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RBRA Careers: How to become… The Cash Controller

See those cars above? Not a thing on them is possible without the OK from the Powers That Be.

No, we’re not talking about RD. At Red Bull Racing Australia – in fact, at probably every race team in the world – the accountants have the final say. Actually, that’s putting it lightly. Our Chief Financial Officer, Nuri Paterson, pretty much runs the show. RD just sits in the luxury chair in the middle of the office taking credit for it.

It’s no secret that motorsport is an expensive gig and on top of that Triple Eight is primarily an engineering business, so the cash flow that our accounts team, made up of Nuri and her trusty sidekick Julia Zhu, deals with on a daily basis is nothing short of the Wall Street stock exchange. Ok, slight exaggeration…

Working in a race team isn’t all about CAD drawings and race tape. If you’re as creatively challenged as J-Dub in a life drawing class or your last attempt at being a DIY mechanic resulted in a scene similar to The Italian Job (I swear I was just trying to fix the door…), something like this may be the route into motorsport for you.

Qualifications

You could have guessed this for yourself, but maths is a good starting point for any accounting. Nuri also recommends studying economics if possible.

From there university is almost always essential, whether that’s in accounting, business or commerce, but Julia admits that “a masters degree of commerce from the University of Queensland wasn’t enough to start my career here”.

As well as an honours degree and a postgraduate degree, Nuri also has an MBA in management to her name. Literally, she’s got the letters next to it to prove it and everything. Though she says “having the correct qualifications helps with getting the job, there is more to it than that”.

Experience Julia hits the nail on the head: “The uni study showed me a big map of accounting; however, when it comes to working at a successful and well established business, I needed to get deeper into the one or some specific areas of it. I prepared myself with a lot of extra knowledge for job hunting such as different accounting software skills.”

Unlike the other careers we’ve covered so far (engineer, machinist and physio), work experience in accounting is a different ball game, so both Nuri and Julia learnt on the job.

“I was thrown into the lion’s den straight away,” says Nuri, who landed her first job fresh out of university at none other than the Ferrari F1 team. No biggy! Think that’s cool? Her next job was at McLaren F1 – the motorsport bug had well and truly bitten.

Julia’s route in wasn’t quite so glamorous, but she got the got the skills she needed to make it here. “I was a casual shop assistant before I proudly became a member of Triple Eight,” she says, “but I’m always very grateful to the shop manager for giving me the instructions and the opportunity to deal with every aspect of bookkeeping for a long time.”

Getting a job

“It is true what they say – be in the right place at the right time,” Nuri says. “After I finished my first degree I applied for jobs, not specific to motor racing, but I had the good luck to get the interview for the Ferrari job.

“Working in finance and human resources is not difficult,” she continues. “However, when working within a motor racing team, you need to think on your feet, out of the box, as things aren’t black and white and you need to adapt to the circumstances. If you’re not able to do that, you won’t last long as it can get a bit stressful sometimes.”

These sentiments are echoed by Julia who says “every day is a deadline for something”.

“The problem with working in motor racing,” says Nuri, “is that all you see from the outside is the glamour and fun. However, it’s long hours and hard work, so if you’re not willing to do the work you are better off working somewhere else.”

After all that doom and gloom, what about the positives of working in motorsport?

“A famous sport, leading team and legend drivers – these make me feel proud of what I am doing,” sums up Julia.

So once you’ve conjured up that sought after job interview with your killer CV, the key traits to show are willingness to work above and beyond, adaptability, persistence and ability to cope under pressure and meet deadlines.

Pearls of wisdom

It is important that you start from the bottom, according to Nuri, and this doesn’t just apply to accounting, but every aspect of working in motorsport. “Learn to walk before you can run.”

Wise words from a wise lady. Well, you’d have to be to run this joint.