Recently we asked Marilyn Comrie OBE who is the Director of Business Development at The Blair Project (www.theblairproject.org) to answer a few questions about her career, proud moments and what inspires her.
Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired by creative thinkers who are courageous enough to challenge the status quo and think outside the box. People like Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla, who risked being excluded from formal education because their thinking and ideas were just ahead of their time, and lesser minds were unable to acknowledge and accept the awesomeness and brilliance of mavericks who defy convention
What are you most proud of in your career and/or life?
The Blair Project is a disruptive youth-led social enterprise that exists to challenge the status quo in motorsport which is very elitist, and make it more inclusive, accessible and affordable, especially for girls and young people from disadvantaged communities. We are mobilising grassroots organisations, communities and educational institutions to work with us to leverage new technologies, and innovate new approaches that enthuse and inspire young people to want to be the next generation of scientists, engineers, mechanics, drivers and digital entrepreneurs. Our niche is working with disaffected young people, who are at risk of not achieving, who we nurture to discover their hidden talents, strengths and potential and transform the way they think and speak about themselves. We are achieving great success in this area. This is what I am most proud of!
Tell us a bit about your career
I never ever imagined that I would carve out a career in motorsport – nothing could have been further from my mind! I was an award winning entrepreneur who was honoured by Her Majesty The Queen in 2009 with an OBE, a leadership coach, former BBC TV journalist and series producer and a chemistry graduate. I developed and honed my leadership skills managing large scale, high profile operations within the media sector. This progressive seventeen year career included several senior management roles within major plc organisations where I earned a reputation for transforming multi million pound projects, from underachievement into unquestionable success stories.
I also became a qualified leadership coach, jet setting across the world delivering training, providing strategic advice to senior leaders, empowering them to execute sound judgment, enhance accountability & responsibility for decision-making, manage and monitor performance for impact.
But when life presents new and wonderful opportunities, you have to trust in the process and learn to go with the flow and see where it takes you. It requires you to be courageous, adventurous, resilient and persistent – and maintain a great sense of humour! It’s taken a lot of sacrifice, and sometimes living a hand-to-mouth existence, but when you’ve faced your worst fears, and come out of it victorious, nothing can ever hold you back!
The challenges of single-handedly funding the racing career of my 18 year old son Blair, was the catalyst that sparked this new venture. It was costing as much as £35k per year for Blair to race karts, which isn’t sustainable for an ordinary family. For him to make the next step up into competitive single seater racing would require a minimum of £100k, which was way out of our league. There were lots of other families in the same boat; talented just isn’t enough in motor racing. You need to have serious cash behind you, if you’re to stand any chance of making it to the top.
Our family motto is never say die, so rather than simply accepting the status quo, my 19 year old son Nile decided he would do something about it. In March 2014 he set up The Blair Project to champion grassroots talent, and innovate new ways to make motorsport more inclusive, accessible and affordable. To ensure the success of the venture, I put my business mentoring expertise to good use by becoming the director of business development.
We worked tirelessly in the business working 7 days a week for 18 months before we receive our first bit of grant funding. With no income coming in, we had exhausted our savings. and we’re living hand to mouth. But we believed in our cause; giving up was never an option. And I am please to say that our bloody-mindedness has reaped dividends, not only for ourselves but for the young people we work with.
Success requires hard work, self belief and great sacrifice – just ask any Olympic athlete. I left the comfort and security of a highly paid job, to set off into the great unknown, living a hand-to-mouth existence. But when you’ve faced your worst fears, and come out of it victorious, nothing can ever hold you back! You are forever transformed into your shiny brilliant best – just like the Alchemists of old foretold when they turned base metal into gold.
Tell us how 3D printing and the CREATE Education Project has benefitted you in your work
The raw productive power of 3D printing has proven to be a powerful key to unlock the immense creativity and potential of young people, of all abilities and expand their awareness of what is possible, in terms of careers and their futures.
The CREATE Education Project is a powerhouse of knowledge, expertise, resources and connections that we have and will continue to draw upon to innovate and grow our ideas – they make the impossible, possible. Without the CREATE Education Project our ProtoGP Schools Kart Challenge would never have gotten off the ground!
Thank you for sharing your story with CREATE Education. Your generosity in sharing your story and your work with our community will hopefully help to inspire others into STEAM career paths.