This is a transcription of a short interview between Mike Coraluzzi of MotorSportsCareerAdvisor.com and Professional Motorsports Recruiter, Stephen Bailey.
Brief Bio: Stephen founded Alexander Associates in 1993 and his Company primarily serves the automotive and motorsport sectors. He completed many projects for Vehicle OEMs, Component Suppliers, Engineering Service Providers and Race Teams in the UK, mainland Europe and USA so he’s got a pretty big background in motorsport and lots of knowledge to share. Since 2005, he has concentrated on the Motorsport sector and is currently retained as a Consultant and Advisor by a number of international motorsport organisations. Stephen has competed in a number of UK National saloon and sports car championships in the late 1980s and ‘90s. More recently has been involved with commercial management and sponsorship of both car and motorcycle racing teams. His web address is “Motorsportrecruitment.com”.
Mike: So Stephen, how you doing?
Stephen: Yes, I’m here. Great, thanks.
Mike: Awesome. Do you want to add anything to that bio real quick or are you okay with that, as far as background?
Stephen: I think that’s a pretty good introduction.
Mike: Awesome, welcome to the call. We have a few questions that we already went over together for this interview, so let’s get right into it. I see you did a little bit of racing early on yourself, but how did you start out on your motorsports journey into the actual recruitment side of motorsports? How did that all start?
Stephen: I was taken to my first motor race, to watch a live race in 1970, and it obviously made an impression. I grew up with cars, and after graduating from University, I went to work in the mainstream Automotive industry. I had a career as a Human Resource Manager at a very young age and after a spell in Management Consultancy, then started my own business 22 years ago. And because of my connections with motorsports and interest in it, I’ve come to specialize in it. So it’s quite a long journey, but a journey that’s become quite focused and is not finished yet, by any means.
Mike: Yes surely. And I hear that from a lot of people, including racers themselves, you know they’re taken to one race, it made a huge impression on them, and next thing you know they’re doing journalism, recruiting, racing or something like that. Being a recruiter, you’ve seen a lot of jobs available; I’m wondering what’s available regarding motorsports jobs? This is a big broad question, but what have you seen regarding the types of jobs available in motorsports?
Stephen: Over the years we’ve filled hundreds of jobs in the motorsports sector. Normally, we are asked to do some very specific things by our Clients. There tends to be a change over the years as skills and experience tends to mirror rule changes or maybe budget changes in many categories. But certainly, in our experience, the skills and experience they’re looking for has gotten much more specific, which is where often we’re able to help them.
Mike: I have people that I talk to who are actually motorsport journalists, those in marketing, those in sales, and there’s people who work machinery and support for teams; I mean, there are a lot of areas out there, as far as availability. Do you see any particular areas that have an increased demand for jobs in motorsports? Say over the recent years, you’re filling more of those because you’ve seen more of a demand?
Stephen: So the areas that we’ve seen a big increase in recently are Power Unit Control and Integration and Vehicle Dynamics, particularly in Formula 1™ and WEC.
Mike: That’s good to know. What types of criteria are teams looking for when it comes to placing? Are they engineers? Are they more of IT computer-type people or what do you see there as far as the actual people skills?
Stephen: Most of the jobs that we have filled have an Engineering bias at whatever level from Junior Graduate right up to Technical Director. So our expertise is more in the Technical area than is into filling Commercial or IT jobs. But again, I think the changes we’ve seen is that Employers are getting much more specific and demanding in their requirements.
Mike: Well that leads it right into the next question. Some jobs are much more competitive to obtain than other ones; can you give me examples of jobs that are easier to obtain versus those that are a lot harder?
Stephen: Yeah, I’m smiling because I don’t think we’ve ever been given an easy job to fill. I don’t think there’s any job that we’ve been asked to fill that’s been easy to fill because if it was, then we wouldn’t be asked to help fill it. But again, I think certainly, there are some areas where there are shortages, and as I’ve just mentioned, the whole area of power unit design, development and control integration, is an area where some of our clients have found it particularly difficult. In addition, there’s always a demand for good Aerodynamicists and Vehicle Dynamics Engineers. I don’t see those demands going away in the short term., in any of the major categories of Motorsport.
Mike: Like in Formula E and the electrical powered requirements, do you see a rise in demand for that or where do you think that’s headed? Good job opportunities or what are your thoughts?
