Clare Sibley is the Head of Quality and Manufacturing Engineering at Williams Racing, one of Formula 1’s oldest and most prestigious teams. In her current role, Clare is responsible for the efficient and accurate production of engineering parts and, in her own words, bridging the gap between the engineering and the operations teams.
Like many professionals in motorsport, no day is ever the same as the last for Clare at the Williams Racing Headquarters in Grove.
“I'm Head of Quality and Manufacturing Engineering at Williams, so my job involves making sure parts that engineering asks us to make within operations are made to the right specification and in the most efficient way possible,” Clare tells Females in Motorsport. “Then where they aren't made correctly, or we have a problem with them, I'm looking at what that problem was and how it can be resolved going forward.
“It's hands-on and really varied, which is great. You never know quite what's going to arrive on your table today. Some days we wish it was a bit smoother, but actually I think we'd all be a bit bored if we didn't have that kind of change and variety in our jobs.”
Clare joined Williams in 2016 as a Materials Engineer following six years with Mercedes High Performance Powertrains, a team she joined on a highly competitive graduate scheme.
“I did a degree in Material Science at Cambridge University, and afterwards when I was looking for a job I applied for a graduate scheme at Mercedes High Performance Powertrains,” she says. “Although I was based in the materials department, it was a rotation scheme so I got to be involved in lots of different departments around the business as well. That was great for getting visibility of how other things within the engineering side of the company worked.”
Despite forging an incredibly successful career working in motorsport for over 10 years, before joining Mercedes in 2010 Clare had no real interest in the world of motor racing.
“I remember my interview for Mercedes when I joined, my boss said to me, you're the only person who hasn’t talked about a great passion for motorsport in their application, and to be perfectly honest, I'd never really watched a race,” she says. “But then I think since I've been involved within the sport my love and passion for it has developed.”
Today, Clare is not only passionate about motorsport but of the resurgence of the Williams team, admitting she sometimes finds it difficult to create a clear work/life balance.
“I've never been someone who could do a job that I didn't love, which sometimes means I do too much work and spend too much time thinking about it in my off time. I don't think I could ever sort of walk out the door at five o'clock and completely switch off from it.”
However, for Clare, the events of the past year across the globe and at home have changed her perspective on working life.
“I came back from maternity leave in January - I have a nine-month-old daughter,” she says. “So I'm having to focus more on finding that work-life balance at the moment because, obviously, I don't have that ability to work a little bit later in the evenings or things like that. It’s been good for me, I probably needed that change.”
Another change Clare is pleased with is the promotion of female talent in motorsport engineering and STEM, something which the Williams team has in abundance.
“I'm quite proud of that when I left the materials team, another woman took on the leadership role within that team,” she says. “I feel quite proud that I'd trained and developed her well enough to feel that she had the confidence to step up into that role.”
To men and women hoping to pursue a career in motorsport, Clare suggests being flexible in your approach and keeping an open mind to different engineering disciplines.
“If you believe you can do it, it’s definitely possible for everyone to go into engineering if they want to,” she says. “It’s important to look at different areas [of engineering] as well. I look after Quality Engineering and Production Engineering, and these are two areas that maybe aren't as obvious to graduates as other engineering disciplines.
“I would also say it's important to keep a knowledge of the industry and show your determination. It's quite easy these days to contact people on LinkedIn and most people don't mind you dropping them a note if it's asking questions about engineering or Formula 1. We're usually always very open to answering questions.”
You can find the current career opportunities at Williams here.
All images are credited to Williams Racing.