Ladan Najafi trailblazes for women in the male-dominated world of engineering

Ladan Najafi, 46, has always wanted to become an engineer. As a teenager, when she was researching her options she found a medical engineering degree in the UK that she instantly fell in love with. Having been born in the UK but moved to Iran when she was two-years-old, Ladan felt a connection with the course, and as the degree was not available in Iran at the time, the decision to move became easier.

Ladan said “Studying medical engineering is the best decision I have ever made. Following my degree, I began my training in the NHS, becoming both a clinical scientist and a chartered engineer.

In 2011 Ladan joined East Kent Hospitals as a team leader in our what was then called East Kent Adult Communication and Assistive Technology service.

She said: “My team and I worked hard to expand the service in which we helped disabled patients with speech impairment by providing them with means of communication, much like the technology that the late Stephen Hawking used.

“We successfully expanded the service to become county-wide, meaning we could help more patients. I found that role really rewarding but I needed a new challenge, and so I moved over to the medical physics department. “

Ladan is now the head of medical physics and clinical engineering. She and her team are the bridge between engineers, physicists and clinicians, ensuring that medical devices and equipment remain safe for patients and staff to use.

She said: “I’ve never seen myself as ambitious, I just recognise what work needs doing and I make sure it happens. Being proactive, confident and passionate, I worked my way to becoming the head of the department.

“I work with a fantastic team who are all really skilled at what they do, and many of us our female which is incredible as engineering in particular tends to be male dominated.

“I have experienced challenges being a woman in my position, some given the option prefer to talk and seek guidance of a male engineer. I really hope that this changes one day, if not for me but at least for my colleagues as they continue to rise in their careers.

“One of the things I love about my role is that I am able to mentor the women and people in my team, outside the organisation and hopefully be a role model for them. That support was unfortunately not there for me when I was first starting out in my career, but it’s very rewarding knowing that I’m able to offer that support for them.”