Suzi Perry: “Just be yourself”

“I tell you, I was talking about this the other day to somebody who works in television,” Suzi Perry, a motorsport broadcaster, begins. “We were discussing how different television presenting jobs are. They are literally night and day between shiny floor entertainment and autocue sport presenting.

“She works for Sky and she was saying people that work in entertainment were coming to look at how sports presenters work because it is completely different.”

Broadcasting is notoriously tough. But when you mix in live sport, where just about anything can happen, the bar gets raised even higher. You have to think and act on your feet, as well as making what you are saying appear extremely effortless. It is a juggling act and one you must perfect in order to make easy viewing.

Suzi Perry, who has worked in the profession for over 21-years, insists that you “just have to be yourself” which, of course, comes from knowing all of your facts. Granted that is no easy task in the ever-changing world of motorsport.

“I think the biggest challenge is always getting the story right,” Perry tells me. “I think in the media people are so fraught to get there first, but it is more important to get the facts straight.

“For me, the biggest challenge is getting the story right and then after that what you want to do is – in a sports area what you’re supposed to do is create entertainment – so you want to make it entertaining as well.

“In order to do that you need to be able to unlock information from whoever you’re talking to. It is finding the right way of getting the information you want in a fun and entertaining way.”

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Suzi Perry presented Formula 1 for the BBC.

 

Perry has had a long and successful career in presenting – most notable being the lead figure with BT Sport covering MotoGP and BBC1 presenting Formula 1.

“I wouldn’t say I get nervous but I get a rush of adrenaline and it’s physical. It is a shortness of breath and a slightly shaky hand sometimes.

“It is more about the anticipation of what is about to happen. I am still as excited today presenting as I was 21 years ago when I started.”

Perry acknowledges that she holds a role that many aspire to. Many young girls and boys strive to make a career out of sport presenting.

“When presenting MotoGP, really anything can happen. You cannot call anything. It is all very much about speculation and lots of ifs and buts,” she says.

“You know that you are just going to be treated to an incredible spectacle and you’re lucky enough to have a patch on your neck and you’re right there in the heart of the action. It is an extremely privileged position to be in.”

And the passion you feel is key. Perry believes so, in order to succeed in achieving your dream job. It is an intense and competitive world, but you have to love what you do.

“What you have to do is know your subject. And love your subject. If you do know and love what you are talking about, then you just have to be yourself and that’s it,” she tells me.

“I have given that advice to a few people. Natalie Quirk included, who is now presenting on BT Sport. I met her and she was 14. She came up to me and asked that question when I was in the pits doing Speedway for Sky back then.

“It is nice now how all these years later, those girls are going ‘oh yes, you! Now I am doing this, doing that and writing here.’ It is lovely to meet young girls that want to be involved in media and broadcasting.”

And I could not agree more…

How to become a Motorsport PR and Journalist

Jess Shanahan is a well-known name when it comes to motorsport PR, journalism and promoting female involvement in the sport. A go-getter, the ‘Jetlbomb’ has grasped everything in her reach to earn a reputable name for herself.

Find out how she managed it below…

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“I started my own marketing agency in 2012 and soon my love of motorsport worked its way in there too,” Jess explains. “I started working with racing driver and television presenter  Rebecca Jackson on her PR and web content. Since then I’ve never looked back! I’ve worked closely with drivers in a range of series, as well as with automotive and lifestyle brands.”

From Team Boss to Racing Mentor…

“Last year I ran the Porsche team Turn Eight Racing, bringing in sponsorship, photographing race weekends and getting the team coverage in the local and national press,” she comments. “Over the past two years, I’ve been inundated with drivers coming to me asking for me to find them sponsorship.

“Juggling marketing clients and a small handful of drivers, as well as my own journalism career, was enough and I found that I couldn’t help everyone. That’s where The Racing Mentor was born. I thought, I might not be able to search for sponsorship for everyone but I can teach them how to do it themselves. The mentoring extends further than just racing drivers, I also help people to develop their careers, make more money and find their dream job

“Alongside running Racing Mentor, I am still running my marketing agency  Jet Social and am also a motoring, fashion and travel journalist.”

One busy, busy lady! But what are Jess’ highlights in her fun-filled career to date?

