Thomas Dell, Software Engineer, discusses the innovation culture driving McLaren Applied’s success.
I had a few options after graduating. I wanted to join somewhere that could legitimately say that it improves people’s lives, and I also wanted to work with people that share my desire to do things differently, and better.
My career in electronic engineering started as a hobby while I was a member of the school ‘Greenpower’ racing team. Our team designed and built a single-seater electric racing car which competed against other schools across the country.
This was my first taste of competition. I was hooked.
We had to work as a team to extract performance data from the car and driver to enable better decision making and to ultimately gain an advantage. These are fundamental principles of what we do at McLaren Applied: we apply decades’ worth of insight on the track to unlock and optimise high performance.
I quickly learned that every small advantage counts. And it’s the small advantages that led to me securing my current role.
While completing my degree at the University of Southampton, I met a business development partner from McLaren Applied. After learning more about the company, I was lucky enough to then have a meeting arranged with engineers in the team, which after a challenging recruitment process, led to a job opportunity and my current role as a software engineer.
At McLaren Applied my role includes working within a team of software engineers to design and deliver the standard electronic control unit (ECU) used in all F1 cars. There’s an incredible amount of pressure and reward that comes with delivering such an integral component that helps keep the show on the road all around the world in front of a global audience.
Aside from the technical challenges involved, I have to use strong communication and negotiation skills while working with all the F1 teams. I have to be agile and on standby all the time and responsive to and understanding of their challenges. It’s what makes it so rewarding.
Even though my main focus is on motorsport, I have the freedom to apply my ideas across a variety of projects which helps to keep me motivated.
I work alongside some of the most influential thought leaders in technology, from software to design. Learning from these people is invaluable as it helps me accelerate my own learning and career.
Our innovative culture
Whether we are building components for an F1 car or designing biomedical devices, everyone at McLaren Applied aims to change the status quo. Every project we work on must be completed to the very highest standard, with an unprecedented attention to detail. There is no compromise. It’s the McLaren way.
People are also inquisitive in my work. And I am of theirs. I can offer solutions to problems that my colleagues are working on and vice versa. The collaborative culture means we always help each other to reach a new level of high performance.
Every day presents a new challenge
One day I am at the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) working on software programming at my desk, and the next I could find myself on the frontline, providing immediate support at the trackside.
It’s one the best aspects of working at McLaren Applied.
It’s also a culture that promotes career development. Even though I have a busy work schedule, I find time to go on training courses to further my development. I recently undertook training for the Systems Modelling Language (SysML), which forms part of a range of formal tools that we use to design new functionality.
Future career goals
My aims for the future involve having a greater role in business and project management. Seeing the team develop and succeed at the challenges that lie ahead motivates me.
The company is keen to develop its people. And because of the rate it's growing, there are many more opportunities to progress than many people outside the business realise.
My advice to aspiring applicants
Passion and a willingness to learn. Two things that are essential if you want to join McLaren Applied.
You’re not going to know everything. You can’t. The work we do here is highly specialised and detailed. But you’re expected to learn about new processes quickly and have the same passion we all do.