By Mia Casey
It can be easy to fall into a career that everyone expects you to follow, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a fulfilling work life. Opportunity and passion can come from the most unexpected places, and while the pursuit may be difficult, following what makes you happiest can ultimately lead to a world of work beyond anything you’d have thought possible.
NASCAR driver, Julia Landauer, knows all about following passion to create a career tailored to her interests. Having first begun her journey at age 10 when her parents looked to go-karting as a family activity where the boys and girls could compete, it wasn’t long before she fell in love with racing.
At age 13 she turned her sights from go-karts to race cars, and was the first – and youngest – female champion of the Skip Barber Racing Series at age 14. Two years later she switched to NASCAR, and truly began making a name for herself in the field.
In 2015, she was the first woman in her division to win the NASCAR Track Championship at the Motor Mile Speedway. She is also the highest finishing female driver in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series in its history.
After spending years behind the wheel, admiring the relationship racing forged between human and machine, she studied a Bachelor of Science in Science, Technology, and Society at Stanford University, graduating in 2014.
But following your dreams doesn’t always come easy. Throughout her career she has been confronted with the inherent issues many women face when entering a male-dominated field, and strived to overcome the disadvantages placed upon her by negative gender stereotypes.
Speaking to Jonathon Van Ness on his podcast, Getting Curious, she spoke about the importance of male allies in these male-dominated careers:
“I’ve always noticed that no one wants to get beat by the girl… and that’s fine – I knew people would race me harder – but it was interesting for my driver coach who had raced in the series for years… I was the first female he was working with, and so… he noticed that other guys were working harder to move me out of the way, rather than passing me cleanly.
But the one that really blew his mind was when we were racing on a track [where] the spotters could actually hear each other as they were talking to the drivers, and he heard this other guy… say ‘don’t let [her] pass you, if she’s getting on the inside knock her off the road’… and for him that was a really triggering point… and that was a breakthrough moment where he was like ‘wow, she’s got a way harder uphill battle than most people do’. And he was then able to have that empathy from then on out to explain that to the other guys in his voice.”
Rather than letting this sort of behaviour hold her back or make her afraid of competing, Landauer instead used it to fuel her career.
Following on from her passion for STEM education and women’s empowerment (particularly in male-dominated fields), she has done a TEDx Talk, and built a successful career speaking publicly about how to overcome many of the issues she herself has faced. Instead of backing down, she is encouraging younger generations to worry less about expectations, stereotypes, and gender boundaries, and focus instead on what they could achieve.
Follow your passion
Landauer is a brilliant example of how, while following your passion isn’t always easy, it can be immensely rewarding in the long run. Rather than letting the struggles she’s faced hold her back or make her doubt her place, she’s reframed them to create a brand and career centred around overcoming them.
So next time you’re ruminating on what career path you should take, ask yourself this: Will it make you happy? Is it what you truly want to do? Will you regret not doing something else?
Final words of advice
To round things up, here are a few words of wisdom from Landauer herself to drive you forward on your career journey!
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” – #EleanorRoosevelt
Fear is terrifying, exhilarating, nerve wracking, and always in our lives. The more we can wrestle with fear, the more we grow. pic.twitter.com/C7BGxpFEWd
— Julia Landauer (@julialandauer) November 19, 2018
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – #RalphWaldoEmerson
I think it’s worth working hard to maintain our authentic values and integrity when others try to make us different. Happy Friday friends 😘 pic.twitter.com/NgxZbEwlHE
— Julia Landauer (@julialandauer) November 2, 2018
“Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don’t, who will?” @jonbonjovi
🙌🏻 YES. Most of us need help from others to achieve our goals. It takes a village. We need to be our own biggest cheerleaders, because our own enthusiasm will attract others.
— Julia Landauer (@julialandauer) October 29, 2018