Praveen Arichandran | Director of Growth at Tesla
After a stretch at Facebook, where he helped bring internet access to 35 developing countries, Praveen joined Tesla as the head of growth. He’s passionate about utilizing technology to positively impact our quality of life.
SO HOW'D YOU GET STARTED?
I studied Computer Engineering and Economics at the University of Waterloo. After spending a bit of time at BMO Capital Markets, I joined Facebook’s international growth team. It was a scrappy team of one or two people per continent tasked with figuring out how to unblock localized barriers to growth around the world. I worked out of Toronto and Singapore before moving to Menlo Park to build Internet.org. After scaling it to 35 countries, I joined Tesla as head of growth in 2016.
LESSONS LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?
The most important lesson I’ve learned in my career is that no one knows what they’re doing. People who claim to are generally either faking it, delusional, or not pushing themselves and the world hard enough into the realm of the unknown. I continue to struggle with imposter syndrome, but I’ve come to appreciate that great things aren’t built by people who knew exactly how to do it all along, but by those who have the grit and resilience to try, fail, learn, and iterate in pursuit of a mission.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
In the professional sense of the word, the most successful people, under my value system, are those who’ve had the most significant impact in improving quality of life for people. I try to work on problems that I find meaningful and have potential to have large scale impact. Access to information through the Internet and sustainable energy are both close to my heart and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work on them at scale.
"The reality is that great things are built over time, with lots of experimentation, iteration, and learning. Failure is a key part of this process."
WHAT ROLE DOES FAILURE PLAY IN BEING SUCCESSFUL?
We often romanticize the idea that great products, companies, and careers are built with a few simple steps — the aha moment or the single lucky idea that turned into a win. The reality is that great things are built over time, with lots of experimentation, iteration, and learning. Failure is a key part of this process. When you fail, you learn something new to inform the best path forward. What’s important is the speed of iteration, being genuinely truth-seeking, and evolving your perspective as you move forward through failure and success.
SECRET TO PUSHING THROUGH WHEN TIMES GET TOUGH?
I try to stay focused on why we’re all here. It’s easy for people to get discouraged through the short-term fluctuations that are inevitable in the pursuit of a longer-term mission. But I look to the unit of progress. A fisherman in the rural Philippines who now has a thriving online business because of access to the Internet. A children’s hospital in Puerto Rico that regained power through solar. People are capable of incredible things when they are working on problems important to them.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
For a long time I was used to being the youngest person in the room. More recently, I’ve been spending more time helping much younger techies and builders — kids in high school or college building their first startup or taking on a role at an established company. In many cases, whether they realize it or not, I take far more inspiration from them than I believe they could from me.
HOW DO YOU REACH YOUR FULL POTENTIAL EVERY DAY?
I try to be efficient with both cognitive energy and time. I ask myself the question, If I don’t spend any energy on this, how different would the outcome be? It’s not to say that you shouldn’t still do it, but a lot of things have a tendency to resolve themselves, or get to the same outcome without your involvement. It leaves space to focus on areas where I believe I can really have an impact in changing the trajectory of something.
"The most successful people, under my value system, are those who’ve had the most significant impact in improving quality of life for people."
PIECE OF ADVICE?
Don’t overthink it. It’s easy to get stuck in your head about how things could play out or how you plan on making progress. Maybe a bit cliché, but the most important step is the next. Just get started, and move yourself forward in some way, big or small.
MOST UNUSUAL ITEM IN YOUR HOUSE?
I’m a huge Harry Potter nerd and have a willow wand with a phoenix tail feather core that Ollivander found for me as an audience volunteer in a Harry Potter World show. It’s displayed on a beautiful stand as a coffee table centerpiece. One of my favorite things.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?
I’ve been fortunate to work at incredible, large-scale companies. But my next move will be to go smaller and build something meaningful from an earlier stage.