Jodie Kemp: “Don’t think that just because you don’t have experience with a team, you’ll immediately be dismissed”

Many of the teams we see racing in the junior motorsport categories don’t just partake in one. Teams such as Carlin have entries in several series, however this doesn’t mean they have a separate team for each championship. Press Officers such as Jodie Kemp often cover multiple races over a weekend and they can even be in different time zones! I spoke to her about travelling, racing and working with drivers in the early stages of their careers.

From a young age, sport was a passion for Jodie, however her interest in motorsport didn’t come until later in her teens. “I remember when I was quite young that my Dad would always have F1 on the TV but it really wasn’t until later that I started to take a proper interest in it. My Dad was also into rallying and used to compete a little when he was younger so we’d always try and watch or listen to the WRC together when we could. He’s a big influence on why I’m where I am today,” she said.

FIA Formula 3 European Championship 2017, round 10, Hockenheimring (DEU)
credit: James Gasperotti

The thought of working in motorsport hadn’t really crossed her mind, but she did know that she wanted to work in media, and had completed work experience at a local newspaper and TV station. However, after both of these, it became apparent that it wasn’t what she wanted to do. “It was probably during my A-levels when I figured out motorsport was a passion that I wanted to make a career from. So instead of applying for university I desperately tried getting work experience with race teams,” Kemp told me. After receiving many rejections, she decided to start her own blog, hoping to gain more experience through that. “At the time there were only a small handful of people writing about rallying online so I made that the focus of my articles and went from there. I also started volunteering at a local community radio station as a news reader, writer and show producer so that kept me busy too,” she explained.

Her first role in racing came despite having no motorsport experience or a university degree when Jodie managed to secure an interview with Carlin in 2011. “I’ll admit it came as a huge shock – and an even bigger one when I was offered the job,” she said. Her first role with the company was as a PR and Marketing Assistant, and since this appointment she has continued to gain experience and be given more responsibilities by the team. “I’ll be forever grateful to Stephanie (the team’s PR and Commercial Manager) and Trevor Carlin for taking a chance on me in the first place,” Kemp added.

Her role covered many of the series that Carlin race in, including British F3, GP2, GP3 and the British Touring Car Championship. Carlin’s sister team, Team Aon, were racing in the BTCC and this was one of Jodie’s first big events. “One of my biggest roles early on was with Team Aon and travelling to events, helping with hospitality, garage tours as well as social media and press releases. But I obviously remained involved with the core Carlin teams attending events in the same capacity. I’ve been fortunate to work with a huge variety of talented drivers in so many amazing championships. I’ve always remained with Carlin throughout – it’s a really cool place to work,” she told me.

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credit: Spacesuit Media

For the inaugural Formula E season, Mahindra Racing had entered the championship, but needed a team to run their entry. The team partnered with Carlin, giving Kemp another series to work in and cover. As the team’s Press Officer, Jodie organised driver schedules, interview requests, press releases and social media, as well as conducting garage tours and organising accreditation and passes. “We had two fantastic drivers to work with and being part of that first season was just incredible. It was quite something to see the team and championship grow and I still feel really proud to have been a small cog during the championship’s maiden season,” she described.

Still working for Carlin, she is now their Press Officer. Much like when they had partnered with Mahindra Racing, her responsibilities include press releases, website maintenance and media liaison. However, there are also parts of her job that you wouldn’t expect with her saying: “there are also the roles you never think of; team kit design and ordering, keeping information databases, photo archiving, marketing etc. In the last 18 months I’ve also taken on the role of Travel Co-ordinator which means I’m responsible for getting the race teams where they need to be throughout the season (hotels, flights, visas – general logistics).”

She covers all the entries based at Carlin’s UK workshop: BRDC British Formula Three, Euroformula Open, FIAF3 and FIAF2. Working with these championships means that the majority of these drivers are quite early in their careers and hoping to make it to top series such as Formula One, this is what makes this role very special for Jodie. “You get to see drivers at the early stages of their career as they’re learning and growing – we’ve witnessed so many great drivers come through our door so it’s a privileged position to be in,” she said. However, with Kemp covering so many series, it can be quite challenging when it comes to organising travel for every member of the team. “My role is extremely varied but currently I’d say sorting out the travel for everyone and trying to keep that within a budget (is the most challenging). I do this alongside my Press Officer role so it can get quite busy at times – maintaining a good balance between the two roles is something that can be quite challenging. There’s also a lot of weekend work and additional hours… so you must be prepared for that level of workload and commitment,” Jodie described.

da Costa crosses the line Macau edit.jpg
credit: GCS

Nevertheless, the intense work schedule is all worth it when Kemp gets to experience some incredible moments. Travelling with the team she has been present for many of Carlin’s victories and podiums. “Winning Macau with Antonio Felix da Costa was pretty special in 2012. It was my first time in Macau and I had no idea quite how intense the racing is there. To win it with a driver who is so well-loved and respected within Carlin was amazing. That place is unique and really should be on the bucket list for every race fan,” she said. “Being part of the very first Formula E race in Beijing was fantastic as well. Not only watching the cars on track for the first time but having been part of the initial meetings and planning before the season it was quite a proud moment to see everything coming together and watch the hard work pay off.”

Jodie Kemp is proof that not having a degree or experience in motorsport can still lead to your dream career. Her first role came at Carlin and she is still working there now. As she progressed and proved her skills, she was given more responsibility with the team allowing her to thrive and grow, just as they do with their drivers. When it comes to her advice for others, Jodie explained how you shouldn’t be disheartened by rejection and experience isn’t necessarily essential. “If you want it bad enough, eventually one of the doors you’ve been constantly knocking on will open. It’s so difficult to get work experience in motorsport so look at other options instead. Build up a CV with loads of different experience and skills; don’t think that just because you don’t have experience with a team on your CV that you’ll immediately be dismissed. Try finding skills that are transferrable – motorsport might be a niche market so think of sport in general to widen your horizons… after all, sport is competition at the end of the day regardless of the form it takes,” she advised.

Heading photo credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography