How Julia Landauer, NASCAR Champion & ISC West Keynote Speaker, Built Her Career Confidence

Julia Landauer headshot

ISC West 2021 is coming up July 19-21 in Las Vegas, and the Security Industry Association (SIA) and ISC West have revealed full conference details for the SIA Education@ISC West program, including 65+ sessions on the most current business trends, technologies and industry developments and this year’s engaging Keynote Series presentations.

SIA is looking forward to the SIA Women in Security Forum Keynote on Day 3 of ISC West featuring remarks from two-time racing champion Julia Landauer on risk analysis and working with fear, the importance of STEM education, women’s empowerment and leadership. In her racing career, Landauer has amassed dozens of wins in many different series since making history as the first and youngest female champion in the Skip Barber Racing Series at age 14. She was the first woman to win a NASCAR Track Championship at Motor Mile Speedway in her division in 2015, became the first woman to lead a lap in the Canadian NASCAR Pinty’s Series and currently races in the NASCAR Euro Series. In 2017, she was selected as an honoree for the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the sports category, and she was the only female member of the highly selective NASCAR Next class of 2016-2017. Landauer supports the One Love Foundation, which educates about healthy versus unhealthy relationships, as well as the TechForce Foundation, which helps students find technical vocations, and is also part of the Global Shapers community, born out of the World Economic Forum. She holds a bachelor’s degree in science, technology and society from Stanford University.

In this Q&A, SIA spoke with Landauer about how she found success in a male-dominated industry, the biggest challenge she faced in her career and how to overcome fear and take risks.

At 14, you made history as the youngest female champion in the Skip Barber Racing Series. Getting into racing at such a young age, how did that feel? Did you have confidence, or did you feel like an imposter sometimes? Tell us the story of how you built your confidence, how it shaped your career and what that meant to your performance in racing and as a person.

Julia Landauer: Since the beginning of my racing career, at age 10, I was always one of the few, if not the only, female in the group of racers. So that always felt normal to me. That being said, when I was 14 and won the championship in Skip Barber, I was just starting to go through puberty, and I was really unhappy in my middle school, so having racing as an outlet where I could work insanely hard, win and feel the high of winning was incredible. It was also a huge boost of confidence that I won against 20-, 30- and 40-year-old guys. 

To be completely honest, I don’t remember a time during that 2006 season where I didn’t feel confident. This is largely because I was always very diligent in asking for feedback, trying new things on track and learning from the in-car data, so I was always pretty fast. And I won most of the races. If I wasn’t fast during practice or something, I assumed it was something I was doing wrong, so I asked for feedback and worked with coaches more until I figured it out. 

I think this confidence is largely because 1) I had winning results, 2) my family and coaches were incredibly supportive and infused me with a can-do attitude and 3) I think I was too young to understand the gender biases of our society, so I just didn’t recognize or internalize it. In later seasons though, especially ones where I didn’t win as much, I would sometimes doubt my racing ability. But I learned the power of positive self-talk, reminding myself of my accomplishments, letting myself feel what I had to feel and remembering the joy that racing brings me.

Tell us a story about one of the most challenging things you’ve faced in your career. How did you handle or overcome it?

JL: There are a lot of challenges, from the financial aspect of racing to getting out of a rut, but the hardest was one season when I never felt that the team fully had my back. I felt like I couldn’t get them to buy into me, couldn’t earn their full respect, and I never felt that they were giving 100%. What made it really frustrating was that I was doing everything in my power to figure out and solve whatever the problem was. I adjusted my communication, I asked for feedback and I asked what the team needed from me. But it didn’t work, and we had a bad season. It was a tough and expensive way to learn that sometimes you simply do not have control.

As a race car driver, you may have experienced a moment during a race when fear crept into your mind. Can you take us to that moment and tell us the story? How did that experience shape you?

JL: I get nervous before every race, so I’ve learned how to minimize the symptoms of fear to help myself perform my best. For example, when I feel my heart rate race before I have to strap in, I’ll sprint to the bathroom, then I’ll do jumping jacks, and that little burst of endorphins helps calm me down and put me in the right space. I also try not to think about the outcome, rather just focus on hitting my marks the best that I can so that I know I’m doing every step correctly. And then I get in the zone.

The thing with racing, or any sport or job, is that even if you’re scared, you have to do it. You can’t just not show up. And I think this reality has helped me tackle things away from the track that are scary. So now, whenever I am considering not doing something because it’s scary, I ask myself “why not?” And if I can’t give myself a good answer, besides the fact that it makes me uncomfortable, I know that I have to try. It’s a mind over matter thing.

How has your academic background studying science and technology helped your racing career, and why do you think it’s important for everyone to learn more about STEM-related fields?

JL: One of the most helpful classes I took in college was computer science, because the only way to solve the problem is to keep working on it. Every person has their own style of coding – you can’t really look up help without plagiarizing, so you simply need to stick with the problem. After my semester in that class, I found that I was much more patient with my problem solving in life in general, which was incredible. I felt like I had empowered myself. And more practically speaking, understanding how to look at data and make behavioral changes, like looking at in-car data and knowing what I have to do differently on track, is crucial for racers. 

In addition to these larger life skills, I think it’s important for people to learn some STEM-related subjects because they’re present everywhere in our life. Whether it’s understanding the chemistry of how makeup works on skin, knowing how to build out your own website so you have control or understanding basic physical principles as you’re driving on the road, understanding STEM concepts will enhance your life personally and professionally. And I don’t think you need to be an expert, but some understanding will likely be helpful.

What advice do you have for other women striving to succeed in male-dominated industries?

JL: I have a few pieces of advice:

  1. Understand and appreciate your skills, experience and value, and don’t be afraid to share that. No one can dispute your results and accomplishments, so use them as a tool, especially if you’re not being treated fairly, and be proud of them.
  2. Find male allies who are empathetic and not afraid to speak up if they see women or minorities being treated unjustly. 
  3. Have a support group. Whether that means your significant other, friends, family, etc., I think having a few people who you trust and can ask for an outside perspective is really important for mental health and well-being. 

The SIA Women in Security Forum Keynote at ISC West will take place Wednesday, July 21, at 8:30 a.m. in the Sands Expo Center, Casanova Room 603-607. Explore the full SIA Education@ISC West conference program and register to attend here

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts and/or profiles are those of the authors or sources and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Security Industry Association (SIA).