The University of Indianapolis welcomed guest speaker Doug Boles, President of Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday, March 23, to discuss his experience from graduating to climbing his way to the top of one of the most recognized racing events in the world.
The event, held in UIndy Hall in Schwitzer Student Center, was presented by the School of Business Leadership Academy as part of its ongoing spring speaker events. Those from the School of Business were highly encouraged to attend, but the event was open to students from any major.
Boles graduated from Butler University in 1988 with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism. His first steps toward the business of racing came during his sophomore year at Butler when he worked in the media office at Indianapolis Raceway Park. After graduation, he attended Indiana University, where he studied law. During his speech, Boles talked about his first job after college at the State House, where he worked in the public relations office, but he said he knew his true passion was always racing.
One day, Lex Dudas, President of Indianapolis Raceway Park, contacted Boles to work at a racing event.
“This was my big break,” Boles said.
When Boles visited the site, he discovered that his job would be to manage the restroom staff at the event. Boles insisted that even if it wasn’t the big, important job he thought he was going to get, it was an opportunity to show the President of Indianapolis Raceway Park what he could do.
“At first I thought, ‘I’m not doing this. I’m too good for this,’” Boles said. “Then I thought to myself, ‘You know what? If Lex Dudas was serious, and this is what he wanted me to do, and he trusted me to do this, then I am going to do the best job he could have ever expected in that.’”
After working the event, Boles was invited to another race, where he was presented with a plaque from the National Hot Rod Association making him a lifelong member of Indianapolis Raceway Park as a thank you for his efforts. Boles said that what really mattered to him was the connections he had made.
“It allowed me to have Wally Parks and Lex Dudas on my resume as folks people could call on [as references], and [they] would say, ‘The kid will do anything you need him to do; you can trust him to do it,’” Boles said. “I encourage you, when you have opportunities, especially when it’s in the space you care about, even if it’s cleaning restrooms, [to] take the job. And do it with 100 percent sincerity and 100 percent effort. You will find someday that it will pay off for you.”
Boles said he was eager to motivate students to be leaders while in college. He encouraged students to stand out in front of prospective employers by being prepared when interviewing for jobs and internships.
“Be prepared and know what you are talking about,” Boles said. “When you walk in, you should know what the job is and how it relates to you personally. As an interviewer, I want to know what you will learn from your experience at my company and if you’re a good fit. So understanding what you are applying for is key. Communication is one of the most valuable assets you can have when applying for a job.”
After talking about his first experiences in the race environment, Boles talked about the marketing efforts of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the challenges that come with the changing generations attending IMS events. Boles said that while the average attendee for the Indy 500 in 2016 was a 50-year-old white male, the Speedway wants to shift its focus to a younger generation.
In 2011, the Indy 500 saw the return of the Snake Pit, a part of the racing event where there is live music and attendees stand around a stage. This part of the event had been revoked to make the event more family-friendly. Boles talked about the challenges the company faced when it brought the Snake Pit back, but said the company understood that the way to gain younger attendees was by tapping into music. Boles said last year’s Snake Pit attendance was about 30,000 people in their 20s.
One of the challenges of bringing back the Snake Pit was a negative response from older attendees. People who had attended the race in past years had grown close to the race’s traditions, and IMS had to learn to balance the history of the brand while adjusting to attract its new target audience.
After the presentation, students had the opportunity to speak with Boles one-on-one, to ask for advice, network and learn more about the racing capital of the world. Junior supply chain management major Collin Timmons had the opportunity to speak with Boles and talk about the Indy 500 event.
“It was awesome hearing from one of the most important companies in the city,” Timmons said. “As a race fan, I have attended the Indy 500 every year for the past five years. And learning about their marketing, and everything that is thought when planning the event, gives me a great insight into how the company works.”