Podcast #6: Pippa Mann Shares Her Story Of Becoming An IndyCar Driver
Pippa Mann Advice: Be Really Determined And Tenacious About Your Goals
Jack: Welcome back to another episode of our Transformative IT Service Management podcast. Today we're gonna kind of break from the IT conversation, and just have a little bit of a different conversation. I'm joined today once again with Brenda Lichtenberg, Senior Vice-President of Strategy Portfolio. And as we talked before, I also have Pippa back.
Brenda: Good morning.
Jack: So as I said last time, we're gonna kind of get away from the IT jargon, and really kind of let Pippa talk more about kind of herself and her background-
Pippa: Oh, boy. Are you sure? Are you really sure.
Jack: I'm really sure.
Brenda: I think we're ready.
Jack: I'm ready for it. One of the things that just is interesting to me, how did you get started racing?
Pippa: So I actually grew up a race fan. My dad was a race fan. I grew up going to races with my dad, watching races with my dad. I was always really disappointed there were never any girls racing, but I never really thought anything of it. When I was a kid I used to ride a pony and I used to ride her as fast as I possibly could, and then one day my dad made the terrible, terrible mistake that has led to many bad decisions throughout my life, that led to me to this place, of taking me to an indoor go-kart track with a kids' club.
Pippa: And that's where it all started to go wrong.
Brenda: That's where your love of racing started?
Pippa: ... right on that day. Well, it was already there before, but that's where my love of driving started.
Brenda: Ah, okay.
Pippa: Specifically beating other people on the racetrack.
Brenda: Okay, the competition?
Jack: So from go-karts, that moved into, what was your first competitive-
Pippa: So what's really interesting is that go-karting at a national and international level is actually incredibly competitive.
Jack: Oh, wow.
Pippa: So after I'd been at this kids' club, literally for less than a month, so one weekend per month, so three weeks, the guy running it pulled my dad to one side. He's like, look, your daughter spends more time in the sin bin for bullying the other kids than she spends on the racetrack. She outgrew this place like within week one of being here, you need to take her racing properly. Like, what do you mean? What's that? What's racing properly? So racing properly is when you own your own go-kart, and you go racing at major championships organized by major organizations against lots of other kids in a similar age bracket on similar equipment to you.
I did that from 13 through 17 years old, and when I was 17, I actually moved to Italy for the next three years of my life, and spent three years racing go-karts semi-professionally in the European and World Championship level.
Brenda: That's impressive. And you started that all so young.
Pippa: You say young. 13 is very, very old to become a go-kart racer. One of the big hurdles that I faced is that a lot of the kids I was racing had been honing their race craft from about six or seven years old.
Brenda: Oh, wow.
Jack: That just blows my mind.
Pippa: Again, and this stems from the fact that we didn't know, we weren't a racing family, we were just race fans. We had no idea this whole world existed.
Jack: Wow. So after getting into that, obviously as your racing career progressed, you had a lot of great experiences. And now, driving on one of racing's biggest stages ever, one of the things that has been really impactful to me is you really are a driver with a cause. Originally you've been with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and now you're driving for Donate Life. How important are these causes to you?
Pippa: So both causes are very important to me personally. When I was growing up in my family, my mum is red-haired, white skin, and so skin cancer was always a conversation in our household. Breast cancer runs in my family, so that was a conversation in our household too as I was growing up. So my first connection to the cause community was sort of through cancer, and through being involved and helping fight cancer, and especially when I moved to the US, I started to see more athletes using their platforms publicly, whereas in the UK at that time, 10 years ago, it still wasn't really the done thing. I started to think that that was something that I wanted to be more involved with.
My connection to Donate Life is also very personal, and is a much more recent connection. A couple of years ago, in August, my team-mate from the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 and friend, Bryan Clauson, passed away after a crash in Kansas. He was an organ donor, and through his donation decision, he went on to save, I think it was five lives.
