How the Go Girls program helped Anna Woodward secure a work experience position with McLaren F1 team
"Chances of finding experience were starting to feel slim, until I heard of Formula Female "
My name is Anna Woodward, from Urusline College in Co. Sligo, Ireland.
I was introduced to Formula 1 when I was younger, watching the odd race here and there with my dad, although my interest didn’t begin to form until I tried watching it again more recently. Within a few weeks, I was hooked. My love of this intense sport continued to grow, and I started to consider it as a possible career choice. The more I explored the engineering side of it, the more I realised that it’s what I want to do when I grow up.
Formula 1 is very difficult to get into, where experience in the sport is required to even be considered for a good position within a team. When looking for experience, I came across two problems; the first that I live in Ireland, where the industry of motorsport hasn’t quite reached yet and the second that I am female. Although most teams are beginning to become more inclusive, motorsport is still hugely male-dominated. Chances of finding experience was starting to feel slim, until I heard about Formula Female.
Formula Female, which was founded by Nicci Daly, set up the Go Girls Karting initiative which aims to encourage Irish girls into pursuing a career in motorsport. This initiative engages girls by educating them in vital STEM subjects while demonstrating their place within the sport and career opportunities available. It felt almost like this program had been made for me! I was delighted when I was chosen to participate in it on behalf of my school.
When the day to head down to Galway for the karting finally arrived, my friends and I were beyond excited. Not only a day off school, but a day off school to try out motorsport? A dream come true! Throughout the day we tried out different roles in motorsport; from data engineering, where we completed circuits for sensors and then analysed the data we received, to pit stop challenges where we had to change a tyre as fast as possible. One of my favourite activities was calculating the racing line of the track we were karting on by using a mathematical formula. It was really cool to be able to put that knowledge into use out on the track, and see laps times decrease significantly.
The whole day was also a competition, the girls with the top 6 lap times went through the Provincial Finals. It was on the bus on the way home that I found out I had gotten through and I was so excited! It meant I could go back up to Galway in the near future and have
another day of karting experience! The Connacht Provincial Finals was such a fun day with all competitors fighting to be one of the two who got to compete in the national finals.
Unfortunately I didn’t get through, but I was satisfied with how far I’d come, and the great day I’d just had. I had learned about what I am most passionate about and met new friends along the way, especially Penny. We bonded over our love for the McLaren F1 team and since then we have become great friends.
The highlight of my experience with Formula Female was meeting Nicci Daly. Not only did Nicci found Formula Female, she is also an Olympian in hockey and was part of the Irish woman’s hockey team who won silver in the 2018 World Cup. She is also taking part in the 2022 eSkootr Championship as a driver for the team Carlin. Nicci has been a huge inspiration to me, I don’t think there is anything she can’t do! It was Nicci Daly who sent me the advertisement for the McLaren work experience and encouraged me to apply.
The chances of me heading off to McLaren Racing for engineering work experience felt highly unlikely but as I said to my friends at the time, ‘if you aren’t in it, you can’t win it’. So I applied anyway, trying my hardest to convey my passion for Formula 1 and my love of McLaren. I never expected an email back to say that they loved my application and wanted to get to know me better. I sent the required video interview back to them, fingers crossed that they liked that too! A couple of weeks later I received an email telling me that they were excited to offer me a place on their work experience and I could not believe it!
‘I am going to work in the McLaren Technology Centre!!’ I kept telling myself. To this day, it still doesn’t feel real. My week long work experience takes place in August 2022 at the MTC in Woking in the UK. From 9am to 5pm everyday, I’m going to be exploring aerodynamics (my favourite!), car design, wind tunnel, race strategy, engineering, simulation and more! I might even meet the drivers! This is a once in a lifetime experience for me and I know I am going to take so much away from it.
I have to thank Nicci Daly for everything she has helped me with and establishing Formula Female, which really encouraged me to follow my dreams!