Pitch to Pits by Nicci Daly

That was the Pits – now back to the Pitch

Nicci Daly

Ireland’s Nicci Daly has spent the summer as a Data Engineer with Junco Racing Team in the USA and in this final blog before returning to her hockey career, Nicci tells us what she’s learned and how the experience has made her a better engineer.

From Stateside to Turfside…

nicci-daly_2bAs Johnny Cash said, “I’ve been everywhere man, of travel I’ve had my share man, I’ve been everywhere.” Well it’s true, since my last post I’ve been getting around quite a bit with both work and play.  July was jazzy in terms of the amount of racing we had. We went to Toronto, Iowa and mid Ohio and came away with a mixed bag of results.

I had to gain the respect of my driver and the trust of my race engineer.  Once I earned this, I had more input and my confidence started to grow as did my engineers confidence in me.

It was the first time I had been to any of these race tracks. Toronto was probably the highlight. A race run around the streets of downtown Toronto was just spectacular and even better when your drivers go well. Our team would show great pace and finish well with two 3rd place podiums in two races.

After Toronto we headed to Upstate New York to race at Watkins Glen – nicknamed ‘the Glen’ and well known as the home of Formula 1 racing in the U.S. It’s a beautiful location for racing, scenery and we took the time to do some boating too.

We had some down time in August and enjoyed visits with friends from Ireland. During the ten days we hit up New York City, the Ocean City beaches and Chicago, which was all great fun and a welcome break from the pressure of motor racing.

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So with only the Laguna Seca race in California left this week, and my time here coming to an end, it’s a chance to reflect on the past six months while I’m still struggling to comprehend where the time has even gone.

Ireland to the USA and Back

Arriving here on April 18th with no clue really about what I was supposed to be doing, I  can now write this with a feeling of accomplishment and excitement for my future. This experience has taught me that to be a good engineer requires a couple of different attributes. Being able to problem solve quickly and interpret data information effectively are the fundamentals of course but being able to think laterally, have a common sense approach and a likeable character are possibly even more important.

A data engineer is more than just a nerd behind a computer screen. They are the right hand to the race engineer who is the right hand to the driver, therefore how you interact with both is critical to how involved you become.

As inexperienced as I was, I realised that I wasn’t going to be involved straight away. I had to gain the respect of my driver and the trust of my race engineer.  Once I earned this, I had more input and my confidence started to grow as did my engineers confidence in me.

Building the friendships and relationships with my team and driver was just as important because this was my confidence. As a female in this sport, there was always going to be questions as to whether I’d fit into a male dominated team but this was the fun part for me. It was the banter back and forth between me and the lads that made us click. We bonded through a common sense of humour, a strong ability to throw down beer as well as sharing stories about our ideal type of women. Mind you, they have a lot to learn when it comes to the latter.

Sometimes the answer isn’t always in the data!

Nicci Daly - in the pits

Nicci Daly – in the pits

On the technical side, I figured out pretty quickly I had to learn a lot of stuff in a very short amount of time. Math channels, performance metrics and calibrations were just some of the technical terms being thrown around.  Our primary objective as data engineers is to make sure the sensors are outputting the data correctly. Therefore positioning them and calibrating them correctly is critical. Once this is complete, performance metrics and maths channels can be created to further understand vehicle dynamics. With all the data available, an unlimited amount of analysis can be done, it’s just figuring out what is relevant and what isn’t.

As much as I was learning all this new technical stuff, i found taking a step back at times from the computer screen and making judgments based on my own experiences and knowledge kept me from getting lost. Sometimes the answer isn’t always in the data.

It has been an unforgettable experience with the Juncos Racing Team. I have learned so much about my role, myself and what it takes to be a successful engineer.

I cannot thank Ricardo Juncos enough for the opportunity and the experience he has given me. The Juncos Racing Team are everything you expect to find in a team. A group of fun loving people with high standards who work hard together and for each other, striving to be the very best. I will miss all the friends I have made and my family here but I’ll be keeping in touch and following their progress as they continue to grow, and look to rejoin them again in the future.

After six months away, it is now time to switch my body and brain back into hockey mode. Arriving home on September 23rd, I will play my first game for my club: Muckross Hockey Club the following day. I haven’t told my body that yet though!

It’s been a strange feeling being away for so long but I’m looking forward to getting back to training with my Irish and club team mates. The focus now is on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup kicking off in January in Malaysia.

I’m also really looking forward to seeing my nana too; she’s a great woman and I’ve missed her.

Anyway, it’s farewell from me and this blog for the time being. I hope I have given you a bit of an insight into the life of a data engineer and the motorsport industry. For any girls out there aspiring to work in the motorsport business, all I can say is go for it. Girl Power Rocks!

Peace and love.

Nicci

…and now back to the pitch =>

Nicci Daly Irish Hockey Player & Motor Sport Engineer

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