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Giving up life in the fast lane, a blog by Hope Cansdale

Giving up life in the fast lane Hope Cansdale

‘Why did you happily leave behind the glamour and jet-setting lifestyle of Formula One in exchange for a career in consultancy?’ This is a question I often get asked when someone sees my CV, however it’s not a hard question to answer.

“Joining a company with a progressive culture was my biggest reason for wanting a career change”

I graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2013 and went on to spend three years working for Ford Motor Company in a range of engineering roles. As much as I loved that I’d chosen such a challenging degree subject and could now put all that knowledge to use, I struggled slightly with the company’s culture. I had some amazing managers at Ford who helped shape me as a person, however there was an overriding feeling of reluctance to change. On reflection, I believe I was too overeager and my managers did a good job of making me set realistic targets rather than expecting to change the world overnight. However, after three years I really wanted to spread my wings and make my voice heard.

I’ve always had a passion for motorsport and spent my last year at Ford working for three different race teams across Europe on the weekends, using all my annual leave in the process. In hindsight it taught me a lesson about work-life balance and that working 365 days without a day off is unfeasible, despite the amount of passion you have for something. So, when an opportunity came up to work full-time in motorsport, specifically Formula One, I jumped at the chance.

I took up a role as a trackside tyre engineer, working on the development and testing of 2018 tyre compounds and tyre strategy during the races. While the glamour was certainly there, the long hours were also there to match. With no European working time laws, a 20-hour day was a normality with only one day off in seven. I’ve seen the inside of Heathrow Terminal 5 more times than I can remember and in my experience the only difference between Bahrain, Sochi and Silverstone was the weather. The hotels all look the same and the drive to and from the track was always dark, bleary eyed and full of snoring passengers. Working long hours 180 days a year in an incredibly high-pressured environment with just a very small number of colleagues proved to be a challenging job. It could feel very isolating and although there were occasions that I felt part of a team, most of the time it was a lonely experience.

Joining a company with a progressive culture was my biggest reason for wanting a career change. It was important for me to find a forward-thinking company which is working towards a sustainable future, as this is a strong belief of mine. A number of friends from university were already working for Mott MacDonald, so I got in touch and knew instantly after my interview that this would be a company where I could thrive. The passion for the work delivered, the emphasis on teamwork and the opportunity to develop almost felt too good to be true. Almost six months later and I can say that it was indeed true and that I couldn’t be happier. People are open to discussing complex subjects, there is a supportive management team, a lack of hierarchical feeling and all employees’ opinions are listened to and taken on board. The culture of Mott MacDonald has been a very welcome change for me and I’m now on a corporate ladder that for once, I can’t wait to climb.

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