How the F1 Spying row could affect you

The recent F1 spying row between Mclaren and Ferrari has been bigger
news than the incredible rise of Briton Lewis Hamilton, but read between the lines and it may be concerning for your next job.

If you haven’t been around for a while, you might have missed the meteoric
rise of the rookie Lewis Hamilton in F1 team Mclaren this season. Hamilton has
broken many records, including the first win in a rookie year, and has
reinvigorated British support for Formula 1. If you missed that, then you would
probably not have missed the spying scandal surrounding the Mclaren and Ferrari

The scandal centres around information passed to Mclaren from the then Chief
Mechanic at Ferrari, Nigel Stepney. F1 fans will know who Stepney is, and would
not be surprised when they hear information is passed between teams, although
not entireely overtly. Maybe Stepney had a grudge against his Ferarri team after
Schumacher ran over his foot in the pits two years ago, or maybe something else
was the motivator. Either way, the team has now been hit with a record of
another kind, a massive fine of nearly £50m and a loss of all constructor points
this season. This means that Ferarri will be the inevitable constructor winners,
which is arguably the reason why teams compete in the high-risk, high-cost
sport. Coupled with this Mclaren also stand to lose £35m in sponsorship revenue
and serious doubts are now being raised over the viability of Mclarens

Behind all this, however, is the question of whether it is reasonable to
expect people to erase their minds when moving between domains and between jobs. When you start a new job, you are interviewed, assessed and recruited not only on your current skills and suitability for the role, but also on your past
experience – and this includes all the program code, the client contact, or
whatever intellectual property you have had access to in your previous
employment. It is this that drives up your salary, that makes you an attractive
candidate and more able to accommodate an increasing array of challenging

In coding, there is a widely used saying “90% of code is re-used”. Another
saying is banded about “there is nothing original”. Both these are true in their
own way, and it is important to remember this when you lose an employee for
another to recruit them. Official secrets aside, it is inevitable that the
algorithm written in your previous position may well get repeated – if not
improved slightly – in your new position. Is this violation of the intellectual
property of the previous employer?

Salesman may operate with or without ethical rules, but key contacts cannot
be disputed when moving between firms. Once contact has been made with an
individual in a company or organisation, and a rapport developed, is it
unreasonable not to expect that salesman to return to that contact in a
different capacity?

In the real world, this is inevitable. When a recruitment programme is
embarked upon, the employer is looking for these skills, contacts and abilities.
While the legailty of specifying a minimum number of years experience may be
questionable in an ever confusing list of job advertising guidelines, companies
will undoubtedly have in mind a number of years of experience that they require.
Therefore, they are essentially expecting skills, information or
contacts to be re-used in the new employment of a candidate.

Ron Dennis, the charismatic head of McLaren, is appealing against the
decision of the ruling body of motorsport, but whether this will work is not the
question. What really is the question is, in the “real” world, would it be fair
to have a similar scandal if you were to re-use skills or re-contact contacts
under new employment?

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