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A curiosity in cars inspired dreams of Formula One

Gemma Hatton graduated from our BEng (Hons) Automotive Engineering course in 2014. She hopes to one day become a Race Engineer.

Gemma Hatton and Sebastian Vettel
Gemma Hatton meets Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel

What originally influenced your decision to study engineering?

I have been fascinated by cars since secondary school and became more interested in how they worked as I studied their forms in art and gained a greater scientific and mathematical knowledge. This curiosity encouraged me to study maths, physics and technology at A Level, and to take an interest in Formula One. I later decided that I wanted to work in motorsport at an engineering level, which led me to pursue a degree in engineering.

What challenges have you faced in your studies and how did you overcome them?

Time management is absolutely key. No matter how technically challenging things are, if you dedicate enough time to a subject you can usually understand it. It is also vital for meeting deadlines, succeeding in exams, and excelling in interviews and assessment centres to secure an industrial placement.

What aspect of engineering do you particularly enjoy?

I love all aspects of automotive engineering. I especially enjoyed the project side of my degree, which required working in a team to solve problems with ingenuity.

What advice would you give to young women interested in studying engineering?

Firstly, I would definitely recommend gaining practical experience as it will really complement your studies. When I was younger I didn't disassemble cars or lawn mowers, so I missed out on years of gaining that practical understanding. Of course, when starting my studies, I quickly realised that this was necessary so I organised some work experience in local car garages which really helped.

Secondly, do not be overwhelmed. I was quite shy when I started university and walking into a lecture hall with 200 boys and 20 girls worried me. The gender imbalance was similar at Nissan, but I knew I deserved to be there so I took the attitude that I was there to do a job and I was going to try and do it well. This shows how important it is to have confidence in your ability.

Finally, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This is particularly true in motorsport, but I believe it can be applied to any industry. The opportunities that I have received due to my contacts and personal recommendations are astonishing. For example, getting the opportunity to work at JRM, shadowing a Race Engineer at the Spa 24 Hour Race in Belgium, was undoubtedly the best week of my life, and all because I had made the effort to network with as many people as I could throughout my time at Nissan. Be hardworking, enthusiastic and communicate well with people and you will be amazed at how far you can get.

What are your career plans for the future?

I hope my master's in Advanced Motorsport Engineering at Cranfield University will help me find a job as a Data Analysis Engineer in a motorsport team. From there, I will aim to work my way up the ranks, to Performance Engineer and then my ultimate goal of being a Race Engineer.

‘I would definitely recommend gaining practical experience as it will really complement your studies.’
Gemma Hatton


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