Life in the E Fast Lane
Katie Traxton (English, 2006)
Katie is Chief Communications Officer at Formula E, the all-electric motorsport fighting climate change by accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles.
Purpose: the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
Earlier this year, 14 years after matriculating at Hertford, I joined the team at Formula E. If you’d asked me in January how I felt about car racing, I’d have told you I love it, but happily retired from my career in motorsport six years ago never to return. Never say never.
What changed my mind? A purpose, a possibility and a person.
Cards on the table, as a motorsport fan, when I first heard about Formula E, I was sceptical. What about roaring engines, flaring exhausts and pedal-to-the-metal action flat out from start to finish? What young boy – or girl – would put a poster of a battery on their bedroom wall?
At this point, I could raise the unparalleled purpose at Formula E’s core – its role in counteracting the effects of climate change, the biggest global crisis we currently face. But Formula E isn’t reason at the expense of racing. Formula E is both.
Five champions in six seasons, more overtaking and new faces topping each podium than I’ve seen in motorsport in decades, and world class racing cars powering past the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum and Big Ben. That’s cool.
Top that off with the racing car tech directly translating into the next generation of road-going electric vehicles making them go further faster as they redefine our driving future. That’s something you want to be part of.
Or is it? Is a product and platform you admire, would even advocate for, enough to dedicate your working hours to? Not on its own.
Enter: possibility. Possibility of risk and reward. A successful but growing organisation with a new CEO, scope to be creative, innovative and define the future – and scope to fail. A strategic role, working in collaboration with brilliant minds offering well-advised freedom and weighty accountability. Scary, but satisfying. Sign me up? Not yet.
My choice was so important to me that I was uncharacteristically circumspect. I intended to invest everything I had in this job, to make a meaningful difference to my career, my industry, hopefully the world.
Cue: the person. I wanted to learn from a leader who I believed in as a person and a professional. Many times I’d been told that if I was ready for an executive role, my coaching should be complete. I remained convinced that however much you know there’s always more to learn. The morning I met my now boss, I realised I had an inspiring, open-minded potential mentor and leader sitting in front of me. In that moment, I also realised I really, really wanted this job.
What I can offer in return is still to be seen, but what I know is that this role gives me purpose and has a critical purpose, which matters because as any good William Shakespeare (or Willy Wonka) fan knows:
How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.