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News > Life After Yarm > Former pupil off to a flying start at Mercedes F1

Former pupil off to a flying start at Mercedes F1

Hannah joined Yarm School at the start of Third Year after her family relocated from Singapore.

Even though she was only at Yarm for 5 years, Hannah fully immersed herself in school life taking part in many extra-curricular activities including dance, choir and Duke of Edinburgh.

Hannah was a member of the YSBC and spent many hours training and attending regional and national regattas, even going to the Canadian Henley on the rowing trip to Toronto and Ontario. An experience she says was “once in a lifetime”.

Hannah left Yarm in 2018 with A Levels in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics and Design Technology knowing that she wanted to pursue a career in engineering.

After completing her A Levels, Hannah left Yarm to study Mechanical Engineering at Loughborough University. Loughborough is currently in the top 10 for Mechanical Engineering according to The Guardian University Guide 2024 and has great industry connections.

During her time at university she secured summer work placements at Cummins and Accenture as a Fuel Systems Integration Engineer and Technology Consulting Analyst respectively. In Third Year, Hannah took a full year in industry working for Mercedes F1 as a Car Build industrial placement which she believes eventually helped her secure her position as Graduate Electro Mechanical Engineer at Mercedes F1.

We caught up with Hannah to find out more about her journey post Yarm…

Q. When did you first discover your passion for mechanical engineering and did you always want to work in automotive engineering? 

I first discovered my passion for Engineering at the urging of my DT teacher, in the year before my GCSEs. He directed me towards engineering as a career due to my visible love for physics, maths and DT at school, as well as enthusiasm towards motorsport and design. After learning more about the topic through reading, completing a Headstart Course with Sheffield University and doing work experience with an engineering company called Modus; I was sure this was the career path for me. 

The realisation that I could make it in F1 didn’t come until my first year in university when I got invited to a Women in Engineering event at Mercedes F1 and spoke to the incredible engineers there and knew that I wanted to work hard and be like them someday. 

Q. How competitive was it to gain a position for Mercedes?

Roles at Mercedes F1 are nothing if not competitive, with a large number of applications on a global scale due to the nature of the company, brand awareness and growth in the interest of F1. It was incredibly hard to get a role back at Mercedes, even with a placement year there. They recruit inconsistently and in very small numbers therefore you can be certain that everyone in that interview room is the best at what they do. I interviewed for 2 other graduate roles before I got offered this one, which was a hard task to mentally endure but I was happy that my persistence got rewarded. 

Q. What does a typical day/week look like for you at Mercedes?

As an Electro-Mechanical Engineer I am responsible for the integration of the car electronics into the mechanical systems on the car, this includes any sensors and control units. I do this by designing enclosures, guides and brackets on CAD. The reality of a typical work week in my role is anything but predictable because as a member of the design office you never know what you could be designing that week due to the fast-paced, ever-changing and cutting-edge nature of the sport. Broadly speaking we split the year into 2 parts, Summer and Winter. Winter is the time when we are designing the car for the next season and it is incredibly intense, especially in December and January. During this period we work 10+ hour days and most weekends to ensure our designs are completed in time for build and manufacturing deadlines to hit the all important F1 testing. On the other hand, during the Summer, post the first race of the season, my jobs and hours vary week on week where I could be doing anything from designing car upgrade packages to onsite development equipment.

Q. What have been the highlights of your current role at Mercedes so far?

The highlight of my current role was definitely seeing my components on the car for the first time. My manager called my whole department down to the race bays and we went round the whole car inspecting all our components. At this stage, the inner details of the car were exposed with no bodywork fitted. A rare view of the car that a spectator may never get to see. This was the moment where it truly sunk in how honoured and thankful I was to work at this amazing company. Moreover, after an incredibly difficult winter, with the steepest learning curve of my life so far, the satisfaction of a job well done was like nothing else. 

Although, the moment that eclipses this in my career was winning a world championship whilst on my year in industry. I remember it vividly, sitting in the race support room at Brackley, surrounded by people who I had only ever spoken to through face masks because of the pandemic, but in that moment of victory spraying champagne I truly understood what it meant to be part of a team. It was an impossible emotion of achievement and joy but now serves as a bittersweet reminder of what I hope my team can reclaim. 

