Jessica Daniels: My Motorsport Life
For the second guest blog post in the 'My Motorsport Life' series, we hand over to The Silverstone Experience volunteer Jessica Daniels.
I often ask myself, when was I introduced to motorsport? The answer: it was always a subtle part of my upbringing. My dad watched Formula 1 religiously and the commentary of Martin Brundle, alongside Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, was the weekend soundtrack to my summers growing up.
As well as watching it, my dad ran off to Silverstone once a year and I didn’t fully understand what my dad did at the British Grand Prix, possibly a Ferrari driver? Sadly not, he worked with a road sweeping company, responsible for keeping the paddock and pit lane clear. In my eyes he is still a legend and one of the few that had frequent access to the paddock and pits, resulting in the occasional accidental TV appearance and signed T-Shirt (remember the world before selfies?). As a child I wore his paddock tabards with great pride, modelled by my dad below.
Fast forward to my undergraduate studies where I made the decision to convert from being a motorsport fan to having a career in motorsport. Unfortunately, a pandemic struck and halted all plans of work experience and virtually everything else in life, so I decided to take a Masters in PR, Communications and The Media and it’s brilliant!
Rather than focus on what I can’t do, I decided to concentrate on what I can do, now and in the future, to secure a career in motorsport. I hope this will help those in my position who are starting to feel like they are hitting a brick wall, you are not alone, and I’ve heard, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Obviously, industrial internships are a brilliant yet competitive way to get into motorsport for those going into sectors like Engineering or Aerodynamics. IT and Finance placements are also available, but internships don’t cover all departments. For example, opportunities for Communications and Press Officers are rare, so you sometimes have to beg, borrow and steal (please don’t actually steal anything) to create your own placement.
I have been working on small scale projects to gain knowledge and exposure, as well as being a steppingstone to other projects. In the current climate, contacting smaller scale organisations can go two ways. Either they are struggling and can’t take anyone on, or they are struggling and would love any help they can get, the only caveat being they are often unpaid. But if you are serious about motorsport you may well have to do some unpaid work to get started.
The most successful and rewarding opportunity I have had so far is volunteering with a motorsport museum. There are many museums around the country, but I decided to volunteer at The Silverstone Experience. It’s a great idea for many reasons: volunteering looks good on the old CV, shows that you engage in motorsport, improves your knowledge about motorsport and they often have contacts within all different departments in the industry.
When you volunteer at The Silverstone Experience, there is no standard day. Volunteers have roles throughout the experience, with my favourite place being in the Tech Lab. You watch families learn about the technical side of motorsport and not just F1 but Moto GP and Touring cars. There is also a very popular heritage track with a view of Wellington Straight, Luffield and Brooklands corner. It’s really enjoyable to tell customers about the unknown history of this track.
I have been lucky enough to have grown up with role models like Claire Williams, Susie Wolff and Sabine Khem (Michael Schumacher’s Manager) paving the way for women across motorsport and girls now have a plethora of females in motorsport to be inspired by. A few examples to watch would be:
Petronas fluid engineer, Stephanie Travers
Lewis Hamilton’s Physiotherapist, Angela Cullen
Red Bull’s Senior Strategist, Hannah Schmitz
Inaugural W Series champion, Jamie Chadwick.
I have picked these examples to watch as all are regularly spotted on race weekends in F1. Jamie Chadwick is a Williams development driver with an active social media presence, which gives a different perspective to race weekends.
I hope this insight on how I am negotiating a career in motorsport will help readers with a particular shout out to all the women trying to break into this traditionally male dominated world. I hope you find at least one of the points fresh and worth a try. I am always open to hearing what others are doing and tips they have and would be happy to hear from you via Twitter or LinkedIn.
Lastly, I regularly remind myself; setbacks are good for you and you’ll appreciate your goal more when you achieve it. So, don’t be disheartened by not having instant success, you can do it!
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