30 June 2022

The first woman at the head of the formula team has a great start

Ema is the first woman Team Leader | Autor: Jan Prokopius
Student Ema Záňová definitely does not worry about the boxes "for girls" and "for boys". She just does what she enjoys. This season, she was the first woman in the Czech Republic to lead the student formula team. And when she is not currently in the workshops at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at BUT, she is racing with an ice hockey stick as a forward of the women's hockey team WHC Valkyries Brno. The hockey example "has a shot at the goal" fits her perfectly.

„When I applied to BUT, I followed the school on social networks. They just shared a recruitment for the TU Brno Racing team. I was immediately interested in it; I have been a fan of motorsport for a long time. I thought I'd give it a try. I came and then I stayed," a pretty student says, adding with a laugh that she looked into the formula workshops before she even entered the first university auditorium.

Ema's home faculty is the Faculty of Business and Administration, where she studies process management. "It combines subjects from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Informatics and Electrical Engineering, and we also have economic and managerial subjects from the businesswoman, so it's quite varied," she says. In the formula team, she joined the Business and PR section from the beginning, building on her experience from high school and working for the local student organization. "I learned the rest. Working in our team is a lot about self-education. And also about openness to new ideas: whatever your head and heel will let you do. They just trust you to make it happen. This environment aroused in me a great desire to work on myself," Ema adds.

For a long time, she was the only woman in the team. No wonder 454 boys and only seven girls went through the team during the twelve-year history of the student formula at BUT. The ratio is now 62:2. But Ema obviously doesn't mind, she's used to the male team from hockey. "When I was twelve, the women's hockey team in our city was looking for new faces. Unfortunately, the team soon disappeared because it didn't have enough players, but I stayed and trained with the boys. And I'm incredibly grateful for that, it made me a lot stronger. The coaches weren't too excited to have a little girl among the boys, I had to fight hard. When I was eighteen, I played against boys of the same age, and the physical difference between us was huge. But I had a great desire to work on myself," she recalls.

This is the second time, and not the last, that Ema Záňová mentions "the desire to work on herself" during the interview. She is immediately confirmed by the information that although she is in charge of marketing and now leading the whole party in the formula team, the boys also taught her to weld, solder and flex. "Everyone here has a chance to learn as much as they can," she adds.

To improve and pass on

This season, Ema is historically the first woman not only at the head of TU Brno Racing, but also among all Czech teams. Does she have authority as a woman in a predominantly male team? "The jokes on the subject have, of course, taken place, but that's probably normal. I learned what it means to take something close to my heart and what not, what is just humour. At the same time, I feel great mutual respect: I respect how everyone in the team works, they respect my position as a leader who tries to unite and motivate them. The guys put their trust in me and I think it works so far," she says.

Like every team leader, Ema came up with a vision of how to further improve the team's work. In her case, it is a form of double-headed leadership. She herself holds the position of a Team Leader, her friend Marek Dostál is a Technical Leader. "Marek pays attention, for example, to whether a semi-finished product is properly prepared for machining, I do more managerial and administrative work, for example, I have to monitor deadlines and ensure the submission of documents to the plants so that we do not have unnecessary penalties. In addition, I also deal with the financial side, we have quite a lot of sponsors and partners, I deal with the organization of production,… When you imagine a manufacturing company that has a unique product and 65 employees, I do roughly such management work now,” Ema says with a smile.

The two-headed system is said to have been seen abroad, and Ema hopes to join the team also in the future. "We are following the example of the best teams in the world. At races, we always try to figure out how they do it, and I don't mean just the construction of a monopost, but also things from an organizational and managerial point of view. We also want to become the best in the world," she says.

When she doesn't study, she spends about 10-12 hours a day working for the team. However, she adds with her second breath that she is only trying to get closer to the biggest hard workers. For this year, she also entered the selection of pilots, and if she is one of the best who is allowed to drive the formula at the races, she will also be the first female student of the student formula.

Valkyrie does not give up

The end of the summer semester is usually hectic for TU Brno Racing. They are finishing the construction of a new monopost, which must be ready to race for the summer. Asking what next season will be like the outlook for the next millennium. However, it is possible that Ema will leave the post of Team leader at the end of the season. It is nothing special, it is an unwritten rule in the team that people hand over their work to someone younger and more skilful after a year. At the same time, the rules of the Formula Student competition stipulate that no one may be on the team for more than five years, which in itself leads to students changing and sharing experiences quickly and efficiently. "We want to awaken in people their ability to take the lead, to be a leader. When they come into practice and into life, it is a huge advantage," Ema believes.

Ema plays for the WHC Valkyries Brno team | Autor: archiv Emy Záňové

It is said that working in a student team equipped her with great vigour, but also humility. "One finds that one has to adjust to other people, that one's actions have a great impact on others. If you stay in the workshop for an hour longer, the others will stay there with you and more will be achieved. I look forward to the workshop every morning when I see those cool people again. Because of the people around me, I want to work on myself," she says.

From the workshops, Ema Záňová sometimes bounces on the ice, to the purely female WHC Valkyries Brno team. Women's hockey, which she originally wanted to make a living from, is her second big passion. And maybe thanks to her hockey move to the goal, which she has as a forwarder in her blood, she is so successful. "Hockey has given me penetration and the ability not to give up. It's the basis of my life confidence, because I know that if you want something, you can do it. For example, to play as a girl in a boys' hockey team. Or get to the head of the formula team," Ema concludes energetically.


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