J. Douglas "Doug" Field

Vice President, Engineering, Tesla Motors, Inc.
BSME '87

For demonstrating an extraordinary combination of creativity and leadership, rising to premier positions in the engineering world, and providing inspiration to a generation of engineers

With many stories still to be told, Doug Field already has had a storied career. He talks about his professional journey the way many people talk about a great love.

"I have had some great opportunities as a result of good luck," he says. "But when I was lucky, I did try to act on it. I believe in what Louis Pasteur said: 'Chance favors the prepared mind.'"

An early stroke of luck was meeting inventor Dean Kamen who was a consultant for Johnson & Johnson when Field worked there.

"Once I saw his lab," Field says, "it deeply inspired me, and I joined him to work on the IBOT, a balancing and stair-climbing wheelchair. But when Dean started up Segway, I became the first employee." The Segway PT is a human transporter that self-balances using a control system and gyroscopic sensors.

Later, a former classmate would connect him to Apple where Field would lead development of next-generation Macintosh products. "I had loved Apple products since I had my original Mac 512K at Purdue," Field remembers. "This was an opportunity to go to a company that stuck by its principles of what great products are — but also turn that into an incredibly successful business model. It was an incredible experience to be a part of delivering a stream of really incredible products."

Field is now at Tesla Motors as vice president of engineering for the premium electric car designer and manufacturer.

"Moving to Tesla a year ago was the hardest career decision I’ve made," Field says. "I had never really thought beyond Apple. But it came down to the mission. It felt like a convergence of everything I had done in my career."

Field says that driving a Tesla for the first time was like using "the first Mac with a mouse. My immediate reaction was, 'everyone will eventually use one of these.' It was a similar experience owning a Tesla. Driving an electric vehicle made so much sense. It was faster, safer, quieter, roomier, and the user interface is what my kids and other future drivers would expect."

Apart from introducing him to his wife, Cathy, Field credits Purdue with teaching him to love engineering and with providing him an engineering education based on fundamentals. "Fundamentals and principles are universal. What I learned — and the way I learned it — allowed me to work on many, many problems — including problems that my professors could never have anticipated."

Career Highlights

2013-present Vice President, Engineering, Tesla Motors, Inc.
2008–2011 Vice President, Mac Product Design, Apple
1999–2008 Vice President, Design and Engineering, Segway
1997–1999 Chief Engineer, IBOT Program, DEKA Research and Development Corp.
1993–1996 Manager, Process Development, Johnson & Johnson Medical
1987–1993 Development Engineer, Ford Motor Company
1992 MSME, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1992 MBA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management
1987 BSME, Purdue University