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Leading Through Empowerment

March 19, 2024

When Rachel Smith joined Pace Six Four in 2020, she was just the fourth member of the team. On 16th March 2024, she celebrated her four-year work anniversary as a central figure in what has become a significantly larger organisation.

Since her arrival, Rachel has not only continued to make her mark on motorsport's creative space though her design work, but has also played a key role in shaping the culture at Pace Six Four.

As Head of Design, Rachel is responsible for the design department at Pace Six Four, leading and managing a small but immensely talented team of five.

Upon meeting Rachel for the first time, you'll be struck by her authenticity, compassion, and kindness – three traits that shape and guide her work ethic on a daily basis.

Throughout her career, Rachel has experienced plenty of change, but her people-first approach to life has always stayed the same. Her experiences really do make her who she is, both as an individual and a professional.

"I worked in-house for quite a long time – nearly seven years – and before joining Pace Six Four, I had never really considered working for a creative agency," says Rachel.

"My first role in motorsport was with Mercedes in Formula One. I then worked at Silverstone Circuit before starting to work here in 2020.

"Now that I look back, I don't really know how four years has gone by, but experiencing our growth as an agency first-hand has been incredible.

"I love my role as Head of Design. I love working creatively, but I especially love the people management side. Initially, I didn't realise how much I would enjoy that.

"I think managing can come with a lot of pressure initially because there is no set blueprint for how to lead or how to handle certain situations. It largely comes down to experience.

"I've tried to apply my own experiences at Pace Six Four and from when I was in-house to the way that I work. This has not just shaped how I approach work, but also life more broadly."

Rachel's blend of in-house and agency experience gives her a holistic perspective on the creative industry, but her empathy is the guiding factor in her leadership style.

"When I started to manage people, my priority was to avoid being the kind of manager that inadvertently makes people feel unappreciated in their job," explains Rachel.

"I've only ever wanted to be supportive, and to make people feel comfortable and safe, knowing that they can come to me and talk about anything at any moment.

"By prioritising certain areas, I think it can be very easy for a manager to ease and resolve stress, but ensuring that people have a good work-life balance is a very big priority for me personally.

"Our experiences make us who we are and, in management, you can only base your approach on those experiences.

"I think this is why I always try to empower people. I could never be someone who micromanages. It's unproductive, and achieves the opposite of empowerment, especially in a creative role.

"Turning up to work only to be nitpicked and spoon-fed by a manager can be very demeaning, and it makes people feel untrusted. It can make people resent their role.

"I trust people to do things themselves, because I know that if they need help, they'll reach out to me. But more than that, I think making decisions is how you learn and develop in your career.

"Life and work are filled with choices. Sometimes we make the right choice, sometimes the wrong choice, but if we don't get the chance to make those choices, we don't get the chance to grow.

"Regardless of what the decision is, it can be viewed as a learning opportunity. Whether the outcome is as you intended or not, what you learn from it makes the difference."

When she looks back on her career, Rachel recalls her own journey and evolution, but also pinpoints how much a career in motorsport has changed in recent years.

Digital media has disrupted what once seemed like a traditional route for a Graphic Designer, and Rachel sees this first-hand whenever she receives a job application from someone interested in working at Pace Six Four.

Standing out from the crowd has never been so important, but by showing initiative, passion, energy, and enthusiasm, applicants can shine through.

A holiday poster for AMF1, designed by Rachel Smith.

"When a Graphic Designer applies for a job at Pace Six Four, they usually have a work portfolio, but they also often show projects that they have worked on in their own free time," continues Rachel.

"I think this has changed the route into motorsport, especially in Graphic Design. Seeing previous work is great, but it's the passion projects that are amazing to see. People often show the most creativity when they don't have a set brief to follow.

"You can see talent shine through in work done outside of regular working hours. It's often what they really want to work on, so that enthusiasm can really make people stand out.

"When I see work and interview people, a lot of it is based on gut feeling. If you're willing to put the work in and have the passion, I think anyone can pursue a career in motorsport."

READ MORE: Sophie Godfrey on Career Evolution at Pace Six Four