Pippa: He also went to heal countless others because he was a tissue and eye donor as well.
Brenda: Oh, incredible.
Pippa: So it's a pretty incredible story, and when I was asked to be part of this campaign and to be involved in this, it's something very, very deeply meaningful to me personally, so I'm very proud to be able to carry these colors and to be working with Donate Life Indiana to try and reach more school children than ever before, more teens who are registering for their first driver's license. We want them to know a, why it's important to make their donation decision and sign up. B, be educated so they're comfortable about it.
You hear people who don't know about it have all these things like, well, if I sign up, somebody's not gonna and knock for something tomorrow. I think, no, no. And see, we want them to talk to their families. And this is really, really important because unfortunately with organ donation and transplantation, when you have a potential miracle for one family, another family is going through the worst day of their lives.
Pippa: And so having had that conversation ahead of time helps the family to understand the wishes of the person who's passed away. And a lot of donor families find that it really helps them with their grief knowing that their loved one has gone on to save lives.
Jack: Well, I will say that being a part of the Bell Techlogix family, I'm super proud to be associated with you and with the Donate Life cause. I guess I'd ask how has your experience been partnering with us over the past month or so?
Pippa: Well, it's been good so far. Let's see how it goes.
Jack: Yeah. I guess more broadly, how important are the sponsors to racing?
Pippa: That's a really great question, and the answer is, it's huge. Especially when you're working with causes, in general a, there isn't a big budget to go racing and b, that's not the right thing for them to be spending a big budget anyway. So Donate Life Indiana are a true partner on and off the racetrack, and they are using me to raise awareness, and they are one of my sponsors of the program as well. But my program beyond then is made of so many Indianapolis and Indiana based businesses, all of whom have chosen to help me, to help us put this car on the racetrack, to help me get back to the Indianapolis 500 one more time. And quite frankly, where it's somebody spending $100,000, $50,000 or $10,000, I couldn't do it without all of those people, because even the guy spending $10,000 are incredibly important to me. Because gathered together, those guys make up a significant portion of my budget.
Brenda: Right. And of course everything that you do have to weigh out in how you're gonna spend it, and how you're make it through the preparation.
Pippa: Yeah, absolutely. And one of the biggest expenses that I struggle with the most is the expense for entertaining and looking after everybody at the race, so it's not just the budget to make the race-car run and buy fuel and buy tires and have the crew there, and etc, etc, we also have to look after everybody who helps support the race-car, and we have to do that in the right way, so that's a huge chunk of my budget goes towards that. And I'm very lucky and grateful that in Dale Coyne and Dale Coyne Racing, I have a team owner and team who really stand behind me, work with me, and really willing to get involved.
Jack: Great. Well, in addition to being a race-car driver, I know you're also a driving instructor. Seen some of the pictures that you posted on Facebook and on the different social media platforms. Being a driving instructor, I'm sure that's a really interesting experience. In fact I've heard from the participants' side that sometimes the people who show up for a driving experience take some of the safety rules a little wobbly maybe. Tell me a little bit about that.
Pippa: So being a performance driving instructor is actually effectively my full-time job and the performance driving coach. I work for several different brands, three different schools, a few individuals, and I'm coaching them to try and help them go faster safely on the racetrack. And the go faster safely part is even more important when you're working for big manufacturer brands and their school environments. So we try to have fun with it. We try to have a really good time with our guests, but I have been one who is known to have laid down the law. In fact just last week one of my other instructors was having trouble with his group doing something that they were meant to be doing, and it was a safety issue. And he said to me, you know what? Can you try with this guys because I am tired of telling them?
So I walked over to his group with a list of car numbers. I said, right, everybody listen up. Who was in car 31? Go stand over there. car 34? Go stand over there. I had this list of cars. And I turned my back on the other guys who hadn't done anything wrong and faced the [inaudible 00:10:05], and I'm like, right, what do these cones mean on this position of the racetrack?
