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WIMCanada Interview with Arrow McLaren’s Lauren (McNamara) Gaudion

Erin Cusack, a volunteer for WIM Canada, recently had the privilege to chat with Lauren (McNamara) Gaudion, the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Arrow McLaren. Lauren has worked with the Arrow McLaren team for 18+ months, as a member for one of the most prominent teams in the IndyCar Series (at the time of this interview, Lauren was operating as the Communications Director for Arrow McLaren).

Lauren and I caught up in December 2023 to talk about her unique journey into motorsport and the advice she’d give to those also wanting to join the fast-paced world of racing. To begin, I asked about the early stages of her career that helped pave the way to the impressive title of Communications Director for Arrow McLaren.

While completing her undergraduate degree, Lauren worked as an Admissions Counsellor at Southeast Missouri State University. “Being an athlete myself I had a desire to work in the sports industry. Motivated by this, I spoke to my sports coaches at the time who I thought could help me make this shift. I was able to transition from my original position of Admissions Counsellor to helping recruit athletes specifically and support them in their admission processes.” 

“At the end of my studies, I knew I wanted my career to be sports-related. I ended up accepting a position in Communications at the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the United States. In this position, I worked in communications, helping with community initiatives, which I did for a year, before pivoting to the aviation industry. I began my next journey as a Talent Brand Strategist (recruiting, marketing, and PR) at Republic Airways. After 7+ years, I was proud to move up the ranks to hold the position of Director of Corporate Communications and Public Relations.” 

Succeeding in various communication roles, Lauren then proceeded to share how motorsport became a part of her professional life.

“Up until this point, my experience in motorsports had been attending the Indy 500 twice and visiting the Laguna Seca Raceway.” This was until a friend who understood Lauren’s strong work ethic and drive (no pun intended), referred her for the Director of Communications position at Arrow McLaren. Lauren had always been passionate about sports, but not necessarily motor racing. “I knew I’d be entering a very different work environment, but I was up for the challenge. I had little knowledge of the racing community but believed my skills could bring a positive element to the motorsport world. After four weeks of interviews, and a final conversation with the Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Racing, Zak Brown, I was hired!”

With Lauren’s strong communications background, the position seemed perfect, but I was curious to know how Lauren felt about this new position, given that she did not have a background in racing. 

“I hear a lot, especially from the females that I'm talking to now, ‘that motorsport has always been interesting to me, how'd you get into it?’ or, ‘it's something that I've always wanted to do’, or ‘I've always had this passion for getting involved in some way.’  Whether it's as a fan with inside access, or part of their career. I always have to remind myself and others, when they say 'I haven't done anything to build my resume in terms of motorsports' or 'I don't even know where to begin.' To tell them, remember, if you're passionate enough, you can take what you've done in any other industry and say, 'I could bring this to racing because I don't see it there yet.'  That was kind of what I surrounded myself with in my interview. I may not be able to tell you how fast the cars are going around the track on qualifying day in the Indy 500, but I can tell you how we can best tell that story based on what I've seen."

McLaren was excited to bring someone new to the world of motorsport, emphasizing that people beyond long-term fans can get involved. Lauren provided an example of how she brought some skills she had practiced in her past position at Republic Airways to help encourage the younger generation to think of Arrow McLaren as a career path.

“While working at Republic Airways, we participated in programs like Junior Achievement. During this time I saw the success of such initiatives and wanted to recreate a similar program at McLaren. Our team partnered with IndyCar to participate in the Junior Achievement program where they listed all the careers in motorsport, ranging from communications to grounds crew to racecar drivers. I wanted to help spark kids' interest in the industry, to prove to them that this could be an option for their future.”

Programs like this help to promote the idea that the racing community isn't limited to individuals with extensive motorsport backgrounds. When asked about how female involvement had changed, she made this comment.

“Podcasts like Grid Clique, Girls Just Want to F1 and Track Talk Podcast have changed the narrative of what it means to be a motorsports fan. These podcasts began as spaces for female hosts to talk about what was relevant to fans. They're inspiring other women to join the community; get involved, go to races, and not be intimidated because they’re the only girl in the race and I love that. The team began inviting women like these podcast hosts into press conferences and the pit lane, places they wouldn't necessarily have been invited to in the past. They may not ask the same questions as traditional media would, but instead, would bring new conversations that resonate with their generation. Instead of asking what it’s going to take to turn into a corner faster, they ask more personal questions such as what their favourite designer shoe might be. My team and I talked about this a lot. Not to discredit the amazing things that traditional media does in motorsport in terms of building a fan base, but for a long time, racing has been trying to attract the same person repeatedly. Now you're seeing that expand to try to attract a new type of audience."

Establishing a wider fan base can also motivate some of them to pursue a career in the industry. I then asked what advice Lauren would give to women wanting to get involved in motorsport, specifically in the field of Communications.

“I think that relationship building, whether it's in Communications or Engineering, is worth investing the time and effort into being good at. Not only developing these relationships but owning them, I believe can pay off really well. Motorsports, I'm coming to find out, is more and more a super tight-knit community. It is a very small world, and the person that you meet on a flight one day could be connected to the person that you want to have an interview with, and so you just never know how a relationship can grow and blossom and lead you to win the job that you want.” 

The motorsport industry can often seem like an exclusive environment, but for those who are willing to learn and are ready to get on board with the fast-paced nature, there are countless opportunities to achieve success. On that note, Lauren reviewed some challenges she had overcome in her role as Director of Communications. 

She described the first race she attended in her new position, and how the entire environment was foreign. As the person in charge of guiding her co-workers, she found it difficult to feel like she had the authority to do so since she was new. However, this is what she said. “Whenever someone's new, I always have to remind myself, no matter if they're in a position above me or in a position below me, is to give them grace and help them where I can, because everyone mostly feels the same way. Fortunately, I had an amazing team, not only our Communications and Social teams but the guys in the crew as well.”

I asked what changes she would like to see in the industry in the next few years. 

Lauren expressed that she would love to see more advocacy for women to be included in the field, particularly in creating a space where women feel heard and not isolated. “I pride myself on working for an organization committed to building a more diverse workforce, but by no means have we even scratched the surface. We have about 110 employees on our Indycar team, and I think 18 are females. So it's great to see that, but you want that number to rise to 40, 50, or 60 of that 110.”

As they neared the end of their conversation, Lauren shared her proudest achievements since joining Arrow Mclaren

“I mean, there are so many, there truly are so many and most of them don't involve just me. The team works so hard. You're grinding with these people, you know, weekend after weekend. You get excited to see a double podium for the first time or even when we get the transport trucks cleaned up in record time so we can get home earlier. You try to celebrate what you can and we move so fast that a lot of times, these big accomplishments go without recognition because you're on to the next thing.” 

She concludes, “with the race-paced turn-around, it’s always important to acknowledge the wins every day, no matter how big or how small.”

Erin would like to thank Lauren for taking the time to chat about her journey and offer advice to those wanting to get involved in the motorsport industry. Lauren truly proves that no matter what your level of familiarity with Motorsport, there is always room for someone new.

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