The majority of instructors I interact with came up through the HPDE systems as students / drivers first. Some come from wheel-to-wheel racing and transition to HPDE instructing to keep their basic skills sharp without spending the necessary money to 'campaign' a race car.
One of my pithy observations of the local landscape goes like, "If you're a solo driver with a year or more of solo events (5-6) under your belt and your peers don't think you're a jackass, you might get invited to an instructor development day." The usual caveats apply. Audi Club NW sets a high bar for solo drivers, they need to demonstrate "self-coaching" skills (many clubs will turn a driver out solo when they're not a menace to others, a lower standard). The "not a jackass" part is a humorous attempt to set a standard for the people skills / communication side.
I still remember an odd bit from my second Audi Club NW event. I was not an instructor, I had just been signed off solo at the event prior. I was at the event hotel the night before the event, and I was hanging out in the lobby, seeing who was around, trying to make connections. The Chief Driving Instructor came through the lobby, said hello (presumably recognized me from the prior event), asked if I had dinner plans, and told me he was ordering pizza for the instructor meeting. Pizza sounded good to me, so I went to the instructor meeting.
There was a very interesting vibe in that room. Serious people having fun, or fun people talking about serious stuff. There were hard questions, and then arrival at consensus. I wanted to be part of that crowd, that vibe.
Two years and 20 track days later, I got invited to my first instructor development clinic. I didn't pass. While I probably have "above average people skills" from my professional background (from sales to engineering project management to engineering supervisor), it's a bit of a jump from simply being a "good HPDE driver" to developing the skills it takes to be a good instructor. There's a patter, a rhythm that has to be developed.
My local club puts "instructor candidates" who have passed the basic qualifications into a status they call "Technician". Technicians can teach Driver Skills, which allows them a fair bit of "right seat time" to hone their teaching skills.
One year, six days of teaching Driver Skills and 22 track days after my first crack at an instructor development clinic, I attended my second, and passed. I was told that my "number of events at many different tracks" counted in my favor when my candidacy was discussed.
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