“Well, on-track tuition in a Clio RS with BTCC’s Adam Morgan as part of a Clio Cup launch event was brilliant,” she says. “Travelling to Frankfurt with Rebecca Racer and lead sponsor Turtle Wax,  roaring around Texas in a track-spec Corvette Stingray, being the face of the Route57 Road trip – all completely memorable.

“And, of course, watching Turn Eight Racing win numerous races during the 2016 Porsche Championship picking up feedback from every driver and individual that I have had the pleasure of helping. Those are my favourite moments.”

Unfortunately, with such a high-profile profession, there are some low points.

“There’s the long hours, a certain amount of uncertainty around income in those early days, and a very small amount of self-doubt,” Jess admits. “All that being said, however, I take everything in my stride and the key is never to regret and instead to keep pushing on.”

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That aside, Jess was eager to tell me her top tips about how to get a head start in this competitive industry.

Believing in yourself is important,” she begins. “If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else believe in you?

“Secondly, you have to keep going – perseverance and determination are the two most important tools. When something knocks you down, get back up. This is what sets the truly successful people apart.

“Finally, don’t be afraid to ask – it’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to ask for an opportunity. Build a strong personal network and ask those for help or a recommendation when you need it. Just remember to pay it forward.”

Jess is a member of Dare To Be Different, a feminist and an advocate for inspiring women in motorsport. After years of experience, Jess has seen a lot – the good, the bad and the ugly.

“For a while, and I think many women do this, I just looked past the sexist comments and got on with my job. I took a lot of it as banter. Sexist, yes, but meant with good intentions or as a ‘joke’,” Jess tells me. “However, I soon realised that jokes are part of the problem and that simply laughing along or ignoring it only feeds institutional sexism. I now speak out, if something is sexist or inappropriate, I say so.

“Most men welcome women in this industry and while it might be very male-dominated, motorsport isn’t a scary place. You just need to find your place and defend it when anyone suggests you’d be better off fetching coffee. If you want to know how to deal with sexism in the workplace, I can’t recommend Feminist Fight Club enough.

“For the most part, being a woman in this industry is great. I’ve met some wonderful men and women since I started in motorsport and have made friends for life. I’ve also been challenged in a way I could never imagine and have been able to build a successful and exciting career. Not to mention the fact I get to spend my weekends with race cars!”

And, who would say no to that?

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How to become an F1 Parts Co-Ordinator

The next feature in my ‘How to become a’ series showcases Cory Ashton, a Part Co-Ordinator at Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team. Granted, this topic area is rather niche, but there are currently multiple positions available for people like Cory in the motorsport industry.

Cory started out as an Engineer with Williams and has progressed to his current role. Diverse, challenging and requiring him to think on his feet, find out more below.

What the job entails: “My role as a parts co-ordinator is to supply the race team with everything they need to continue running where ever they might be racing in the world,” Cory tells me. “We select the parts from an in-house computer system which shows us what parts they are in need of. Therefore, we can send specific parts out to them, often in big shipments.

“When the team are back at the factory, we are responsible for supplying the parts so all the cars can be built correct to the letter for the upcoming race. They have to be made to the specification.”

A day in the life of a parts co-ordinator: “It’s difficult to describe a typical day because our workload and our schedule varies so much,” he begins. “We could word from 4 am to 8 pm one day and from 6 am to 3 pm the next – it really does vary so much.

“It is difficult to talk about day-to-day life in the job as it depends massively on what the team needs and so on. All of these parts have been made at the factory and are then transferred into a shipping location and boxed up.

“We work to a cut-off time, which is usually two hours before the parts are collected by DHL to be taken to the airport or wherever and transported to the race team from there.”

The path to follow: “It’s hard to pinpoint the steps I made to get here, I just kind of progressed up through the racing series, starting with British Touring Cars at the age of 14.

“From there I went to various GT categories, both national and international, and eventually I made the move to F1 when I had gathered enough experience and skill sets,” Cory admitted.

“The only qualifications I have are GCSEs and then I studied sports science at college. I have got to where I am through gaining experience at a young age!”

The highlight: “I’d say the best part is definitely seeing our drivers on the top of the podium!” he enthuses. “Without a doubt, you can’t beat the feeling of knowing that you were a part of the team and you helped to achieve the victory or podium. I think that would be the same answer for most people who work in the world of motorsport.”

And one final piece of advice: “The one thing I would say to someone is just to gain as much experience as possible from a young age. Experience speaks volumes and makes your CV stand out!”

 

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Cory Ashton with some of the team’s silverware.

 

Renault Sport F1 are currently looking for a Race Team Assistant Parts Co-Ordinator. You can find out more about the role and apply here: www.renaultsport.com/Race-Team-Assistant-Parts-Coordinator-Factory-Based-8233.html

 

 

 

How to become a…Motorsport Journalist

Over the upcoming months, I am going to be featuring a range of personnel within motorsport as they tell their story: how they got to where they are, and tips for anyone wanting to follow the same career path as them. From PR and journalism to hospitality and engineering, a broad range of career are going to be covered! So, keep an eye out…

This week sees the turn of Topher Smith sharing his story. I know many of you are aspiring motorsport journalists, and Topher is well on his way to making his mark in the industry.

Currently, he works as Deputy Editor in Chief for e-racing.net, covering the Formula E series. This has led to him becoming FIA accredited and allowed him to travel to events as media. Something he has dreamed of since the age of 14!

How his journey began

“I started out covering Formula 1, as that was the series I grew up watching and developed a strong passion for,” he told me. “After contributing a handful of articles to Motorsport.com as a way of dipping my feet in the water, I decided for definite that I wanted to be a motorsport journalist and went to Canterbury Christ Church University to study multimedia journalism. There I was able to learn the craft on a more intimate level and it gave a wider understanding of the industry.”

Top tips for becoming a Motorsport Journalist

“The most important thing to remember is to not give up and believe you have what it takes to make it. It was my Dad who first set off that spark of motorsport journalism within me when I was 14 years old after he suggested that I write a race report, which I still remember to be the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix.
“Having enjoyed writing that so much at such an early age, it gave me a very good idea of what I wanted to grow up to be and having had that so implanted on my mind has in turn given me that determination to do the best job I can within the industry.
“The best advice I can give to any budding motorsport journalists out there is to truly believe that it is fully within your grasp.
“On a more practical note, I learned the trade by just constantly writing. Practice makes perfect, as the old saying goes.
“You will see that a lot of the up-and-coming journalists of today have their own blog and have used it to great effect to practice their writing and help get their name out there. Along with my blog I sent articles out to a number of websites, more notably Motorsport.com who published three of my articles.
“This makes you feel confident in your ability to write a good piece. You can never send enough emails asking for your work to be used and no matter how many times you get rejected, someone out there is going to like you and want your name associated with their brand.
“When I found out about Formula E I was excited about the prospects of the series and wanted to be involved. I came across e-racing.net on Twitter and enquired about any writing opportunities. They were big fans of my work and happily took me onboard before promoting me to Deputy Editor-in-Chief following the conclusion of season one. It showed me that those years and months of constantly writing and promoting myself paid off and eventually culminated in me officially becoming an FIA accredited motorsport journalist.
“In short, always believe you can make it and never give up, and keep writing!”
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Career highlight to date

“There are a few I can think of but none will be more special to me than my first official Formula E trip as a media representative. I had gone to season two testing as media and had a great time at Donington Park, but the highlight for me was when I was able to travel to Berlin and be at my first championship event in a media capacity. The experience was made even more significant by the fact that Germany is a country that is very close to my heart and almost felt like that particular event with that significance was almost meant to be.
“Away from the track, one day I received an email from Melissa Wicks, one of the PR ladies for the NextEV team, inviting me to participate in a media karting event that was being held in the run-up to the London ePrix in season two where Nelson Piquet Jr and Oliver Turvey would be racing. I had to do a double-take of that email!”
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How competitive the industry is

“It is a lot more competitive than people realise, even if it may not seem so on the surface. During my trips to the various media centres that I have worked in I have met a number of journalists who you have the chance to get to know as you all work together, but no matter how good a friend you make in those fellow journalists there will always be that sense of rivalry to be better than the others.

“Personally, I have a bit more of a laid-back attitude to that competitiveness, I’ve always said that as long as I can do the best job I can, I will still be satisfied no matter how well the other do.
“I think as far as competitiveness goes, the best advice I can give to anyone is to surround yourself with the right people who vibe on positiveness and are willing to be supportive of your aspirations. It’s not good enough to get dragged down by people who take the competition to heart and have that cutthroat attitude to the industry. I fully accept that there will always be an element of rivalry between all journalists out there but the best thing you can do is to make allies, not enemies.”

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