Let Passion Lead the Way to Success in the Racing World
Education and Careers As a shop cleaner turned team manager, Taylor Kiel practiced what he preaches for those eyeing the auto tech industry: get your foot in the door and follow your passion.
Kiel, team manager at the Indianapolis-based auto racing team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, shares, “I was a mechanic for eight years here. I graduated from Indiana University and kind of worked my way up from literally cleaning bathrooms and sweeping the floors to managing the team.” Kiel’s experiences are invaluable in his role as a manager and identifying new talent. “As far as the relationships between me and the mechanics go, it’s a very close one. I know what those guys go through and what they deal with on a day-to-day basis, so I’m involved on the technical side as well as on the logistics and operations side.”
Detail is a deal-breaker
“Having some mechanical ability obviously helps, but it really comes down to how bad you want it.”
For Kiel, although a lot of the technology might have changed over the years, the foundations are the same — and as important as ever. “At the core, the mechanics are still taking things apart, putting things back together, and trying to stay ahead of things from a preventative maintenance point of view,” he explains. “So, really what we look for is somebody that’s very attention to detail oriented.” Kiel is looking for people who are self-motivators, driven, and “passionate about racing and about doing their job at a high level,” he says.
“A lot of people come to a race think, ‘Oh, I can do that, that’d be fun,’ or ‘that’d be a cool lifestyle’ and it is, but at the end of the day, when you go home after you’ve bolted a car together, if you’ve failed at your job there’s somebody’s life on the line there. It’s a cool job and a fun job, but it’s also very serious.” Ultimately, in addition to being detail-oriented, Kiel looks for workers who take themselves seriously. “It really is about the people and the type of people that we have here that makes things work.”
Lead with passion
When it comes to offering advice to those looking to get into the industry, Taylor encourages a sense of perseverance and passion in order to gain the right work experience. On the more technical side, he recommends getting an education with an aviation technical school. The tech and aviation schools are a good foundation, he explains, “but if a guy came to my door right now and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a little bit of experience, I’m passionate and I just want to get my foot in the door,’ those are the types of people I’m looking for.”
For Kiel, it’s all about passion, drive and love of the sport. “If you want to get into it, it’s never too late. Having some mechanical ability obviously helps, but it really comes down to how bad you want it. If you’re willing to do what it takes to get your foot in the door, then that’s what it takes.”