Research your way into Formula 1 – Using LinkedIn

Many of the comments and questions I get on this site relate to my own career history and how I came to be working in F1. I generally wish to remain anonymous for reasons I have explained elsewhere so that I can continue to provide quality and impartial advice to others. My own career history is however freely available on the internet, as is the academic and work background of many of my fellow colleagues in Formula 1. You just need to know where to look…

Do your own career history research

One of the many reasons I do not normally discuss my own career history with people on this site is because I do not wish to suggest that the pathway that I have taken is the best or the only way to get a career in Formula 1. I would actually suggest that it wasn’t the best or most conventional way but looking at the career histories of a number of different people who work in F1 can be an effective motivator and give you potential ideas for different routes into the sport. Any combination of these may be the best for you but you should always follow your immediate opportunities and instincts rather than try to emulate the career of another person.

LinkedIn is a well established social network for professional people who wish to make connections on a professional basis rather than on a social one. It is possible to find the LinkedIn profiles of many people just by searching the internet for their name (especially if it is uncommon) and typically these profiles will contain school, university and work histories for those individuals.

For example, if you type “Paddy Lowe Linked In” into Google, the first result (as of October 2013) will take you directly to Paddy’s LinkedIn profile page :

http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/paddy-lowe/39/850/392

Paddy Lowe is now Executive Director(Technical) at Mercedes F1 but you can see several of the previous appointments he has held at McLaren and his academic history on his way to this high ranking Formula 1 position.

This process can be very fruitful for learning about how others have gone about making their careers in Formula 1.

Work your way around the grid

One of the best features of LinkedIn is the ability to see who a person has connected with and then to follow on to that connection’s profile page. It’s unlikely that you will know the names of many people who work in F1, other than those who make regular appearances on television as team principal or technical director. The connections feature of LinkedIn however allows you to find many (potentially hundreds) other F1 people and therefore learn their educational, training and career histories also.

Paddy Lowe for example is connected to Neil Oatley, Ross Brawn, Mike Coughlan, Stefano Domenicalli, James Allison and Eric Boullier amongst others.

Many people in Formula 1 (and other industries) will connect with their colleages and so if you find the LinkedIn profile page of someone you know this can be a starting point to research some of the other people who work at the same team as that original search point which you began with. As Formula 1 is a very close-knit community, many will also have connections to ex-colleagues at other teams and so you can slowly work your way from team to team researching interesting and relevant individuals and seeing how they managed to get to where they are today.

Taking this idea a step further

It is possible to make your own LinkedIn page and if you find this kind of research interesting you can pay to have a premium account which gives you greater access to profiles and shows you all of the information that an individual has posted. You can also request to connect to individuals and add them to your network but I would advise against randomly asking Adrian Newey and the like to endorse your design skills and make a connection. I get several requests each week from people who I do not know, just because I work at an F1 team and so people more famous and senior than me must be inundated with these. They are very unlikely to connect with you unless you have made some prior contact.

There are several motorsport job hunting groups setup and some of these are Formula 1 specific and involve weekly discussion on Formula 1 technical matters and the like. I am not sure that LinkedIn can get you a job in Formula 1 but it can help you make some interesting and useful research. You can get some further advice on how best to make use of LinkedIn here.

More like this

The annual publication “Who Works in F1” is a print directory which lists a huge number of profiles of people who work in Formula 1.

Who works in F1

WhoworksinF1

http://www.whoworksin.com

Again this comes with work histories and a lot of contact information for F1 teams and more importantly some of the key suppliers within F1. A great book but not cheap at £62.50

Keep in touch

If you are interested in a career in Formula 1 or want to learn more about how you can get involved, take a look through my list of frequently asked questions or read through some of my recent posts. This blog has a lot of useful tips and information waiting for you.

The time pressures of my job in F1 mean that I cannot update the site each day but I aim to post regularly. You can keep checking the blog for new articles or alternatively you can use the follow form at the bottom of this page or on the home page and I will keep you up to date with new articles as they are published.

