Julia Landauer is a two-time champion NASCAR driver, motivational speaker, and entrepreneur. Originally from NYC, Julia tells us, “By the time I was 12 years old I knew I wanted to be a racer. I was most proud of myself, had the most fun, and felt the most exhilaration when I was at the track. And I love winning.” Not hailing from a racing family, Julia didn’t know the exact steps to make her dream a reality. And, surprisingly, being a NASCAR driver turned out to be highly entrepreneurial: “What many people don’t know is that racing is a financially driven, pay-to-play sport, meaning drivers have to secure funding to move up to the next level. So much of what I do is entrepreneurial: securing funding, marketing myself, articulating ROI to partners, building a brand, engaging with fans, motivational speaking.” To break it down, “As a racer, I’m an entrepreneur, and my racing is my startup.” If you think you have an idea of what Julia’s journey to her current role looks like, think again. She graduated from Stanford in 2014, was on CBS’ Survivor, and is a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree. Read more about Julia’s fascinating path to the race track below.

What was your first job out of college? How did you get it? Did you have a connection?

Unlike what many people think, racing costs a lot of money until you make it to the very top levels. So the actual sport of racing isn’t how I pay my bills just yet. My parents helped me out right after college when I moved to North Carolina to pursue my professional racing career. Within a few months of graduating, and after I had given my first TEDx talk, I started pitching myself for speaking engagements and the first paid speaking engagement I booked was for a women’s leadership conference in Nebraska within a year of graduating. It was the best first engagement because the women who organized it actually told me that I undervalued myself, so I knew from then on I could ask for a higher speaking fee. Talk about women helping women!

What was your college major? Did you feel like your major was necessary for the field you wanted to work in?

I earned a bachelor degree in Science, Technology, and Society. It was very interdisciplinary and allowed me to dabble in a lot of different subjects. I gained technical literacy, historical knowledge, communication skills, etc. I’m one of the few racers who went to college, so it’s 100% debatable if it is necessary for a racing career. For me, I knew that if I grew and developed as a person, it would help my career, and I knew that I was going to have to be able to secure partnerships, promote myself, and relate with fans.

What internships did you do prior to your first job?

I’ve spent every summer racing (since I was 10). During one of those summers, after my freshman year of college, I interned in the PR department at a NASCAR Cup Series team so that I could integrate into the NASCAR community and be in NC for a summer while racing.

How did you land your current job? What were the steps you took? 

I have many jobs: a racer, a speaker, a content creator with partners, etc. With racing, I’ve kept climbing the ranks, I’ve had partners, I’ve funded my own racing, I do what I have to do to get on track. For speaking, now I work with speaking agents as well as pitch myself for gigs. It’s pretty exhilarating to share stories and make an audience laugh, as well as give them some key take-aways to think about in their own lives. For partners, my manager and I are constantly working on securing partnerships and then sometimes companies reach out to us. Some of my partnerships have been with Disney/Pixar, Turo, EmBRAZEN Wines, and Shell, where I did a mix of social media engagement, and external content and video creation, to further our aligned missions.

Basically, it’s about constantly hustling and throwing stuff out there, trying different things, learning from past experiences, and sticking with it!

What was the best/worst piece of advice you ever received?

I’m very lucky that I’ve gotten a lot of good advice, and something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is from my mom…she said, “You’re never going to get what you deserve, but you deserve whatever you can get.” She was primarily referring to promotions and financial compensation, especially for women, but I think that applies to all of life. If you figure out how to make something work, then you deserve it.

Worst advice I’ve ever received is to hide who I am and try to fit the mold. The mold is boring.

Is there any part of your role that our readers would be surprised to know?

Being able to bring out the best in everyone I work with has been the most valuable skill I’ve developed. I’m a relative outsider in the sport, so being able to show the common grounds with my team members and then actively working with everyone so that we all do our best has helped us find success as a team.