Stephen: Formula E is interesting. I think some of the racing is very good, very close, very spectacular. Now there are opportunities for some teams to develop the cars themselves as the Rules are changing to allow certain areas of the car to be designed and developed by teams, which will call for additional expertise. And again, I think some of that expertise is going to be difficult for those teams to get quickly, so that’s an area where there might be opportunities.
I still think Formula E has got a way to go yet, in terms of the way that it comes across in the actual event, but hey, you know, I’ve not seen it face-to-face yet. I think that whole area of engineering power units and the control of them and packaging them, is an area that I think job applicants, or people considering a technical career in motorsports might want to think about. Integrating their mechanical knowledge with some electrical or electronic knowledge could be useful as because that isn’t going to go away.
Mike: Yeah, you’re right. I mean, right now, they have 180 horsepower batteries on Formula 1™ cars, so yeah.
Stephen: Yeah, 600 – 650 brake horsepower gasoline turbo power and 200 horsepower which comes from ERS and KERS, so it’s coming from several energy sources.
Mike: That’s right.
Stephen: If you watch Formula 1™, I’m sure you do and I’m sure some of your website visitors will, that’s what Mercedes have got right – Integrating that complete package in the car and making it work.
Mike: I think this year they’ve gotten a lot right. Yeah, they seem to be doing pretty well at this time. So we talked about integration of the electrical with the mechanical, which is true; I guess that goes right into technical criteria that motorsports teams are looking for, you mentioned aero people, electrical people, I think that touched on that. So let’s get away from the technical aspects for a minute. What about I deal with a lot of is graduates from colleges and I was just talking to someone yesterday and we were talking about the personal characteristics that teams are looking for. What personal characteristics are teams looking for in job applicants that you think should be emphasized by candidate?
Stephen: A work ethic. There’s no job in motorsports that’s a 9 to 5 job; if it is, there’s something seriously wrong. A determination to succeed as an individual and as part of a team, so a competitive nature is important. And team orientation as well; again, whatever level, whatever it is, Motorsport is a Team effort. I think these are the really important characteristics.
In terms of somebody looking for a job in motorsports and I speak to a lot of undergraduates and also a lot of people from completely outside the motorsports sector who want to get into it, the first thing I say is, “Well, why do you want to do this?” Because this is not an easy ride, but you’ve got to work really hard. You’ve got to really work hard to get a job, and then when you’ve got it, by the nature of what you’re going to be doing, it’s very demanding and you will need to work hard to keep it and progress.
Mike: I got you. It’s all consuming. That’s good to know; I mean, people need to know that. So can you maybe provide a couple of success stories of candidates like landing a job? How did it play out?
Stephen: Most of what we do is extremely confidential and therefore I cannot name names. One success story which is fairly recent. A Candidate that I first met 10 years ago and I’ve kept in touch with him, like I do with a lot of candidates. I thought he was a good guy and had some good experience. He was interviewed by the Team who he eventually joined, three times over the years on separate occasions. So I kept putting his details forward and mentioning his name to them and keeping in touch with him because I felt that he was right for that team and eventually he got the job. He’s there now working in power train support.
So that’s an example of somebody I kept in touch with and kept putting his details forward. He also was interested enough to keep in touch, and we landed him a job. He could have probably, gone to five or six teams, but thankfully, and good for me, he went to my Client. Another success story is someone who we first contacted by a search, by a headhunt, and again, we had some contact with this Candidate years before. We got him interested in a job which meant he had to move Country, so he had to move his family. It meant his wife had actually got to give up work. It was a long process to get them convinced to go. Our client did a really good job, in terms of introduction to the Team and that location. It then came to negotiating the guy’s package, and it’s probably one of the longest negotiations I’ve ever been involved in. I ended up helping to negotiate his Salary and Benefits Package for him and he was quite hardnosed, but in the end, we got him a really good deal. Our Client said, “If I had known what we were going to pay him to begin with, we might not have started , but we’ve now got a really good guy who’s come to join us, and at the end of the day, he is a better caliber person than we could have expected to attract.” So the guy has moved lock, stock and barrel, overseas and he’s quite happy doing a more senior job with greater responsibilities.
So that’s an example of when it isn’t always easy for somebody to move, and then the whole process can become quite drawn out and quite complicated. I’ve got other stories, too, like the longest lead time from meeting a candidate to the candidate actually starting work, was probably 15½ months and that was for a NASCAR team; a guy moving from Europe to the States and that was related to obtaining work permits which caused problems, but we kept him interested and got him there.
