[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s early 2014, and Mary Beth Brown has chosen to ask for a raise, but she never expected it to terminate her 12-year professional relationship with Elon Musk.
Brown had spent the previous 12 years working for Elon Musk, the modern-day Tony Stark. She put in a lot of effort because she commuted back and forth between Los Angeles and Silicon Valley five days a week, working late at night and on weekends.
She used to be in charge of Musk’s schedule for two firms (SpaceX and Tesla), as well as public relations and advising him on business issues.
Musk treated her as if she were an extension of himself. At the very least, that's how she'd feel.
“Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” by Ashlee Vance, highlighted this tale and described Brown as follows:
“Brown — or MB, as everyone called her — became Musk’s dedicated assistant, establishing a real-life version of Iron Man’s Tony Stark and Pepper Potts.” Brown, like Musk, worked a twenty-four-hour day.
She fed Musk, lined up his business appointments, organised time with his children, picked out his clothes, handled press requests, and took Musk out of meetings when required to keep him on track.
As a result, she became the only link between Musk and his many interests, and she proved to be a tremendous asset to the firms’ personnel.”
Brown also made an amazing contribution to the development of SpaceX’s early culture, according to Ashlee, because she paid great attention to every detail and helped to balance the ambiance around the company.
So, in early 2014, Brown approached Musk with high hopes and requested a raise. She specifically requested compensation comparable to that of SpaceX’s senior executives.
Do you know what Elon Musk responded with? He advised Brown to take a few weeks off so he could appreciate the importance of Brown’s obligations (in her absence). Musk actually wanted to comprehend how important Brown was to him.
“‘Look, I think you’re really valuable,’ I told her. Perhaps the recompense is appropriate. According to Ashlee’s footnotes, Musk added, “You need to take two weeks off, and I’m going to examine if that’s real or not.”
Brown took a two-week vacation, and Musk took over her duties.
When Brown returned to the office after two weeks, Musk informed her that he no longer need her services.
According to Musk, “When she got back, my conclusion was just that the relationship was not going to work anymore. Twelve years is a good run for any job. She’ll do a great job for someone.”
Brown was taken aback by the news. No one gets fired for requesting a raise, right?
This unceremonious episode struck people at SpaceX and Tesla, according to Ashlee, and verified the lore about Musk’s brutal stoicism and lack of humanity.
Musk stated that he offered Brown a higher-paying job, but Brown declined and departed the company.
The question now is: why did Musk terminate his long-time assistant, who had done everything right for him for a long time? Was it all for the purpose of requesting more money? Or was it Musk’s realization that their relationship was no longer working? Or, despite working with Musk for twelve years, Brown’s inability to judge/understand him?
Brown’s point of view shows that she felt confident in her contribution to the firms Musk owned, and she wanted Musk to regard her as a top soldier on his squad.
However, she misinterpreted Musk on this occasion because he approached the situation from a very practical standpoint, ignoring all of Brown’s earlier contributions.
So, within just two weeks, Musk found that Brown’s job was no longer required. I mean, for Musk — Brown failed to become indispensable.
“If you agree with Musk’s choice to discharge his assistant from her post, it shows you the significance of making yourself as vital as possible before asking for a raise,” states this article on theladders.com.
If you side with the assistant, on the other hand, it’s a good reminder to not work for years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and
“Mary Beth Brown started working for Elon soon after we relocated to LA twelve or thirteen years ago,” Justine Musk, Elon Musk’s ex-wife, wrote on Quora on August 25, 2015, from her verified profile (Elon and I were still married then). Elon’s MB was a fantastic and dedicated employee who was also a pleasure to work with on a personal level.
She dedicated her life to the profession — and to our family — and her departure came as a shock to me.
According to Ashlee Vance, who published the book on Elon, MB apparently asked for a raise. E informed her that if she was so important to SpaceX, it shouldn’t be able to function without her (or something to that effect).
He proposed a three-week experiment to evaluate his idea and her value. This reminds me of something dad once remarked to me after I returned from a week-long stay with my family in Canada, many years ago: that his life had run smoothly in my absence. He was pointing out to me that I was an inept house manager.
(He wasn’t mistaken.) So, of all the theories I’ve heard about MB’s departure from SpaceX, this is the one that makes the most sense to me.
(Though you’d never use the word ‘incompetent’ un the context of MB!)
I hope MB’s life is wonderful wherever she is and whatever she is doing. We haven’t always agreed on everything, but I have — and always will have — enormous respect for that wonderful woman.”
Elon Musk rejected the story about Brown being dismissed.
“Of all the phony anecdotes, this one worries me the most,” he tweeted on August 11, 2017.
This story was never run by Ashlee or my assistant. It’s complete rubbish.”
“Mary Beth was an outstanding assistant for almost 10 years,” he continued, “but as the company’s complexity developed, the function required numerous specialists rather than one generalist.”
For those who believe Musk is a saint who can do no wrong, I must inform you that, like all other tough businesses, Musk fires those who disagree with him or get in his way (according to a new book, Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century by Tim Higgins).
Whatever the case may be, I believe the anecdote offers us some important truths. We should not work for companies where our efforts go unrecognised.
We should never take our jobs (or our bosses) for granted.
Because you can be replaced at any time, no matter how long you’ve worked for the company or how close you are to the management.
Companies prefer to terminate high-paid, long-serving staff and replace them with younger, lower-paid personnel.
That is the harsh reality. So keep that in mind and prioritise your personal life over your professional life.
Thank you for taking the time to read this!