What’s it like to get no university education? For Daniel Woodroof, Alice Smith School, located in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, was the “only school he had ever been to.”
“I regularly attributed my time at Alice Smith as some of the best times of my life”, Woodroof tells Study International. “A lot of the fundamentals that contributed to who I am as a person derived from my time there.”
That includes helping him become a professional go-kart racer.
Woodroof discovered karting on a day out with his family. Since then, he was hooked — so much so that his father enrolled him in an academy. Soon, the Malaysian was competing in karting and single-seater championships.
Despite this, he never gave up on his education. “The school got James Russell, who acted as my legal guardian at the time. He was my mentor, older brother, and father figure,” Woodroof shares.
“Alice Smith knew that I was on a trajectory, where I was in a professional sport [and] was representing the country internationally. I had aspirations of being in Formula One. They also knew that education is fundamentally important.”
Alice Smith School built Woodroof’s study schedule and routine around his racing career. “There were a lot of pre-prepared scanned documents [and] reading materials that I had to catch up on. I had my own syllabus in line with what the students were learning, so I didn’t miss out,” he explained.
Thanks to them, Woodroof had his priorities set — which paid off. His achievements include being the Champion of the Malaysian Karting Championship (Junior) in 2011, representing Malaysia in the Rotax Max Challenge World Finals (Junior) 2012, winning Formula BMW Asia in 2013 and 2014, and more.
Life on campus was just as fulfilling. At Alice Smith School, Woodroof had teachers from various backgrounds who drove his intellectual curiosity. His friends came from all over the globe. It was an environment that exposed him to a melting pot of culture, tradition and ethnicity from a young age.
One teacher, in particular, took time to guide Woodroof with his Physics and Economics coursework even though it was outside the teacher’s working hours and work scope.
“We had people that literally cared about how we performed. I remembered him being so helpful,” Woodroof enthuses. “There were a couple of us struggling — for different reasons — with the subject. We retook our exams and got A’s.”
Transitioning into hosting and digital marketing
While Woodroof was part of several driver development programmes with McLaren and Porsche, he ran out of money to sustain his racing career. “I was extremely privileged to have my father afford go-karts and Formula BMW,” he says. “The Formula BMW championship was specifically crafted for drivers on a shoestring budget to race.”
When his racing career ended, Woodroof missed out on the September intake for most UK universities. In a stroke of luck, Woodroof had the chance to host “Go Fast or Go Home,” a show that pits a race car driver in various traditional forms of racing against local village champions in South East Asia.
“I did boat racing in Thailand, bull racing in Indonesia, raced a wooden bicycle down a mountainside in the Philippines,” he says. “That launched my entertainment and online presence. As a result, it opened up more opportunities to do things like influencer work, going to events, endorsement deals, and more.”
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m excited about it”
Today, the Alice Smith School graduate is the co-founder of Pandan Social, a full-service digital marketing agency consisting of strategists, creatives, and analysts. Its counterpart, Pandan Influencer, focuses on student influencer marketing.
“We don’t deal with big or traditional influencers. It is an opportunity for university students to have a side hustle, leverage their close connections in university, and use their social profiles,” Woodroof explains.
“We worked with Tinder — a project that involved over 100 students and five cities in Indonesia. We collaborated with Taco Bell and Big Pay in Malaysia. We finished a campaign for ONE Championship.”
Woodroof is still deeply connected to his passion for racing through Stratos Motorsports. Founded in 2010, Russell became its Team Principal, and Woodroof coaches drivers of all ages to race go-karts, cars and rally cars at Stratos Racing School.
“We’re also excited to launch Stratos Driver Management, where we manage drivers from Asia and help bring them to Europe so they can excel in their careers. Ultimately, we want to bring them to Formula One,” says Woodroof.
Asked about what the future holds, he has no clue. Instead of being nervous, the Malaysian eagerly anticipates his next steps. “Pandan Social is the biggest part of my life right now. I’ve made my mark in racing, TV, and digital marketing. I’m still optimistic about how Pandan can grow in Southeast Asia, so I will double down on that,” he shares.
“If the last eight years have shown me anything, a lot can happen in one year. I have so many opportunities. I am blessed and very aware of how privileged I am to have all these opportunities. Either one of them could blow up into something big.”