Becky Reavell

Back Story: Rebekah Reavell, ‘Follow what you want to do, even if it seems scary’

Image credit: Georgeanna Zahradka

TV presenter Shini Somara talks to Becky Reavell, who was able to find her way into her dream job as a junior composite design engineer in F1, despite her earlier education.

Shini Somara: What did you study and why?

Rebekah Reavell: Last year I finished my Motorsport Engineering Masters at Oxford Brookes. Before that I completed a Bachelors in mechanical engineering with automotive at Leeds. At my all-girls school, I was encouraged to study English and Economics A Levels because I enjoyed reading, but halfway through, I decided to change career direction and follow my passion for automotive racing. I still had to complete the A Levels I had chosen, but then went on to do a Foundation year in Engineering to get into university.

During my teenage years, I had no clue what engineering was about. I thought engineers just built buildings and bridges, which did not interest me at all. Careers advisors suggested following the subjects we enjoyed. No girls from my school had chosen engineering for their further education – it was simply not on our radar. When I made the decision to change careers, I had to do so much of my own research. Many people at the time (including my parents) were surprised at my change of heart. I’m happy to say, however, that to this day, I’m convinced that it was the best decision I have ever made.

Ironically, all along, I was actually better at maths and physics than English. I preferred the way English was taught at school, but thoroughly enjoyed maths exams, because they were far more straightforward.  

SS: Why were you interested in motorsports?

RR: A lightbulb switched on for me after attending The British Grand Prix in 2014. That’s when I knew I wanted to be in the industry. Over the years, I had always enjoyed karting with my dad, and my grandad has always been a source of inspiration to me, as a mechanical engineer working on nuclear power stations. I didn’t want to be a nuclear engineer myself, but he noticed my problem-solving approach to everything. According to my grandparents, I loved playing with Lego and designing paper aeroplanes.

SS: What is it like being one of few women in F1?

RR: My team is mostly boys, and everyone is super lovely – I don’t think they would be hired if they were not welcoming to diversity and inclusion in engineering. I certainly feel that it doesn’t matter that I’m a girl. Everyone treats me the same way as any other engineer and we all muck in. There are more women in other parts of the business, such as marketing, for example. When I have worked with them, it is always so enjoyable working with more gender-balanced teams. It does make a difference. The few girls that are on our engineering team are really cool, too!

SS: How can we encourage more girls into engineering?

RR: If I had seen more female engineers in F1, I would have been clearer about following my own interests into motorsport. Without such role models, it’s really daunting going into such a male-dominated industry. I am on the Early Careers Board of The Women’s Engineering Society, which works hard to promote women in engineering. We run networking events and the Lottie Tour. Lottie is a doll that we send out to different female engineers in various engineering industries. These engineers take pictures with Lottie for social media, and it shows people how varied the industry is.

SS: Looking back on your career so far, what advice would you want to pass on to others?

RR: I would say follow what you really want to do, even if it seems difficult and scary. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Hard work, seeing the positive in every experience, networking and asking for help, have all been immensely useful tools for me.

Hard work got me through my ill-fitting A Levels, even though, at the time, it felt like a complete waste. Looking back, I can only see that studying English and Economics A Level makes me a better engineer today.

Networking allows me to relate to other female engineers and realise that I am not the only one. The women that form my network have been incredibly supportive and kind. I used to be really shy and lacking in confidence, but through mentorship and being bold enough to ask questions, I am growing in confidence as a junior composite design engineer every day. Loving my job and pursuing a career that is the right fit for me, really helps!

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles