The top 3 question we receive from students are:
- How can I build a career in aerodynamics?
- Do you have an open position at AirShaper / know of another company with open positions?
- Can you support our Formula Student team?
In this blog we'll zoom in on the first & second question: 👣Which steps do you need to take to lang a job in the fascinating world of aerodynamics!
Yes, this is important: if you're applying for a job, your education matters. Most (mechanical) engineering bachelor or master tracks will include at least an introduction to fluid mechanics, as it's crucial to many engineering problems (damper design, hydrodynamics, HVAC - heating, ventilation and air conditioning, ...). Or, you can follow a master really dedicated to the field of fluid dynamics, often with a choice between experimental (real-life testing) and/or computational (computer simulations). Of course, the choice of the institute is important: some, like the TUDelft in the Netherlands, have a superb reputation and that will help you shine on your CV. Finishing such a master is of course fantastic, but still, you will not be entirely unique (unless you were the only student to follow that course, in which case you may want to question the course itself 😎).
There is something else which is, at least in my opinion, equally important: self-study. Companies will appreciate & sometimes even demand the skills & knowledge you gained through your studies, but they will in many cases look for something extra, something that sets you apart. If you can talk at length about the go-kart you pimped aerodynamically in your backyard, or how you spent long evenings programming your own CFD (computational fluid dynamics) code, this can really set you apart.
You can have plenty of skills, but you'll have to make them known to the world. Applying for open positions is an obvious way of doing so. But you could also build a network, even before you graduate, in the aerodynamics scene: write a blog, write stoties on Linkedin, post aero stuff on X, ... let the world know you have a burning passion for aerodynamics.
It's not a straight path to success, and it's difficult to gauge the "return on investment", but you may be surprised by how you can sometimes end up talking to interesting people. And don't let anything hold you back: even if the people you want to talk to are senior people at respectable companies, just give it a try: add them on Linkedin, send them that interesting paper you did on your go-kart.
Last but not least, don't underestimate the physical world: Motorsport fairs for example (like the ones in Birmingham or Cologne) are a great place to find & meet very interesting people. I've had multiple encounters with Willem Toet, for example. He's a legend in terms of aerodynamics, has worked at Sauber for years, but is one of the most charming & accessible people in the entire racing scene. He & others like him often give interesting (free) talks at such events. After the talk? Just walk up there and tell an interesting story that sticks! As to date, there is no app that will replace the quality of a face-to-face meeting 😇
The first person ever to start working at AirShaper came to us via a job we had placed on CFD Online, a specialist forum dedicated to computational fluid dynamics. In a similar way, but then dedicated to aerodynamics rather than CFD, we've created the AirShaper Job Board. On this free & open platform, people can create a profile to be discovered and companies can post vacancies.
Indirect paths 🏎
If you're dreaming of a job in Formula 1, don't over-focus on it.
First of all, being responsible for the aerodynamics of an entire car at a small company might be more rewarding than working on barge board number 3 on a Formula One car.
Second of all, an indirect path might actually be the more efficient & interesting one. Even if you start out working on drones, you may still end up at a race team later on. They might even value your expertise from a different sector.
Just stay open to interesting things that cross your path, instead of focusing solely on that ultimate goal. For all you know, you may discover another domain you find even more interesting!
A cheesy one, but don't forget to live :) Working on something you're passionate about is great, but please do balance work with other interesting things to do - it'll feed your creativy and keep you fresh!
Besides proper education, applying your passion to private projects and talking about it to people around you and people in aerodynamics scene can really make a difference. Go beyond the text books that others have read as well and play around, experiment and enjoy aerodynamics - by doing so, you'll come across interesting people & opportunities in life!