“I realised that an academic pathway was not the way I wanted to go,” says Kat Farmer. “Instead, I chose to gain workplace experience and took every opportunity that this experience has afforded me. I hope that my career path demonstrates that a degree isn’t the only route to a successful career.”
Kat Farmer is a Partner Manager at Williams Racing and is fortunate enough to travel the world with her job. However, Kat didn’t go down the conventional path to get to where she is now. She decided to not go to university and instead gained experience with an internship at Bath Rugby that kickstarted her career.
"Networking is so key."
“I actually withdrew my UCAS application before my results came through and just decided the pressure to get the results and then do something I wasn’t a hundred percent sure about, I didn’t want that,” Kat says. “I thought I’d regret it, but actually it was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.”
At the time she was working at the Bath Rugby shop to earn some money. She asked if she could undertake work experience at the head office and they agreed, allowing Kat to spend one day a week gaining knowledge and insight.
“It got my foot in the door so when the opportunity of a marketing internship came about,” she says. “It wasn’t given to me because I was on work experience, I had to apply and interview for it and it was my first job interview really but I got it.”
Kat is still a big advocate for university not being the only route into the professional world and her own story is testament to this.
“There are so many other ways you can get the job you really desire,” she says. “If that’s through an apprenticeship or going to college, just getting your foot on the ladder somewhere no matter how small the role is, just get your foot on the ladder, build up your network of people and if you're lucky, you will have someone who really believes in and backs you like I did, then you’ll go far but networking is so key.”
Kat went on to become Marketing Assistant, Marketing Coordinator and then Marketing Executive before deciding to move on to pastures new. She was actually interviewed by another Formula 1 team before she went on to work at Manchester United, but was unsuccessful at interview.
“It made me realise at the time that I perhaps needed a bit more experience. Although I didn’t get a lot of feedback from that particular Formula 1 team, I was able to realise myself that the way I answered some of the questions wasn’t quite right,” she says. “I made sure I learnt from that so that when Manchester United came about a couple of months later, I was better prepared and able to answer some of the questions I found difficult the first time round.”
She wasn’t actively searching for another job when the opportunity at Williams arose however, she knew that she had to take it.
“I applied not thinking too much of it and then got a phone call and it all happened quite quickly. By Christmas 2018 I was offered the job and started in February 2019,” she says. “Formula 1 is such a hard role to get into, I guess for a lot of people, and people will find that. I wasn’t successful the first time round with a Formula 1 team, but I learnt from it and it stood me in good stead. It wasn’t meant to be at the time but with the invaluable experience I then gained at Manchester United, obviously Williams was, and I’ve not looked back! I’m still learning and growing in my role but above all else, I enjoy it and work with some brilliant people.”
"The likes of Monaco, Singapore, Silverstone - they’re pretty busy."
Kat’s role as a Partner Manager is a deeply varied one, especially when she has travelled with the team to races during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I did Belgium, Germany and Imola this year but my role at track has been slightly different as obviously we have no guests trackside so it’s more of a general marketing role, supporting our Comms team, just having a bit of rotation so we can do everything we need to do trackside,” Kat says.
In 2019, her first year with the team, Kat did a staggering 17 out of the 21 races on the calendar, taking her to all four corners of the globe. Some of the busiest events for her were Silverstone - as it’s the team’s home race - and additionally Monaco, although Grand Prix’s further afield are also busy due to the differing markets where the partners are based.
“Singapore is always pretty busy because of where it is in the world, around the Asian key markets,” she says. “The European ones are often very busy - it’s rare that we have a race and it’s just really quiet, all the races were well attended last year, we always had something going on. But the likes of Monaco, Singapore, Silverstone they’re pretty busy, but it depends on the partners, their key markets, their customers, clients - it really does vary.”
"Something will come eventually you just keep working at it."
When asked if there’s a piece of advice she would give to someone wanting to work in Formula 1, Kat is adamant that you must keep persevering, despite facing hurdles along the way.
“Just keep going, don’t give up,” she says. “If you have one setback, you have two setbacks you have three setbacks, something will come eventually you just keep working at it. If you go for a job interview, ask for feedback, if you don’t get feedback, just think; what could I have done better? And just keep going."
The best advice given to herself was that the “world owes you nothing”. That is something that has stuck by her ever since and something she’s carried into her current Formula 1 adventures.
“You have to go out there and earn it, and the older I’ve got the more that rings true because nothing is given to you on a platter,” she says. “You have to go out there and you have to earn it and if you desire something enough, you’ll get it eventually. So, for someone looking to come into motorsport, and thinking ‘Ah, there’s not a chance I’ll get in’, there’s every chance you’ll get in. You just have to keep working for it and, don’t be disheartened by setbacks, see it as a positive, learn from it and when the opportunity comes around again, you’ll be better prepared for it.
“Keep networking, because you never know when you might need a contact, an endorsement, or when you might have the opportunity to help someone else in a similar way.”
You can see the opportunities Williams Racing currently has here.