Talking to Strangers

The friends I made last summer aren't back at Tesla yet, so it's a weird feeling being back again but not having them around.

It's like starting a new semester at college but with all your friends graduated and already long gone.

Last summer my team also had a lot of interns, and we would grab lunch together. These days I'm thinking hard about who I can get lunch with.

However, with change comes new opportunity for growth and for meeting new people. Since I no longer have the same friends that I stick with, I'm forced to go out of my comfort zone and talk to strangers.

This week, I got to meet some interns from the SWE team at the cafe, and had lunch with an intern on my team. I like talking to strangers, I never know what I can learn from them. It's like the box of chocolates saying.

Growing up in Malaysia, taking the initiative to talk to strangers does not come natural to me.

It feels like I'm going against my own nature, physically and emotionally.

I tried it today, I sat down waiting for the shuttle bus, and wanted to strike up conversation with the person beside me.

I was actively searching for a common ground to start a conversation. I looked at his phone, it was worn out at the edges. Do I start with, "Hey what happened to your phone?" What if that's too personal I thought, would it come off personal or too out-of-the-blue? I then looked at his shoes. No nothing to ask there it was regular boots. What if I directly ask what team he belongs to? No that's way to early in a conversation with a stranger to bring up.

I thought about it for so long that eventually the shuttle came.

In my mind I'm thinking, because of my overthinking, I missed the opportunity to network with this person, who could've fed me a new piece of information, or connected me with another person, both of which could've changed the course of my life.

I went in the shuttle, want to the very last row, and sat beside a chinese guy in his mid 20s.

I've seen him before at the office.

So for 30 seconds, I sat down thinking whether I should tell him directly. I can feel my heart racing. A clock ticking down.

I was thinking, "Gosh is it too late to say it now, I've already sat down for so long, it's going to be awkward"

Then, I just decided to take the plunge.

"Hey, I think I've seen you at the office before"

He goes "Yea, I think so too", and says he's at the first floor.

We start talking about the team we work for, I mentioned I was a returning intern. He started going on about how Tesla is a good company that can bring lots of opportunities, about how his friends got to other companies with Tesla on their resume.

We both connected when we shared the same frustration for the IT department, and how messy things are.

At the end of our conversation, I found out his name was Ben too, like me. We both were animated and exchanged contacts.

I left the shuttle smiling.

I love the moments where you can connect with another person, when both parties have something to relate to, and surprising little moments like having the same name.

I aim to focus less on the anxiety of the infinite amount of possibilities from talking to strangers, and more on the opportunity of making genuine connections.

Hopefully by the end of the summer, I'll be more comfortable with serendipitous conversations with strangers.