Mechanical Engineering Grad Drives UK Motorsports Start-Up
Boy Racer: Engineer Kieron Salter is the co-founder of KW Motorsport Ltd
Boys tend to start playing with toy cars at a young age, but what happens when you have already restored your first real car at the age of 20? You become a high-performance engineer.
EngineeringBecause met Kieron Salter, a mechanical engineer with a flair for motorsports and innovation.
Brought up to appreciate gadgets and technology, he chose his university degree with ease. However, Kieron describes his motorsports career as a lucky accident.
During his automotive engineering degree at Oxford Brookes in the UK, he had applied for jobs and placements with the leading car brands – overlooking the possibility that he could have a career in motorsport, he says
At his graduation, Adrian Reynard, the owner of Reynard Racing Cars in Bicester, was a guest, receiving an honouree Doctorate, Kieron recalls. “He made an inspirational speech opening the ceremony, about how he started his career and how his company had developed.”
Inspired by Adrian’s words, Kieron took a decision that landed him a job.
"When he presented my degree certificate on stage I seized the moment and took the opportunity to ask him for a job,” Kieron says. “Within a week I had an interview and was offered a graduate training opportunity with Reynard Racing Cars.”
The job enabled him to quickly grow in the motorsport sector, becoming head of special projects in his early thirties.
The company sadly collapsed during a financial crisis in 2002, he says with regret. “Whilst Reynard had a successful race car business, it was heavily dependent on a single market and was burdened with large overheads.”
The fast-developing motorsports sector does not leave time or space for mistakes. “When the market demand changed, Reynard was unable to react quickly enough,” Kieron says.
But this opened a new opportunity for him to start his own business: KW Motorsport Ltd.
“My business model is built around sustainable overheads, minimum debt and diversification,” he says. “We now have two businesses, KW Motorsport [KWM] and KW Special Projects [KWSP].”
He adds: “KWSP is experiencing rapid growth through the transfer and exploitation of motorsport technology and methodologies into other… Sectors.”
Having your own business is a “a great deal of fun”, but Kieron does have difficulties: "The things that keep you awake at night are irregular income; ensuring the cash flow situation remains healthy; and stress."
Those, however, do not keep the company from growing. "At KWSP and KWM, we are ambitious about our future growth," he says.
"We intend to double the size of the business in the next year, and move into more high-performance sectors, such as defence and medical, using disruptive technology such as digital fabrication and additive manufacturing [3D printing]."
He says students should consider careers in high-performance engineering – a growing sector in Britain. “It is dynamic, exciting and rapidly changing, and needs young people [and] engineers with creativity and drive.”
He adds: “To be successful in… [A] career in the high-performance engineering sector, first and foremost: get experience. There is no such thing as a bad experience – take every opportunity to observe and learn. If you are open to it, you can learn from any experience.
“Do not assume that because you are a graduate, you have anything to offer a company yet. Get practical business and engineering experience as well as your qualifications.”
His advice to engineers is: “Ask a lot of questions. Use any excuse to understand how… [Things] fit into the bigger picture, both from an engineering and [a] commercial perspective. All of this will be in an investment in your future career success.”
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