Catching up with Karun Balachandran: What the Tesla product design hiring manager has gained from SAE contributions

By Rachel Wetzel posted 01-29-2023 06:43 PM


Karun Balachandran wants to get involved in every aspect of SAE International.

As an associate engineering manager at Tesla, he knew SAE for the research and industry standards, but through Tesla partnerships with SAE like hosting an EV workshop for Formula SAE, Karun discovered the wealth of programs SAE offers, ranging from professional development to events to professional networking and beyond.

It wasn’t long before Karun himself found opportunities to volunteer with university programs and support the work SAE and Tesla are doing together to prepare the next generation of engineers.

“Formula SAE provides students with a lot of hands-on experience that can carry over into their career at an OEM. In this competition, they try a lot of different things, they fail, they succeed,” said Karun. “Those learning opportunities that they get are really valuable when it comes to interviews because they’re able to talk about everything they went through while building the vehicles and connecting that to the job responsibilities.”

For the students, the Tesla connection pays dividends.

During the Formula SAE competitions, Karun’s team collected several resumes full of technical experience and even conducted a few interviews for internships and full-time engineering positions. Karun has personally hired multiple candidates from Formula SAE for positions at Tesla. And in addition to Tesla, other major automotive companies present at these competitions seek out and hire hardworking candidates ready to jumpstart their careers.

Working so actively with engineering students allows potential employers to focus on inclusion in the workplace as they’re able to connect with such a diverse candidate pool.

“It’s always good to have a diverse community within a team because based on the experience they had in life and based on the experience across different communities helps bring in a new perspective to the table,” said Karun. “When I hire, I look at the technical abilities of the person, but I consider the importance of having people from different backgrounds on the team. Having diversity allows for many learning opportunities for everyone.”

Beyond his work with Formula SAE, Karun is also a journal reviewer for multiple SAE journals pertaining to automotive product design and development. He also recently joined the SAE Interior Climate Control Steering Committee and is excited to contribute his knowledge and experience to the industry.

“SAE allows me to learn about the latest technologies as a reviewer and a committee member and use that knowledge in my job, as well as educating my team members,” said Karun. “I’m really passionate about trying to get more people interested in this industry. There were many things that I wished I knew before I joined my company, and I want to give back the knowledge I’ve gained as part of the SAE community to the student community.”

SAE offers a multitude of ways to get involved and advance your career, expand your network, inspire future generations of engineers, and help shape the mobility industry of tomorrow.

Interested in getting involved with SAE? Learn more.