If you have read the blog but there is still something specific you want to know you can always add a comment to this or any other post. Please bear in mind however that I get a lot of comments on the site now and I can’t guarantee to answer all questions, particularly if they have been asked before or have been discussed in previous posts. Please check my frequently asked questions or other people’s comments as your query may have already been answered.

You can also follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1.

F1 Work Placements – too good to be missed. Part 2

In the first part of this post I discussed the value of work placements at F1 teams and why they are such a golden opportunity for would be F1 engineers. In part 2 I wanted to discuss more about how to find them, how to make the most of them and what to do if you are not successful in your application.

Get digging

F1 teams will not necessarily advertise their work placement programs. The human resources managers at each team are normally inundated with “Can I have a job please” letters and it can be very time consuming to filter through the hundreds and thousands of letters and applications. One of the best ways to filter out those who are not serious candidates is to either not advertise their programs or to only hold the details on their own websites. Only those candidates who are determined to get to F1 will find them and so it acts as an effective filter to reduce the human resources workload. Perhaps they will miss out on some very talented engineers or candidates but perseverance and going the extra mile is one of the core skills for anyone working in motorsport and so it’s an effective first test.

You can find all of the websites and contact details for each Formula 1 team on my Useful Resources page.

Making the most of it

Even if you are lucky enough to have been selected for your work placement, the battle is not yet won. As I suggested in part 1 a work placement is really a 12 month long job interview and you should treat it as such. It should not just be about those 12 months but you should see it as the opportunity to start a permanent career in racing. Here are some of my tips for making the most of it :

  • Pretend that you know nothing
  • There is nothing worse than a student or school leaver who believes that they know everything about Formula 1. The real business is rather different to that which you see on TV so do not expect to be an expert in F1 just because you read magazines and watch television. You will not be expected to have detailed knowledge of what makes a car fast and what doesn’t. You are there to learn not teach !

  • Fast out of the blocks
  • First impressions last and it’s important to get off to a good start. When you start your placement, it is likely to be the start of the main car design phase and many engineers will be working late to keep on top of the mounting workload. STAY LATE. I don’t mean just for the sake of it but show willing from the outset and work as hard as you can on whatever you are tasked with. You are likely to have been given access to the main drawing store with all of the 3D models of the components which make up the car. Use that and learn. If you put your coat on and leave the minute that 5pm rolls around you are not likely to come across as a hard worker or a team player. This need not be for the whole year but if you make this enthusiastic start then you will give an immediately good impression.

  • Ask questions
  • This is very similar to the first point but it’s important to ask questions and learn as much as you can. Your immediate report (boss) is likely to be a source of vast knowledge for you and so not only will asking questions bring you greater understanding but it creates a good impression for those who will be deciding if you come back to work at the team permanently !

  • Don’t overstep the mark
  • Most Formula 1 teams have a fairly flat structure in that everyone knows everyone and the team principal is often on first name terms with the cleaners and everyone in between. As a work placement student however you should not expect to sit and have a coffee with Adrian Newey or knock on his door for a chat anytime you feel like it. It’s amazing how many students think that this is a good strategy. It isn’t! Concentrate on making good relationships with your immediate colleagues and they will make sure that the people who need to know are aware of all of your good work.

  • Keep the prize in mind
  • It’s incredible to think but I have seen several work placement students get bored, think that the work they do is below them or spend their days on Facebook or Twitter in full view of the technical director. F1 is not tiddlywinks, it is a highly competitive sport and a poor attitude will not sit well with your potential employer. If you are serious about making a career of this you need to grasp the opportunity and work hard the whole year round. A sense of fun and social interaction is all part of it, but remember that you are on trial and a fantastic career is potentially at the end of it.

    Don’t stop at Formula 1

    Stiff competition means that you may well end up not getting the work placement that you really want. I didn’t but it hasn’t prevented me from getting the career that I craved. Formula 1 teams now have structured work placement programmes but similar placements are possible in many other areas of motorsport

    As I have mentioned several times in other posts, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to focus purely on Formula 1 and so miss out on many other good and relevant experiences elsewhere. MotoGP, World Rally Championship, NASCAR, IndyCAR, Touring Cars etc etc are all very high profile motorsports where work placements programs exist. They will probably not be advertised but you should contact as many teams, manufacturers and constructors as you possibly can and offer your services. It only takes one interested person and suddenly you have your foot in the door and a career in motorsport has begun. Experience gained here will be perfect to build up your CV for a time when you want to move across to Formula 1. Don’t ignore opportunities just because they are not in F1, there are more open doors than you may think but you’ll need to go looking for them.

    For other ways of getting that first step into racing take a look at my earlier post on 5 ways to get a job right now.

    Keep in touch

    If you are interested in a career in Formula 1 or want to learn more about how you can get involved, take a look through my list of frequently asked questions or read through some of my recent posts. This blog has a lot of useful tips and information waiting for you.

    The time pressures of my job in F1 mean that I cannot update the site each day but I aim to post regularly. You can keep checking the blog for new articles or alternatively you can use the follow form at the bottom of this page or on the home page and I will keep you up to date with new articles as they are published.

    If you have read the blog but there is still something specific you want to know you can always add a comment to this or any other post. Please bear in mind however that I get a lot of comments on the site now and I can’t guarantee to answer all questions, particularly if they have been asked before or have been discussed in previous posts. Please check my frequently asked questions or other people’s comments as your query may have already been answered.

    You can also follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1.

F1 Work Placements – too good to be missed. Part 1

The most difficult hurdle to forging a career in Formula 1 is getting that elusive first F1 job, that breakthrough step into the often closed world of professional motorsport. In this post I’ll describe why work placements are now the best opportunity to get your foot in the door, where to find them and how to make the most of them if you are lucky enough to be chosen.

A rare open door

As I discussed in my post on “Breaking down the barriers to Formula 1”, motorsport can often seem like a closed door and only open to those with prior experience. Getting a job in F1 or other types of racing can be difficult, but it’s not hard to see that as people move on or retire from working there must be a intake of new talent to the sport to stop the teams from shrinking and collapsing. In truth the number of people working in F1 is now expanding again and so there must be a way in. It is just a case of finding it.

For university students, predominantly those people studying engineering but also for management and marketing students the single most likely way to break into the sport these days is through work placements. Almost all of the current F1 teams take on undergraduates on long placement programmes (normally a full 12 months or more) and this is for a number of reasons :

  • Students are a source of relatively cheap labour
  • The programme allows a team to develop relationships with universities for research purposes
  • Student placements are lower risk than a graduate recruitment programme

The first two in that list are genuine plus points for the teams but it is really the last and final point that is the most relevant for those wishing to break into the sport. I am often asked where graduate vacancies are advertised, or where those jobs are that say “No experience necessary”. Bad news really, they are few and far between. Its all about risk and taking on inexperienced people carries significant risk.

Imagine a team wants to take on a graduate, or perhaps several. They might post an advert on autosport.com or on racestaff.com and receive hundreds of applications from interested people. Firstly they will have the not trivial task of sorting through those hundreds of applications and selecting the 5 or 10 resumes that look promising. They then have to invite each for an interview and they then have just an hour or so to find out everything about those people and decide whether or not they have a future with that team. Its a very difficult process (have you ever considered what it is like to be on the opposite side of the table during an interview?) and carries enormous risk. I was involved in choosing a new graduate at a previous team and the candidate I chose performed very well in the interview but was lazy, over-confident and a poor engineer when it came to working full time. A big mistake which we could not undo easily.

A 12 month job interview

The biggest advantage of a work placement scheme for an F1 team is that they get to see potential recruits working and developing their skills in the right environment over long period of time. It is in effect a 12 month long job interview and it’s normally pretty clear to a team after that period which candidates will make good F1 engineers and which will not. The students who are not suitable will go back to university finish their degree and will probably not hear from the team again. Those who performed well however are likely to be invited back to take up a full time job once their studies have been completed. This is the magic, or unseen graduate recruitment process in F1 and why the places are seldom or never advertised. Some teams do still recruit graduates fresh from university but this is the exception rather than the rule.

