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Sports Analogies

Beth Harrington at Zion National Park.

By: Mary Yemma Barnhart, associate director, Wellness and Recreation

Beth Harrington, ‘08, ‘11 jumps in her car after a long day of work, headed to ultimate practice. Nearly 10 years after graduating from NC State, she continues to play ultimate frisbee in a Tuesday night league, where she is the captain and teaches others how to play the sport. Beth played club ultimate with Wellness and Recreation for four years and served in leadership roles as treasurer for one year and president for two years.

“Playing ultimate provided me a base in fitness and a network of people that I still interact with today,” said Harrington. “Ultimate gave you people to rely on. Relying on people for getting rides, advice and building friendships. The ultimate frisbee club was all of those things for me.”

After graduating from NC State with a mechanical engineering degree, Beth started working at Volvo Trucks in Greensboro, NC. As part of the international graduate program, Beth spent her first year with Volvo Trucks traveling around the country. She earned a master’s degree from NC State in mechanical engineering while working and was promoted to project manager. Beth kept pushing and in 2015 earned her master’s in business administration from Wake Forest University leading her to become a chief project manager, managing a new vehicle program with Volvo.

Beth at a Tesla Event

In 2015, Beth moved across the country to the Bay Area with Tesla. Beth joined the multinational corporation specializing in electric vehicles, lithium-ion battery energy storage and solar panel manufacturing as a program manager working in interiors engineering where she launched the Model X and Model 3 seats.

Beth’s role transitioned during the past year, working in a chief of staff position for leadership in engineering. In this role, she supports the senior vice president of engineering and focuses on organizational development and project management in areas that are growing rapidly in the company. “We often have problems and we do not know who should solve them. So I go and try to solve them or figure out who can solve them and put the right people in place,” she said.

Since moving to California, Beth has developed a passion for the outdoors and national parks. When moving to California she fell in love. “I am on a really big national park kick this year. Our national parks are amazing and I underestimated them, but when I moved across the country, I drove through a couple national parks in Utah and went to the Grand Canyon,” she said.

This year, Beth has visited Death Valley, Zion, Redwoods and Pinnacles National Park and is planning on visiting Crater Lake later this year. “National parks are so accessible. There are seven or eight national parks in California and Utah is not that far. The Great Smoky Mountains are in North Carolina and I really underestimated how beautiful that place is. North Carolina has the Outer Banks which are gorgeous and Pisgah National Forest which has some of the best mountain biking in the country.”

Beth often brings her passion for fitness and the outdoors to Tesla. In her current role, Beth often references sports. “When I am part of the team or leading the team, I constantly reference sports or sports analogies. Analogies on how to build teams, interact as a team or even what it feels like to be on a team that works really well and is cohesive, “ she said. Rallying a team around short and long-term goals has been a similar experience to preparing for nationals with her club ultimate team.

“It is a lot of time with the same people, playing a game and trying to accomplish goals together and not always with the same view of how to accomplish the goal. And that is 100 percent how you manage teams in the workforce, it is the same thing. I am so glad that I played club sports for so many reasons, but the ability to lead a team has been one of them,” she said

Professionally, helping to deliver the Model 3 has been a proud accomplishment. Beth loves seeing the car on the road and continues to work to make sure the Model 3 reaches as many people as possible and spread the popularity of electric cars.

Beth works crazy hours and staying fit helps to balance her life. She said, “The basis of fitness that I got at NC State was through club sports. I was not a high school athlete like many people who play club sports, so I learned how to be fit. Everything from nutrition, fitness, weight training and conditioning, are things I learned by playing club sports and lean heavily on now, even 10 years after graduating.”