The next installment in our WotWW series is Libby Foster. She's an engineer at Lotus F1, and a truly lovely lady. Her opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of her employers. Interview by Dory.
DB: Starting with the easy questions: please state your name and job title for the record:
LF: My name is Libby Foster and I’m a composite design engineer at Lotus F1 Team.
DB: And please list your degree(s), achievement(s), and awards(s):
I have an MEng (Hons) in Automotive Engineering from Loughborough with a Diploma in Industrial Studies. (I did my masters as an undergrad, so no BEng!)
DB: What's your first memory of motorsport?
LF: Watching F1 races with my parents in 1996 when Damon Hill won the world championship. After that I got really into F1 and my dad would take days off work to take me to see testing at Silverstone, and one of my sister’s friends dad was a marshal at the British GP so he would give us tickets to go and see practice on Friday, and then the last year that I could get in on a child’s ticket was the first time that we went on Sunday for the race.
DB: What made you pursue a career in motorsport?
LF: I feel in love with F1 in 96/97 watching Hill and Villeneuve, and I was good at and enjoyed maths and physics at school, so engineering was a logical choice and there are plenty of engineering jobs in motorsport!
Back when I was applying for university the advice from the school’s career service was to pick a degree that was broad as possible so that you wouldn’t become too specialised early on, so I did automotive engineering rather than a motorsport specific course, but I think the motorsport courses are a lot more respected these days.
DB: Please describe your route from university to where you are now?
LF: I did my final year project at Renault F1, so I actually started working in motorsport before I’d even graduated!
After I finished my project I stayed on as a contractor in the reliability group looking at ways to extend my project work to other areas of the car. At the point my contract was ending my manager was changing roles into the design office, and offered me a short contract assisting him while he got settled in. Whilst doing that I worked through the company’s CAD training material in my spare time, and started picking up small design jobs along with support for a new bespoke drawing release and BoM building software that was being introduced.
After a few more contracts I was made a permanent member of staff in the CAD Support group, but over the next few years my time ended up being spent more on design work than anything else so I transferred into the composite design group a couple of years ago. In February I’ll have been at the team, under it's various names, for 8 years.
About a year after I’d started the team setup a graduate program, so there’s a much more direct route than I took available now!
DB: What do you love about your job?
LF: Most of the time it doesn’t feel like a job! It sounds a bit corny when people talk about ‘the Enstone spirit’ but I really do work with an awesome bunch of people.
Getting to go hang out in the paddock when you’re on holiday at races is pretty cool too, and a few years ago I was the ‘visa victim’ for the Malaysian GP, so in return for taking 10 suitcases of parts on a 12 hour plane journey to the circuit I got to hang out in the paddock the whole weekend!
DB: What would you change if given the chance?
LF: The hours can be a bit long at times, and it can be quite frustrating when things that you’ve spent a long time on don’t work out on track or get destroyed in a smash.
DB: What's the best part of being in this industry?
LF: Winning races. I should imagine that winning championships tops that, but I’ve not gotten that chance yet… And the camaraderie, not just within a team, but across all the teams. Being a relatively small industry pretty much everyone knows people at all the other teams, and although we’re all racing again each other on the track, that doesn’t stop as all being happy for each other when things are going well and helping out when they’re not.
DB: What's your dream job?
LF: I have it!
DB: What would you say to girls aspiring to work in motorsport?
LF: To girls in general…Don’t let other people put limits on you. Only you know what you’re capable of, and if you want to do something and you’re prepared to work hard to achieve it, then you should go for it.
Specifically for motorsport…Do your research on which college/university/training course has the best links to the industry and get as much relevant experience as you can, both within your education and in your freetime. Work hard, be persistent and don't
DB: Thank you Libby for being such a great sport and interviewing for us! We've loved having you :D