Get to know Arrow McLaren SP: Kate Gundlach, Performance Engineer
Kate Gundlach is no stranger to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES or the world of motorsport. Since joining the series, Gundlach has been making waves as a woman in the field. In 2018, Gundlach and Danielle Shepherd became the first women to win an NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship from the engineering stand, working with Scott Dixon. Now, entering her second year with Arrow McLaren SP as a Performance Engineer, Gundlach is continuing her success in the series and looking to help the team continue their fight toward the front.
Let’s get to know her a little better:
Q: What led you towards a career in motorsport?
KG: Most members of my family have been involved in racing two or four wheeled vehicles in some capacity. My dad raced vintage motorcycles and I followed him around to the racetrack. I enjoyed working on the bikes and the transient lifestyle that comes with racing, so I decided to pursue a career in engineering with the intention of getting into professional racing. I had no idea what kind of careers were available in the field, but I figured engineering school was a good start.
At university, I became involved in Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) where students design and build a formula-style race car and compete against other universities. In my junior year, I got the number of a local formula car team owner from a friend of a friend and was able to setup a co-operative program that allowed me to swap working for the team and attending classes every other semester. Once I graduated, the team hired me and away I went!
Q: How was it first entering a male-centric work environment and how is it today?
KG: I have been very fortunate to have been surrounded by teammates in my early years who judged character by enthusiasm and the work put in rather than brass generalizations about gender. Having a group of people believe in and support you prepares you for the challenges you face later. In the past, I have had to deal with some people who would say inappropriate things or hold prejudices. I had to figure out how to address each case, but the support I received early on provided me with the tools I needed to handle them. Now that I have been in the industry for a while, instances of gender bias become less and less of an issue.
Q: Being a woman in the industry, what challenges have you faced to get to the level you are at today?
KG: Everyone in racing has to prove themselves, no one gets a pass for anything and you have to keep up. Everyone has to study, think outside the box, minimize mistakes and react accordingly. I have noticed that with some people in the past, I needed to prove or extend myself more to be considered equal to my male counterparts. Being aware of this only strengthened my work ethic and ultimately made me better.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
KG: I greatly enjoy the subject matter and requirements of my position; however, the people I work with are my favorite part of the job. Most people in racing will agree that teammates and team energy can make or break your time in the sport. When people leave the sport, they most often say they miss the people the most. The group I am working with now has some of the best energy and cohesion I have found in racing. They are extremely competitive and high functioning, push each other to be better, and bring each other up and make each other laugh so hard it hurts.
Q: What are you looking forward to most to this season?
KG: Winning with this group.
Q: What is your proudest career achievement?
KG: My proudest career achievement is moving up from the position of Data Engineer at one team to Performance Engineer on this team.
Q: What should people know about you outside of motorsport?
KG: I have practiced Brazilian jiujitsu for the past 10 years and have 4 rescue dogs.
Q: Do you have any advice for women looking to break into the motorsport industry and engineering?
KG: Being seen as different and needing to defend yourself from biases can take a lot of energy regardless of the position you hold on a team. Surround yourself with a group of people who are supportive and reach out to mentors. Make yourself available and study and when you get on a team. Lastly, prepare, prepare, prepare then prepare again.