For university level people, this is as good an opportunity as you are going to get. Do as much homework on this as you possibly can by contacting the teams early and asking for details of their program. Leaving it until the months before your year out begins is much too late and will be a clear sign to the teams that you are not organised and not a serious candidate. Williams F1 for example are advertising for their work placement students now (September/October 2013) who will begin work in July or August 2014. This text is taken directly from the advert on their website.

As part of Williams’ ongoing commitment to support Universities in supplying the talented engineers to the Formula One industry in the future, we operate a 12 month student placement programme.

Student Placement Opportunities Available

The Company receives many applications from students who would like the opportunity to undertake student placements. Due to such high demand along with limited availability due to our company size, resources and racing commitments we are only able to accommodate the following opportunities each year:

 Maximum of 10 paid student one year placements

Students will work under the mentorship of an experienced team member, gaining significant experience, as well as invaluable information for final year dissertations / thesis. Along the way students will pick up a diverse range of new skills and competencies that can be universally applied in an environment that is constantly changing.

Throughout the duration of the placement, the student will have regular performance evaluations with the nominated manager to aid professional and personal development. The Company’s informal working culture will also allow the student to network with the full spectrum of people working within the team.

Only students taking part in the student placement programmes can be accommodated in our Aerodynamics, Design and Test Facilities Departments. We do not offer student placement opportunities on our Race or Test Teams.

Student Placement Application Process

When shortlisting student placement applications the Company generally expects students to be studying relevant subjects at university in subjects such as Mechanical Design and Aeronautical Design and have a minimum of two years experience at University before the placement starts. It is also essential that you should return to your course for a minimum of one year following completion of the placement. We are unable to accept applications from students in their final year of university studies.

In addition to the above, active participation in programmes such as Formula Student, F1 in schools may be an advantage as well as demonstrating an active interest in leisure activities such as go-karting, restoring or working on cars, building working models of cars and planes.

When applying for student placements opportunities, all students are expected to submit a covering letter along with a curriculum vitae containing the following information:

• Your current career aims and how you plan to achieve them
• Subjects that you are currently taking and plan to take
• Relevant leisure pursuits and activities
• Why work experience with the Company would be beneficial to you
• Demonstrate that you are the best person to be selected

Applications

Applications for the student placement programmes should be uploaded through our website by visiting http://www.williamsf1.com. Your application will be acknowledged within two weeks of you sending us the application. We will not accept applications which are not submitted through our website, any paper-based applications will be returned to the sender with a copy of this policy.

Too good to be true ?

When I was at school and even when I studied at University, opportunities like this barely existed. I wrote to every team asking for a work placement but without success. To have such an ordered and structured programme advertised with such a large number of placements available is a golden opportunity. This is exactly the kind of opening that you need to be ready for.

In the next part of this post, I’ll look at making the most of a work placement should you be lucky enough to be chosen, plus what to do if you are unsuccessful as there are potential many more open doors around, you just need to look a little bit further…

Keep in touch

If you are interested in a career in Formula 1 or want to learn more about how you can get involved, take a look through my list of frequently asked questions or read through some of my recent posts. This blog has a lot of useful tips and information waiting for you.

The time pressures of my job in F1 mean that I cannot update the site each day but I aim to post regularly. You can keep checking the blog for new articles or alternatively you can use the follow form at the bottom of this page or on the home page and I will keep you up to date with new articles as they are published.

If you have read the blog but there is still something specific you want to know you can always add a comment to this or any other post. Please bear in mind however that I get a lot of comments on the site now and I can’t guarantee to answer all questions, particularly if they have been asked before or have been discussed in previous posts. Please check my frequently asked questions or other people’s comments as your query may have already been answered.

You can also follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1.