In the second part of our Female Element in Motorsport series, we take a look at the Škoda Motorsport factory. The next woman whose story we'd like to introduce to you is Anna Švábíková, Head of Bodyshell and Fuel Group at Škoda Motorsport.
What was your relationship with technology during your childhood and adolescence?
As a child I liked to explore how things worked and I enjoyed taking things apart and "improving" them, but it wasn't always useful. I was a big fan of different building sets, such as Lego, and that has stayed with me into adulthood.
When did it become clear to you that you wanted to pursue this field professionally?
Quite late. Because I was studying at an eight-year secondary school, I had to start thinking about my future field of study only in the seventh year of my studies (note: seventh year of such a secondary school corresponds to the third year of an ordinary secondary school*). It was then that I decided that I was attracted by the combination of theory and technology, so I decided to study physical engineering at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Brno University of Technology. I subsequently added automotive engineering to my field of study, focusing on the supercharging of internal combustion engines.
*students in Czechia can enter secondary school once they completed 5th, 7th or 9th year of elementary school. Therefore the subsequent amount of years they spend studying secondary school of choice varies from 8, 6 to 4 years.
Why did you decide to work for Škoda Motorsport? Is the motorsport environment close to your heart?
As a fan of motorsport and especially the queen of motorsport, rallying, I wanted to at least try my luck at developing racing cars. I have actually achieved that and I am really grateful for this opportunity.
How long have you been working in the team?
I have been working in the team with a short break for about two and a half years. I started working here during the development of the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 as an engineer in the Design Office, where our main task was to design components for various technical departments within the team. After taking a break to write my thesis, I then returned as a welded bodywork technician in the bodywork development department.
What exactly are your responsibilities in the team?
I'm currently the team leader of the bodywork and fuel system group. I am in charge of a team of experienced technicians, where everyone is responsible for the development of a specific area of the car - welded bodywork, body protectors, exterior components, interior, and fuel system. My job is to technically cover and coordinate these different areas and then present the results of our group to the management team.
"Thankfully, we live in an era where women have the same opportunities as men and everyone is judged according to their abilities."
What do you enjoy most about your work? Coordinating a team of engineers or the actual development work of individual components? Alternatively, is there any other area that you enjoy about your job?
There is something for both. Coordinating a team is a big challenge and responsibility. Each individual needs to be aware of what's going on across the board and be able to respond to any input. The beauty of the development work itself is that you can delve more deeply and address the topic in a comprehensive way.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced at Škoda Motorsport?
That's quite a tricky question because every day can be a challenge and you never know what you're going to face. In general, though, it's always a busy period preparing for tests, when you often need to come up with something quickly, produce it and get it to the car on time; and then of course the pre- homologation time. The transition from being an engineer who primarily deals with their own technical area to being a manager who is in charge of the whole department has also been a huge challenge.
How do you enjoy the sport successes that a car with your signature gets?
It's a nice feeling to see that a car, whose development I have partly contributed to is successful. I am duly proud of the results from last season, but now it´s 2024, a new season and new challenges and we cannot rest on our laurels.
What would you say to girls who would like to follow your example?
Thankfully, we live in an era where women have the same opportunities as men and everyone is judged according to their abilities. So to girls who would like to follow my example, I would tell not to be afraid of anything and to follow their dreams. It's not always easy, but it's worth it.