May 8, 2018
Q&A: J.R. Hildebrand on Racing for Salesforce and the Need for Speed
By Sebastian Rupley and Christopher Lawton
You tweeted your reading list the other day. You're not just plugging into tech. You're also reading George Orwell, and All the President's Men. Have you always been an avid reader?
I probably – good, bad, or otherwise – come off as a little more cerebral than some. I wasn't a big reader as a kid. Some of these books, like “1984,” I was probably supposed to read in high school and I just read the CliffsNotes instead. But as an adult, I've had some great books that have kind of pulled me through. I've been able to sit down and have some good reads that have helped me get through situations. So I've embraced other people's reading lists, and I enjoy going back and catching up on things that I should have read a long time ago.
What about music? What will be on your playlist for race day?
I was born in the late '80s, and my music tastes live in the '90s. I was a huge Rage Against the Machine fan. Definitely West Coast hip-hop from the late '90s and early 2000s. Tupac, Too Short, E-40, that's definitely been my jam from high school on. But I like a lot of the new alternative rock, like the Black Keys.
Who was your favorite driver growing up?
It sounds funny to people because I always raced open-wheel cars, but Dale Earnhardt Senior was my racing idol. Even guys like that, who seem really rough and raw, there's a philosophy, kind of a mindset, behind all of that.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about racing?
Among the most significant misconceptions is that racing proficiency is just one reactive, kind of instinctual thing. When you think of (Ayrton) Senna, Michael Schumacher, and Dale Earnhardt, those three guys, in terms of their mental attitude, could not be more different from each other. Senna's just ultra-intense and passionate. Schumacher was ultra-mathematical and like a professor, almost, in terms of how he approached every little detail. Earnhardt was “The Intimidator,” right? It's an attitude thing. But each of those different mindsets was really developed over a long period of time. And they extracted their greatness out of being so focused in their own ways. They were great in different areas, embracing their own mental attitudes.
On the technology scene right now, what really inspires you?
That's a great question. I think for me, it's maybe less about some specific area of technology and more about asking in what ways are we extracting great human experiences out of our technologies? There seems to be a trend where there is advancement of technology just for the sake of it. People think that things are getting better, and advancing at this exponential rate, just because the snowball is rolling downhill.
I think there's a question that needs to be asked about all technologies, which is "Are these things really making our lives better?" I've become really attached to the things that inspire me, that make for intense human experiences. I want to live in a future, driven by technology, that has more of those experiences.