Guy looked at me. He says, left? I'm like, yeah. So what do you do when you get to those cones? And he's like, left. Yes. So what are you gonna do next time you get to those cones? He's like, left? And I'm like, you got it, that's what you're gonna do, you're gonna go back into lead, follow format, where we're leading you around and you're no longer allowed to drive this racetrack by yourselves without us in front of you. It's like, yep. It had an effect. Occasionally you have to be Mum, and there are advantages and disadvantages in that scenario to being a female instructor in that situation, right? Sometimes people listen to you more and you can be more authoritative.
Pippa: And sometimes you have to be very, very careful, because it's easy to tread a much finer line. I find by trying to infuse humor into those situations, like the kind of folding my arms and making fun of these guys who were doing the wrong thing, that generally helps the situation a lot. Whenever you can have humor instead of it being just a straight up conversation of, you're doing something wrong, generally it gets a much better reception in my world.
Brenda: I can see where that would make a difference. And actually that works in a lot of different industries as well, so humor is a good tool.
Pippa: Humor is a great tool. Use it wisely.
Brenda: Yes, yes, yes. That's the other aspect.
Jack: That's right. So if you weren't involved in racing, either as a driver or as a driving instructor, are there any other industries or jobs you've thought about?
Pippa: I don't know is the honest answer. I've been in love with racing and wanted to pursue racing for so long. I know that I probably wouldn't have ended up working in an office environment because even before I wanted to go down this path, I wanted to do challenges that involved working outside. So before I got into racing, when I was still trying to ride that poor little pony as flat-out as she would go when I was a little kid, I thought maybe I wanted to be a riding instructor when I grew up. Again, working with people, teaching them, outside environment, new challenges every day. Much to the chagrin of my parents, I was also like, well, before I really settle in and do that, maybe I can go and take a few seasons as a chalet girl skiing. Like roll eyes in the back of the head, but kind of the same thing. Being around people, maybe if I could be good enough, I could become a ski instructor for a few seasons.
Pippa: Teaching people, being outside, so all of these themes have followed through in anything I've ever wanted to do.
Jack: Well, it's great that you've had a career that's enabled you to be involved and engaged with something that you love and have been a fan of for so long. Not very many people succeed as a race driver. Being able to perform at racing's largest, biggest, best stage, for others who want to get into racing or break into a different, really competitive field, do you have any advice you'd want to share?
Pippa: I think the biggest piece of advice is to be really determined and tenacious about your goals. You have to surround yourself with good people, recognize when you're getting good advice, and I think the final thing is to understand that the end game may not look as you imagined it looked. So when I was a kid growing up racing in go-karts, and I thought I was gonna be a big, famous racing driver and earning a whole ton of money, I did not imagine that I was gonna be a full-time performance driving coach who also had a second marketing job. And if I did my marketing job well enough, that maybe I'd get to drive a race-car once a year. But this wasn't what I had in mind for myself. But I look at my life and my choices, and do you know what? Yes, I'd love to race race-cars full-time, but I've very lucky that I get to race them occasionally and I have a job that I enjoy with friends that I enjoy working with in an environment I like being in. That makes me pretty lucky overall.
Brenda: Yes, who does?
Jack: Well, Pippa. Thank you so much for joining us and sitting down and having a conversation. I've learned a whole lot about you as well as just the racing industry, and what happens, what I've seen on the TV screen over the past several years, so thanks again.
Brenda: Yeah, I've certainly learned a lot as well. You know what? I've always wanted to be a race-car driver, and my husband has told me, you know what? You probably need to take the lesson side of this versus the race-car driving side.
Pippa: We'll help you out.
Brenda: Thanks a lot, Pippa.
Pippa: Thanks for having me.
Jack: So this has been an episode of our Transformative IT Service Management podcast. Once again, thanks, Pippa, thanks, Brenda, for joining me. Come back next time where we will jump back into the topic of IT Service Management.