Unlike most corporations of its size, Tesla only has a handful of c-suite executives and now it has lost a second one this year as Electrek learns that Tesla let go Gary Clark, its Chief Information Officer.
Tesla doesn’t have positions like Chief Operating Officer (COO) or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).
Instead, the company C-suite executive team is limited to Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer, JB Straubel, Chief Technology Officer, and Gabrielle Toledano, Chief People Officer.
Earlier this year, Tesla also had a Chief Accounting Officer, Eric Branderiz, but he left the company in March and Tesla doesn’t appear to have replaced him.
Now until this week, Tesla also had a Chief Information Officer, but sources familiar with the matter told Electrek that CIO Gary Clark was let go as part of Tesla’s management restructuration.
We contacted Tesla about the situation and the company declined to comment. We also contacted Clark who didn’t respond to an inquiry.
Clark came to lead Tesla’s IT team after there were lots of changes in the automaker’s IT leadership.
Tesla’s longtime Chief Information Officer Jay Vijayan quietly left in January 2016 and his position stayed mostly vacant for a long time.
Several of Tesla’s top IT executives and managers left during that time. After Vijayan, who was credited with creating the automaker’s ERP system, called Warp (like Warp Drive), left in January, Guru Sankararaman, Vice-President of IT Infrastructure and Operations, also followed.
They are now both listing their jobs as having co-founded a startup in stealth mode on their respective LinkedIn profiles.
Ganesh V. Iyer, who also came to Tesla from VMware like Vijayan, took over as acting CIO, but it only lasted a few months since he left in May to join electric vehicle startup NIO as CIO and Head of Global Digital Operations.
IT has always been a very important part of Tesla since the automaker has never shied away from building its own internal enterprise software instead of buying more commonly used enterprise software from third-parties like SAP.
Vijayan discussed what pushed them to develop their “Warp” system in-house during an interview with CIO Insight in 2014:
“Elon’s vision is to build a vertically integrated organization where information flow happens seamlessly across departments and where we have a closed feedback loop to our customers. By doing this, we can provide the best possible product, service and overall experience to our customers in the fastest way possible, while also operating efficiently as a business.
To bring this vision to life, we had to have simple and central business operations software that could connect all departments and enable information flow seamlessly across departments. Again, we couldn’t find one software program in the market that satisfied this need.”
Elon Musk has since pushed his companies to develop even more new enterprise engineering systems to be used across his multiple companies.
For example, we recently reported on Tesla and SpaceX sharing some custom software platform developed for materials research.
After Tesla hired Clark, some thought it could bring some stability back to Tesla’s IT leadership, but now Tesla has let him go as part of its restructuring seemingly without replacement.
Last month, Musk announced a vague plan to flatten management and restructure the company in order to achieve profitability during the second half of the year.
Following the announcement, Musk confirmed a round of layoffs currently ongoing at Tesla, which could see as much as 9% of the workforce leave the company.
It’s quite strange to have a c-suite executive let go without replacement as part of a management restructuration.
If we are to understand that the goal is “flattening the management structure to improve communication”, it’s not clear what it’s going to look like in this case.
In some cases, IT teams report directly to the CEO or CTO, which would be Musk or Straubel in Tesla’s case.
Either way, we can’t say now that the restructuring is not affecting executives at the highest level.
Tesla has often been seen as having a high executive turnover rate, but the company claims it is normal for a company of its size in silicon valley.
In order to counter that perspective, Tesla started also announcing executive hires lately.
Let’s see if they end up adding a CIO to that list at some point or keep the position vacant for a while like last time.