Q. Have there been any challenges / tough moments? 

The past 9 months in my role have been incredibly challenging. Within a month of starting I was designing and releasing car parts and the pressure that goes along with that cannot be understated. However, the biggest challenge I have faced has been imposter syndrome.  With so many talented people surrounding me it is easy to question whether you truly belong. Thankfully, this is something that was addressed at work readily by many senior figures. Therefore, with the assurance, support and coaching from both my manager and team that this is normal and common among other team members, I have been working through these concerns.

Q. What’s your favourite thing about your role? 

My favourite thing about my job has got to be the people and team atmosphere. I love my work, how it challenges me to push boundaries and be creative, and, as a fan, knowing the insider information in F1 is always a bonus. But, the thing that truly makes me love coming into work is being surrounded by an amazing group of people. These are people who you can trust to always put 110% into their work because they are just as passionate as you are about this team, but they also always have time to make sure you're alright or explain something if you're struggling. Although this was not what initially attracted me to F1, it is what makes me want to stay. 

Q. What would you say to a woman looking to get into a STEM career?

Doing STEM subjects is a fantastic career choice for anyone, it leads to many varied jobs and career paths that are interesting, challenging and essential to our world. As a woman in this industry I have to acknowledge that it is currently male dominated in many areas but I hope that doesn’t put anyone off pursuing it. Starting my career in Engineering, I have found myself in a strong community of women and allies who want to lift you up and help you succeed. For every bad experience I have had, there have been 100s of positive ones. 

Times really are changing and there are so many fantastic women already forging a career in STEM, building permanent foundations for the future. So, if I was to give any advice to young women thinking about a career in STEM, it would be to go for it. Don’t let statistics scare you. If you are passionate about something, show it, speak up and take up that space. I can assure you, even though you might not see them now, you are being empowered by a community of unseen allies. 

Q. How do you see your career developing? What are your 5/10 year goals?

Honestly, I have spent the last 5 years of my life working towards getting a job in F1. Right now I am enjoying the culmination of so many years of work, learning and absorbing as much as I can in my current role. I have another year in my graduate program, after which I will convert into a full time position and almost certainly remain at Mercedes F1 through the regulation changes in 2026. However, as an ambitious person, my future is never set in stone and I will take opportunities as they come. However, getting a taste of a podium at Suzuka and winning a championship whilst on placement at the team has got me hungry to help earn the redemption of Mercedes and get some more formula one podiums under my belt! 

Q. Do you have any advice for anyone looking to go into automotive engineering?

If I were to give any advice to people looking to go into mechanical engineering it would be:

  1. Make sure you’re passionate about the subject. Mechanical Engineering is a challenging degree with an intense workload at times. You are not going to love every second of every module but for me it was the passion for what I wanted longer term that got me through the degree. 
  2. Get some practical experience. When it comes to getting a role at the end of your degree everyone has the same degree; A Levels and GCSEs. In my experience, what employers love is work or practical experience, whether that be unpaid/paid, week/summer/year. It gives you relevant experience and shows commitment to your passion which you can then talk about in an interview. It helps you stand out and aids in confirming that you’re following the right career path for you. 
  3. Ask if you don’t know something. Many people fall into the trap of thinking they have to know everything about engineering instantly. That is not the reality. It is such a broad area of study and you are unlikely to know everything. But that is ok, just ask. In my experience most engineers are so passionate about their specialisms that they will spend hours talking to you about it if you take an interest.

Q. Do you have advice for any students aspiring to an engineering career in F1?

For those looking to get into F1 specifically I have the additional advice that F1 is one of the toughest engineering sectors to break into but it's not out of reach. When I started my engineering degree,  almost every single person on my 200 strong course dreamed of working in F1. To the extent that the careers office had a joke on the wall saying ‘Oh you do mechanical engineering, I am guessing you want to work in F1’. Shifting forward to now, myself and a small number of my course mates do work in F1. However, that took being in the right place, at the right time and finding the right job that suits us individually. As for the rest of my course mates, the majority have amazing jobs and have fallen into careers they love. Moreover, once you are in F1, the jobs are high pressure, fast paced and any mistake you might make could be national news. This is not an environment for everyone. I say this not to scare you but to make you aware of the challenge ahead of you. For those undeterred, I hope you have the drive, passion and resilience to succeed and I hope that our careers cross paths. 

Q. If you could go back to Yarm is there anything you would have done differently?

Reflecting back on my time at Yarm I have few regrets. I only wish I could tell my younger self to put a little less pressure on herself, to slow down and enjoy the opportunities at hand.

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