~ Please introduce yourself
My name is Tom McCausland, I am in my penultimate year of Product Design Engineering at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia
– What would your dream career look like?
I love the people and management aspect of Formula 1. It’s my dream to work in a team manager role at an F1 team, where I’ll get to work with people face-to-face, understand the problems they’re solving and inspire them to push their boundaries and work to get the best out of the team. It’s such a competitive, innovative and fast paced environment with rapid development which I enjoy and thrive on. I want to be working and learning from the best in both engineering and management, representing the team brand professionally globally and be there guiding and working alongside the team to improve the team performance as a whole.
~ Tell us about your passion for your industry and how it all began
For me, motorsport is the ultimate team sport. So many different pieces have to be working harmoniously, in the engineering, the business, the marketing and the process.
My passion for motorsport began when I was very young. My Dad was involved in racing and design, and took me to the Australian Grand Prix frequently. In secondary school I was always eager to get to the Grand Prix and watch the teams working in the pits.
– What your study path has been so far, and how you made those choices?
I applied for Product Design Engineering at Swinburne because I wanted a mix of idea generation and prototyping with engineering theory and skills. Basically I wanted to get creative, sketch ideas and then build them. Choosing a University that was heavily involved in Formula Student was also a high priority for me. I learnt about the program through a presentation coming to our school.
Doing this course has given me access to CNC machining, 3D printing and laser cutting. I have been able to take these opportunities beyond the classroom, manufacturing suspension, aerodynamics and chassis components in my limited free time for the Formula Student team.
– Any influential people within the industry who have had an impact on your chosen career?
While in Year 12, I went to the Australian Grand Prix after school. After watching from behind the pitlane, a touring car mechanic spotted me, and invited me into the garage for a quick tour. That was when I realised I wanted to direct my engineering aspirations towards motorsport.
One of my teammates from my time in Formula Student travelled to the UK to complete a Masters in motorsport engineering. He then earned an internship at Ferrari. It has been inspiring seeing one of the people I used to work alongside show that with hard work that it is possible.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I had been in contact with the head of strategy at McLaren Racing. He was very supportive of the steps I had taken so far towards Formula 1, explaining what it was like working at McLaren and what their plans were for the future. Being able to speak to people on the other side of the world over Linkedin has been a great benefit.
– What kind of work experience have you done?
In January this year, I offered my time at Melbourne Performance Centre and the Audi Sport Team Customer Racing Team to compete at the Bathurst 12 Hour. For the week, I was a fully fledged team member, managing tyre pressures and temperatures, learning from the data engineers, helping with pit stops and networking. In February I was involved with Ashley Seward Motorsport, testing an Alfa Romeo Touring Car at Winton Motor Speedway. These were my first steps of a long term plan to get involved in as many motorsports, rack up experience and meet as many people involved in this area as possible.
– What are your experiences with Formula Student?
My Formula Student journey has been long, challenging and rewarding. With Team Swinburne Formula SAE, I took on Aerodynamics Lead in 2017, focusing on wings, cooling and undertray design. For 2018 I became Team Leader, working on building team dynamics, culture and long term strategy. In 2019 I wanted to learn new technical skills, so I took on a Manufacturing Team role, learning CNC operation to machine suspension assemblies and composite work on the chassis and aerodynamics. For 2020, I am now doing an Industrial Design Lead role, where I mentor young design students to generate logos, branding, sponsor engagement and collateral. It has been great being involved in each and every aspect of the long chain of a racing team during my studies.
– How do you feel it will help you to achieve the career you hope for, and what skills it has given you?
Formula Student is an opportunity for students to take risks, try new concepts and apply theory learnt in the classroom. You don’t want to be making the basic errors when you have reached your dream role. Learning to generate a brief with objectives, allow for design compromise, work within budgets and timelines are all critical skills in becoming an engineer.
But there are also skills you learn that make you a better person. It makes you a better listener, learning to delve into details. It builds personal discipline, working to timelines and understanding project scope.
– What’s been your biggest challenge so far with regards to pursuing your dream career?
Being in Australia has a decent variety of racing in touring car and development series motorsport. However, the major opportunities with more technology and resource are definitely overseas. As Ross Brawn says, “luck is just preparation waiting for an opportunity”, so the best thing I can be doing is keep my head down and keep working away at the skills I need now and the ones I will need in the coming years.
– What advice would you like to share with future students?
Experience and attitude are key. If you have the right attitude and discipline then there are opportunities in motorsport. Understanding your role in the team and doing it to the best of your ability is the best action you can take. Motorsport is all about everyone playing their role, and if you perform your role to your best, you will learn more and thrive more from the experience.
– How are you coping with the current pandemic situation?
My plans for building on more motorsport exposure have no doubt been put on pause by the current situation, but it has not put a stop on my personal development. CAD design, making prototypes, researching and listening to audio-books are all ways of keeping occupied while still learning.
In the coming weeks I will be taking on a new role assembling ventilators for export to the U.S, so it is really good to not only be trying new avenues that I would not have otherwise explored but to also play a small active role in the recovery.
Thank you Tom for sharing your journey with us, and good luck for the future!
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