Today has been the absolute pits. I won’t go into (boring) details, but I feel like a forlorn 7 year old who’s lost her teddy and feels like the world is ending. The only thing I could think would wack a smile on my furrowed face, was posting this particular Q&A – because it features someone I truly adore.
When I decided to attempt a non-nauseating, motivational blog series on people making their Hobbies their Careers, Ally was one of the people who felt perfect for it because she’s honestly one of the most inspirational people I know. Ally’s transition took hard graft, endless determination, positivity and sweat, tears, and, more than anything, time. It didn’t happen overnight – and in today’s world of now! now! now! instant gratification, I find someone working really bloody hard, and being really bloody patient, truly inspirational.
Ally and I used to live together a few years ago and we spoke a lot (amongst boys, periods, feminism, love, monogamy, etc) about her career path. She loved her job at the time but her DREAM was to get into Formula One – but with it being a very close-knit, male dominated industry, it felt really impenetrable. At times when she would get upset after a knock back, but she never gave up, and is the living example of if you don’t first you don’t succeed, try try again.
I’m a lucky lady to have existed in the energy of her positivity and determination – and I could not be more happy to share her story with you. Welcome, Ally ❤
So, first things first, what’s this hobby that you have and how/when did it start?
Sport was never something that interested me beyond being slightly less boring than the 10 o’clock news or Have I Got News For You (hey, I was 10), and for a long time Formula 1 was just a load of noisy cars going round in circles. So what? Well, I blame my brothers for making me understand, and eventually love watching, the world’s fastest motor vehicles compete all over the globe. Once I understood what went into making these incredible machines, how talented and athletic the drivers needed to be, and how the endless rules on and off track made it the most competitive and impressive sport I’d ever watched, I was hooked. Two decades later and I’m the only one in my family still watching it, and not only that, I work for a championship-winning team and am waiting to be woken up by someone telling me it was all a dream.
Awww! It’s REAL babes! So when was it – or what was it – that made you decide you wanted to make it a source of income?
When I started thinking about careers in secondary school (probably a lot later than I should have been), it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be working in Formula 1. To be honest, it didn’t enter my mind. Sport was a hobby! How many football fans become footballers? I wasn’t an athlete, I wasn’t going to be a race driver, and I certainly wasn’t good enough at science to be an engineer. So I pursued my other passion: film. I did two degrees in Film Studies with a plan to work for the world’s biggest film magazine – Empire. After six years of hard work and job-hopping I finally made it. Over that time I’d started travelling to Formula 1 races for holidays and maintained my strict regime of watching them on TV live, no matter what hour of the night they ran. I was following and interacting with the teams and people that worked in the industry on Twitter, building up an idea of what went into putting two cars on track. With time, maturity and plenty of new information, I realised that there were a lot more people involved in an F1 team then just the drivers and the engineers. There were PR and communications teams, hospitality teams, travel and facilities organisers, sponsor liaisons, caterers, kit and merchandise designers – on top of all the other areas outside of engineering that were involved in the creation of the car. So when my wonderful time at Empire looked like it was coming to an end, F1 suddenly seemed more viable than ever before as my next career step.
How did you go about doing it?
How I went about it is a little convoluted, but essentially I’ve always been a ‘foot in the door’ kind of person. Starting from the bottom is how I managed to join the amazing Empire team and I’ve never been afraid to take the long way round if I think it’s got a chance of taking me where I need to go. So when I was in Monza at the Italian GP, I made an effort to hang around near the paddock gates to see if there was someone official-looking I could talk to. I was lucky enough to meet a TV camera man and mentioned that I was looking for work experience with a team. He gave me the PR contacts for every team on the grid and off I went to email them! And email them again. And again. And again. I’m sure it’s unsurprising to hear that I didn’t hear back from a lot of them, but with polite perseverance, I got responses from some of those who originally ignored me. Most of them couldn’t help, but one of them did, and I got a week’s work experience in the press office of a small team. This gave me such a great insight into the behind-the-scenes working of an F1 team as well as doing WONDERS for my CV. I finally had something motorsport related on there to impress future desirables. I Googled the hell out of the industry and cold emailed agencies related to the sport even when I didn’t really know what they did. Some people were nice enough to meet me for a coffee and give me some advice in lieu of a job. I kept a continual eye on all the team websites in case anything relevant popped up, but jobs with teams are rare to start with, let alone ones I might be qualified for (PR or communications). I continued to build on my experience by reaching out to Autosport and joining their Junior Writers program where I built up my CMS management and motorsport journalism skills. I was also fortunate enough to have a really strong and encouraging network of friends around me who made me believe I could do it and were a source of never-ending encouragement. I can’t stress how important and amazing those people were and continue to be. Eventually the right job with the right team popped up on the right website I went for it full steam ahead. I was lucky enough to get it!
What set backs did you face (if any?!) and what did you do to overcome them?
Non science-based jobs in F1 are incredibly hard to come by. It’s a very small sport compared to things like football. There are only 22 drivers and 11 teams globally, and even with the bigger teams job opportunities are limited. A lot of it was a waiting game, which required a lot of patience, but I also think being proactive and getting my name out there by enquiring about work experience and speaking to leftfield agencies put me on the map. Also, working with Autosport was incredibly valuable as my contacts there gave me a lot of advice about the industry.
Do you feel you made a success out of it?
I’ve only been with my team a week so it’d feel a bit presumptuous to say it’s a success before I’ve passed probation, but I am incredibly happy and proud of where I’ve got to and hope I am able to make a great success out of it.
Now, can you give me some words of motivational wisdom please!
I almost can’t really believe I’m working for Red Bull Racing. It is a dream, therefore dreams can come true! Believe! Persevere! Use those amazingly supportive people you have around you to lean on and support you! Take a leap. Cold email people. Cold call people. It’s hard and can be dispiriting and there were many times I thought about chucking it in, but I didn’t, and it paid off.
Oh Ally, you’re just The Best! I’m so happy you’re living your dream, pal.
If you want to follow Ally, you can do so – RIGHT HERE! @
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