9th June, 2020
I had a birthday recently, not a big one, and it reminded me that I am the exact stereotypical programmer: white, firmly middle-aged man. I’m now far enough away from 30 that this really is the case.
I had another long weekend this weekend and spent a lot of it thinking about racism, diversity and inclusion, protesting, and my spot-on averageness of being in the majority.
I received an invite to go protesting, and the fact is: I didn’t go.
I can’t give you a good reason why that is; certainly the pandemic didn’t help, but you could argue it’s about more than that; it’s very possible to wear a mask and keep away from people while protesting.
I could say I’m not really the protesting type, which is true to an extent (I didn’t even go Brexit protesting, and there wasn’t a pandemic then), but also not a very good justification.
Perhaps it’s because I thought back to the Brexit protests and many others in recent memory, the waves of people flooding London and other cities around the world, and thought that adding one more person to that sea was not the most effective way I could help. That’s also not a very good justification, unless you back it up by actually working out what you can do to help, and then doing it.
So here we are.
I do not work in a particularly diverse intersection of industries, and have never really worked in a diverse team. I used to joke that I was the diverse one, because I was the white middle-aged man that didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge (sadly, that wasn’t very far off completely true for quite a while). It is difficult to raise up and give a voice to the minorities around you if there aren’t any, if the minority is so small it’s absent. What is a minority of none?
That’s not to say I haven’t been trying. If you talk to a few female colleagues, I hope they would tell you I have at least been putting some effort into being an ally. But it’s not going to be enough.
Another approach is required.
By the end of yesterday I thought I had a good idea. I could offer to field any questions people have about getting into F1, motorsport, or engineering. If there’s so few people around for me to amplify, then let’s try and give all the fantastic, inspired, diverse students around the world interested in joining our little corner of industry an idea of what it’s like, how I got here, and hopefully help them on their journey in some small way.
As it got further towards the end of the day yesterday, I thought the idea was an OK one. But I’d tried it before and didn’t have much uptake. Who would want to hear from me, about what I spend all day at my laptop tap-tap-tapping away at? Probably not many people, and there’s some good evidence of that! My distinct averageness is certainly not an inspiration for so many people who won’t see someone like them in our office. I was ready to get up this morning and firmly not do anything about it and get on with my day.
Serendipity is a weird thing. I woke up this morning slightly forlorn in my abandonment of the idea, struggling for something new. Then, I found overnight that I had received a LinkedIn message from a student in North America asking about what it takes to get an internship at McLaren for F1.
So now we’re on!
If you are from an under-represented group in F1, motorsport or engineering (basically, you’re not a middle-aged white man from UK / northern Europe), then I am here to answer your questions. How to get into F1 / motorsport / engineering, how I got there, what I did along the way, what I studied, who I talked to, what it’s like - anything you want along those lines.
To get in touch, send me a message on LinkedIn or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I won’t be checking you’re not a middle-aged white man, everyone gets a fair go and I’ll be as honest and detailed as I possibly can to any and all questions. And if I can’t answer, I’ll try to tell you why and find someone who can.
But I will say this. If you are a white, middle-aged man taking me up on my offer, you are taking time away from me helping the minorities in our industry to become better represented. Is that what you want to deliberately be doing? I hope that question is one that you get used to asking yourself, all the time: whenever you speak up in a meeting, sign up for an event, take a slot somewhere that could go to someone else. It’s fine to take opportunities but think about the consequences.
If you know someone who would be interested in working in F1 / motorsport / engineering then please pass this on to them, and consider sharing it with your network. Perhaps you could extend a similar invite too?