Mike: And that’s what you would do, I mean, that’s what your service does – all the heavy negotiating and so forth.
Stephen: Exactly. The value-added element. These guys would never get it; I can’t say they’d never get it, but they would have a really hard time without someone like you.
Stephen: Indeed. Often events outside our control take over, but it’s very satisfying when you’ve met someone over a period of years and you’ve got to know them, and then you’ve found them a really good job and everyone’s happy.
Mike: All right. Let’s get into newer motorsports job candidates. This is a really loaded question, but a strategy to obtain a good position within motorsports; it’s a really open question, but what do you think as far as someone just graduating maybe out of school or maybe is making a job change, how should they approach it?
Stephen: I think the first thing they need to do is talk to somebody who’s currently working in motorsports and there’s ways of doing it. There are Industry Associations in the UK and USA, there are seminars, there’s Race Meetings, where they can start to talk to people. They may already know someone, or they can network via social media or whatever.
So I think the first thing to do is talk to somebody who is doing it in order to get an inside view and then I think they’ve got to understand what category of motorsports they want to go into, what skills and experience or qualifications they’ve got which are relevant, and then it’s hard work. They’ve got to draw up a list of potential Contacts and they’ve got to really, bash away through Race Teams, or component supplies or services providers. Also maybe go through Third parties, people like us, but be a bit cautious about who you contact and do your research first.
Mike: That’s good. Yes, talking to somebody in the motorsports industry; that’s kind of like seeing what you’re getting into and learn a couple things on the inside; that makes total sense.
Stephen: Yeah. I mean, they’ll tell you a lot. Most people in motorsports like talking about motorsports; normally, they’re very enthusiastic and they enjoy talking about it.
Mike: So let’s backtrack for a second and condense it all down. Can you tell me what were the top trades and/or characteristics that you think contributed the most to the people you placed who are successful in motorsport careers?
Stephen: Determination, commitment, energy, team approach and competitive; so a combination of those, in terms of personal characteristics. And the will to work really hard.
Mike: Work ethic. Yes. How do you see the future for recruitment in the motorsports sector?
Stephen: For motorsports teams to compete and win, they need the right people, and the skill mix tends to change according to where those teams are in the various championship series. So there will always be a need to recruit people. But any serious top line motorsport team, whatever category they’re in, will have a need for new technical people on an ongoing basis; fact, so that isn’t going to away. So from that point of view, it’s often healthy for teams to recruit new people. With the teams we work for, there’s no lack of demand for people with key skills, they still come to us on a regular basis. So I think from that point of view, it’s a healthy industry to make a career in; once you’re in it and unless you make a huge mess up, you’re going to be in it for a long time and it can provide a rewarding and secure career.
Mike: That’s encouraging. All right, so to wrap it up, can you tell us briefly about your company and what do you guys do? What types of jobs are you asked to fill?
Stephen: I mean, we’ve become very specialists in recruiting in the motorsport sector. We tend to keep a fairly low profile because a lot of what we do is very confidential and usually specific and it needs to be; We’re going to carry on doing this and raise our profile. Although we are based in the UK , historically most of our work has been in mainland Europe. We’ve done Projects in North America on a number of occasions and that’s the way we’re going to carry on moving our business. I don’t see that things are going to change much, really. Of course, we are only happy when we are busy.
Just to finish, I’m more than happy to talk to people who aspire to make a career in motorsports. I’m more than happy to give them advice. I’m also happy to speak with, anyone that’s in motorsports and wants to change what they do. I’m also very happy to talk to organizations that have vacancies to fill. In complete confidence as well, which I think is important. The Motorsport world is very small and people often know what’s happening before it actually happens. And as you mentioned our website is www.motorsportrecruitment.com. Contact us for details. And the phone gets answered pretty quickly.
Mike: That’s good. And to wrap it up, you do all or lots of areas in racing, you do North America, you do NASCAR, Indy, F1™; can you just give me a summary of what you do?
Stephen: Most of the jobs we fill have got a technical requirement of some sort. So although we’ve done commercial stuff, that is not probably an area that we get asked to help in that often, so it’s predominantly technical roles. We have Clients in Formula 1™, NASCAR, IndyCar, DTM, WEC and domestic championships, component and service suppliers.
Mike: Fantastic. Well, thanks for being on. Stephen’s web address is www.motorsportrecruitment.com. And his email is firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s available for any questions and help needed. Thank you for the interview.
Stephen: Cheers Mike!