Q&A with an XL Team Member: Tejas Chafekar, Firmware Engineering Manager
How long have you been with XL, and what is your role?
I’ve been with XL for 6 years now, starting as a controls engineer and progressing through my current role as firmware engineering manager.
I was hired to develop the ground-up design of the firmware for XL’s products, which have progressed over the years to put us in position to scale more quickly as we add more platforms and supplier options. I have seen XL grow from having a few test vehicles driving around Boston to thousands of customer vehicles across the U.S. and Canada.
In my current role, I’m now responsible for growing the team and keeping us aligned with industry standard compliances for XL’s safety-critical systems. I’ve been heavily involved with the performance tuning (and managing the associated EPA certification processes) to achieve fuel consumption reduction targets across multiple platforms, and working with suppliers to better integrate their products into XL’s system.
What is the best part of your job, or a favorite project you’ve been involved with, and why?
I’d have to say that the freedom to think out of the box, and having management’s support to try out a variety of ideas to improve XL products, both current and future, is my favorite aspect of my job.
My favorite project – that’s a tough one because there are multiple. The one that specifically comes to mind is data mining – seeing patterns in data and coming up with innovative, customer-specific fuel saving strategies. One of these exercises resulted in a major customer further improving their FCR (Fuel Consumption Reduction) by more than 10%.
How have you supported sustainability, either in your job or personal life?
I am very committed to sustainability, not just at XL but in my personal life. Here are a few examples:
- I helped plant a pear tree at XL during Earth Day a few years ago. (Picture above)
- I am a TeachSDGs ambassador. TeachSDGs is a group of educators that promote sustainability in school children. We conduct meetings (either online or in person) with local schools to promote projects around sustainability, and it’s very rewarding.
- I am a mentor for ATL Tinkering Labs. This is an initiative with the Government of India to teach “engineering/electronics/business skills” to middle and high school students.
- I am also a member and founding cohort of UNLEASH. This is a global innovation lab around Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I participated in the kickoff in Denmark where we focused on innovating sustainable solutions for urban environments.
What was your favorite job prior to XL, and why?
That would have to be Tesla. I was involved with the ModelS battery management system firmware validation. I was also involved with Tesla’s smart door handles and have a lot of great stories to share about my time there, including a meeting on a critical project deliverable that Elon Musk was part of. After experiencing Elon’s dedication first-hand, I have no doubt he will achieve many of his most ambitious claims, like going to Mars.
His desk was a few feet from mine, but it never occurred to me to take a picture with Elon – back then he was not the celebrity he is today! But I have great memories of my time there and we laid some important groundwork for what Tesla has done to bring EVs to the mainstream.
What is your favorite pastime outside of work?
During the winter, I like to take up a new activity or develop a new skill, such as acrylic painting or learning to play piano.
In the summer, I really enjoy hiking and cycling. My 2019 goal is to complete an AMC hut-to-hut hike this summer, crossing all 7 huts in the white mountains.
What is the last book you read and movie you saw?
Movie: The Founder (2017) – The true story about the founding of McDonalds.
Book: The Lean Startup – By Eric Ries.