OK, I have to get my mind off this Harley Davidson media foolishness, and there’s no better way than to focus on some total badassery. I bring you The Electric Chronicles Badass of the Month (and maybe year) Ohio State Junior, Polina Brodsky.
Polina crossed my radar in a Youtube interview Ohio State release a few weeks ago before the Isle of Man TT race. I was impressed. I have a lot of respect for someone, anyone, who can shoot from the hip and sound like they, well, know what they’re talking about, have a brain and aren’t afraid to use it, not to mention someone who’s a couple of years and some change into school. I won’t tell you what I was doing or how I acted in school. Suffice to say, it wasn’t like this. Here it is, once again:
So this, along with some of the shots on the Buckeye Current Facebook page, got me wanting to know more about this woman.
The first result of this interest was the post a few days ago, Polina talking about what it was like at IOMTT. Take a look here, if you haven’t read it. Besides just confirming what I thought – that the whole IOMTT experience was beyond belief, it also confirmed to me this woman was truly a badass.
With that introduction, I give you Polina Brodsky in her own words. I asked her a few questions… first, on her background:
I joined in high school during the summer of my junior year in 2011. The best reason I can come up with is because I was bored during the summer, wanted to learn something awesome, liked fast things, and was ready to start breaking things in places other than my house. I don’t think I’ve ever made a better decision than joining the team. I got really lucky when they let me on board. I spent that summer working on an electric go-kart to dabble in powertrains a bit. It was exciting and awesome and taught me basic wiring and machining and electric drive systems. From there, I stayed on the team through the rest of high school.
I chose OSU to stay on the team. Also a great choice. Then my freshman year I became very good friends with Kyle (Ginaven) and dabbled in some controller mounting and pack design and got to go to the Isle our first time around. That was just remarkable. I totally became what people called “Mini-KG” and would sit Kyle down for hours at a time and ask him questions until I understood electric powertrains. He is wonderfully patient for answering 4 hours of questions for me. Then Kyle graduated and for some reason, the team trusted me to fill his shoes as the Technical Coordinator of the mechanical side.
Last year I led the team’s efforts on that front of the bike and then went to the Isle again and we pulled another third place finish. Still hasn’t hit me yet. Next year I’ll still be in my tech role, although we will now have 4 tech leads instead of 3 (Software, Hardware and 2 Mech instead of 1). The new mech lead (Brody) is awesome and and I’m looking forward to splitting up the mechanical work with him. I will be plenty busy, which is exactly how I like it.
On the bike…
You asked me why I love the bike. That’s a hard question to answer. I love the bike because it is so completely fascinating. Thinking about it just consumes my entire brain and if I could I would work on it 24/7. It’s probably become a bit obsessive for some of the team members at this point. I love the challenge of piecing together a race bike from our shoestring budget. I love making something with my hands and then seeing it go on the bike and thinking about how my part is going to move at 120 mph around a race track. I love coordinating a project and teaching other people to do something only to find that they have done a better job at a project than I would have if I had done it myself. I love getting asked a question about the bike and being able to answer and spew information and know that I know that entire system so well. It’s hard not to love the bike.
Then on top of that, there’s the team. I have known most of these people since I was 16 and they’ve really watched me grow. When you spend as much time as we do together, you have no choice but to be best friends with everyone. I like knowing that a group of students that are supposed to just be working on a student project with me can tell the minute I walk into a room if I’m upset, will come defend me like their little sister if someone is giving me a hard time, and will drop the what they’re doing on weekends to hang out with me. That’s not just a student project team, that’s a group of really great friends. Heck, my friend Julia on the team is getting married in October and asked me to be a bridesmaid at her wedding. I never would have even met her if not for the team. How’s that for a student project? This bike tests me and challenges me intellectually, teaches me to work with others and lead a team, and has given me some of the best friends I think I will ever have.
On her career and goals…
I definitely see my career going this way. I want to work electric vehicles in general, but I’d really love to be at a small company like when I’m older to work directly with bikes. Essentially, I want to be on Buckeye Current for the rest of my life, but the university will eventually kick me out, so I want my future to resemble being on Buckeye Current. At the Isle, I was pulling 21 hour work days and still loving every minute of every day because this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. It doesn’t feel like work when you love it.
On being a young woman in a predominately male field:
On the team, being a young woman in a field of men doesn’t really have any effect. I mean this from the bottom of my heart: the guys on the team are absolutely amazing. I never get judged for being a girl and I think most of the guys take me more seriously than some of the other males on the team. The only time they have ever patronized me is when they pull me into “little sister mode” where they all feel like they have to protect me and take care of me if I get into trouble It’s like having a team full of older brothers. I’ve never had a problem with my status as a girl on the team.
Outside the team, sometimes it takes people a bit aback to have a 20 year old girl babble at them about powertrains. I had someone ask me “wait, do you work on the bike too?”, which was pretty lame. In general, it seems like no one treats me negatively because I’m a girl. In fact, people usually treat me well. I have had the occasional flirts and whistles in the races that don’t really make me too happy, but other than that, I keep the boys in line . I actually find that I get MORE privilege because I’m a girl. People are usually surprised by how much I know and seem to think I’m more special than the other team members or that I am deserving of higher praise because I’m smart and a girl. That gets me pretty mad. I don’t want to be just “smart for a girl”, I want to be smart. I just usually do my own thing and if the occasional doubter comes along, I ignore it because I know that I am personally not limited on this team because I’m a girl. I have the awesome guys on the team to thank for that.
In the meantime, she’s working with some pretty amazing talent, in particular, one Rob Barber, their IOMTT rider and motorcycle racing badass in his own right. Here’s what he had to say about working with the team in general, and Polina specifically:
The first part I love:
Sorry for the delay, Ted, been kinda busy getting my head back into normal life.
Right. What exactly is “normal life” for a motorcycle racing legend? But I digress.
Buckeye Current are the brightest group of individuals I ever had the pleasure of work with, plus they like to have fun. We work so well together with me learning from them and more importantly they are willing to listen and learn from me.
Polina this year really stepped up to the plate and became a real leader in the team. She had to make some tough calculations/decisions but the end result was we finished 3rd. We had some great fun discussing the bike data together (She loves her data).
She has a very fiery side and takes no shit not even from me. Awesome girl and will achieve a lot in her life.
OK, fiery side? Smart girl? See what I mean? Badassery, pure and simple.
Here’s a comment from her other post about Rob:
I remember seeing Rob and all I could say was “Thank you so much” and he just laughed at me and put the wreath around my neck and said “here, you deserve this. You did it”. That was just surreal. Rob Barber. Put the wreath. Around my neck. WHAT!?!
So, yeah, I love this shot of her: laser focus, and not one bit of superfluous fuckery.
…though for badassery? This tops the list.
Oh. And this. Did I mention she’s a rock climbing instructor?
…yeah, in the heart of every climber is a bit of cocky as well. (My favorite comment, about also her climbing partner, Kyle Ginaven, “…yeah he’s not too bad. hes better than me now that he’s off the team and has free time.”)
For more about Polina, see her LinkedIn profile here.
…and yeah, we’re keeping an eye on this one. In the meantime, as far as the List of Badassery goes? Make room, Shelina, there’s a new badass in town.