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Elon Musk said the worst job he's ever had was so dangerous, it put him at risk of getting hypothermia

Mark Matousek , Business Insider US
 Feb 09, 2020, 04:14 PM
Elon Musk on the "Third Row Tesla" podcast.
  • Elon Musk said on a podcast that his least favourite job was a short-term position at a lumber mill when he was a teenager.
  • The job required him to shovel "steaming" sand and mulch out of a wood-pulp boiler.
  • The job was dangerous, Musk said, since it would be hard to get someone out of a boiler in an emergency.
  • Workers in and outside of a boiler would have to switch positions every 15 minutes so they wouldn't get hypothermia.
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From the way Elon Musk has described it, being the CEO of Tesla is not easy. The job has at times required working 120-hour weeks and sleeping on the floor of the electric-car maker's California factory.

But Musk's most unpleasant job came years before Tesla was founded. During an interview with the "Third Row Tesla" podcast, Musk said the worst job he's had involved cleaning boiler rooms in a lumber mill in Vancouver.

As a teenager, Musk wanted to move to the US from South Africa, where he grew up, so he could work in the tech industry. Before making his way to the US, Musk moved to Montreal when he was 17 since he could get Canadian citizenship through his mother. After working on a wheat farm, Musk traveled to Vancouver, where he took a short-term job at a lumber mill.

The position required him to shovel "steaming" sand and mulch out of a wood-pulp boiler, Musk said. A worker outside the boiler would then remove the sand and mulch from a tunnel leading into it.

Musk said the job was dangerous, since each boiler had just one small tunnel as an entrance and exit. If the tunnel was full, it could spell trouble in an emergency.

"It'd be really hard to drag somebody out," Musk said. "It does not seem safe because if the tunnel gets blocked, trying to unblock that tunnel would be very difficult in a short period of time."

Musk added that the workers inside and outside of the boiler would switch positions every 15 minutes to avoid getting hypothermia.

The job lasted just four days, and paid around double the hourly rate Musk's other options offered.

Musk would move to the US a few years later to attend the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating, he would found the online mapping startup Zip2, an online banking company that became PayPal, and the rocket company SpaceX. Musk is now worth around $40 billion (R603 billion), according to Bloomberg. In addition to Tesla and SpaceX, he is involved with the Boring Company, a tunneling startup, and Neuralink, an artificial-intelligence startup.

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