During her time in Bangladesh, Rafa gained valuable experience working in the garment sector, which helped her move up the first rung in Tesla when she began her internship with the company’s car seating team.

“Interestingly, the cutting techniques used for car seat covers are remarkably similar to those used in the garment industry, which made my transition smoother due to my prior experience,” acknowledged Rafa. After her dedication and success in the seating team, Rafa moved on to work with the car’s exterior team and is currently employed there.

Rafa’s journey challenges the prevailing notion that once you enter the garment sector, it’s difficult to switch to other fields. She firmly believes that one’s experiences can be leveraged in multiple ways, and it’s crucial “not to limit oneself to a specific area of expertise.”

Rafa noted that her internship at Tesla has been a more profound learning experience compared to her previous work in Bangladesh. She highlighted the fast-paced nature of Tesla’s work environment and the need for constant vigilance and quick decision-making.

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