Alyssa Woodman (SFWHS Class of 2006) Working on the Cutting Edge of Sustainable Transportation
Tell us a bit about your life.

I have been working at Tesla Motors since October 2013 and was recently promoted to Senior Project Manager. While this occupies most of my life, I carve out time for other adventures: Belize last November, Thailand this April, weekend ski trips with friends. I volunteer at a homeless housing project, providing homework and tutoring support. Also, I enjoy seeing Waldorf classmates, both from grade school (WSP) and high school (SFWHS). And I am putting my Waldorf art skills to use illustrating my cousin's book of poetry, due to be published this March in Germany.

Describe your journey since high school graduation.
I was accepted to Drexel University but took a "gap year" after high school for travel and work. I moved to Lake Tahoe and worked at Heavenly ski resort for the winter season, enjoying the freedom of a minimum wage job with minimal responsibilities. I later traveled to Australia and Germany over the summer.

While I enjoyed my year off and would recommend it to high school graduates, I was also ready to get back to school. At Drexel I studied Design and Merchandising, with a minor in Marketing, and valued the program and Philadelphia. After graduation, California called me home: I became an intern at CloudOn, a small start-up in Palo Alto, and within a few months was offered a full-time position as a Product Manager. I learned a lot in the start-up world and am grateful to have worked with such talented people. I stayed with CloudOn for two years, but found that I needed to work for a company that I truly felt passionate about, the way most people at CloudOn felt about their product.

After two years, I jumped at the opportunity to work for Tesla. The company is working to accelerate sustainability in transportation and bring electric cars to the mass market, something I am passionate about. Still, I knew little about cars, even less about electric cars, and even less about the team I joined (wire harness engineering) – so there was a steep learning curve. The company has a sink-or-swim culture and encourages employees to take initiative. I learned quickly how to contribute to the team, support them in a variety of capacities, and was recently promoted to my current position.

Can you reflect of your Waldorf years, nine years after graduation?
Waldorf's emphasis on creativity in learning and curiosity of spirit is alive for me in the workplace and in my life. Tesla is still very much the scrappy, start-up kind of place, and each individual is given great responsibility over their tasks. If you don't do it, no one else will. The small classroom environment at SFWHS fostered that same sense of responsibility and initiative. The teachers knew our strengths and encouraged us to work on our weaknesses — they challenged us to do our best. I was inspired by the caliber of my fellow students, and was constantly motivated to think and work in new and innovative ways. The Waldorf emphasis on independent initiative has served me well, at work and in personal development.

You joined SFWS in the high school. How was the transition?
I attended the Waldorf School of the Peninsula for grade school, so although I was new to SF Waldorf, the transition was quite natural. First though, I spent my freshman year at a German international school, but missed Waldorf education so much that I knew I had to commit to the trek to the City. The creativity, energy, rigor, and passion for learning at the high school were well worth the three-hour daily commute. I felt welcomed and at home at the high school and grew academically and personally during my time there.

One thing I learned at the high school that is constantly reinforced: being passionate about what you do makes a huge difference in your attitude towards hard work. Caring about your work makes those long nights, or frustrating projects, rewarding instead of draining.

Every month Tesla posts little newsletter notices in the bathroom, and they always come with a quote. This month's quote comes from Jane Goodall: "What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." We each have to make decisions for our own lives, as well as for the impact we want to make on the lives of others. I am happy to know that the peers I met at SFWHS and WSP are out in the world, making a difference.