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Working as a Women in Engineering

This week we spoke to Senior Medical Engineer Kathryn Johnson about what it was like to be a women working in such a male dominated environment and how she chose this career pathway. Kathryn has been working at Gateshead Health in medical engineering team since 2004.

Kathryn candidly explained that she chose Engineering as a career as she was aware they were crying out for women:

‘After finishing my A levels I wasn’t sure what degree I wanted to do, so I took a year out. During that time I worked in a maintenance test department and I fell in love with it. I decided from there that I’d do a Medical Engineering Degree. In the last year of my degree I got the chance to work in a small family run company in Jarrow doing software and electronics for the textile industry and they kept me on after I qualified. I loved it and I worked there for 8 years until the company entered a turbulent, economic time.

When I left that role I knew I preferred fixing things rather than designing and writing software. It was actually my parents that suggested to look for work within a hospital as they both worked in path labs and had noticed engineers coming around to fix things all the time. So I applied and I got the job and I’ve never looked back. It took me about 5 years to become fully confident in my role because there's that many medical devices out there you can’t be trained in all of them, but your fault finding techniques and user manuals and drawings and pretty much all the same, so you get the hang of it.

I’ve always been in a male environment so I guess I have never known anything different, it’s just been seen as normal for me. However I must admit that looking back at university now, I missed out on the experience of friendships within my course as they were all men. So I feel like I missed out making close friends from my course at university as there weren't any other women. I made friends with the girls I lived with, we are still very close even now, but I do feel like it would have been a different experience if there were more women on the course. That being said everyone helped me, even today I am not afraid to ask for help. My colleagues are very supportive, I can ask them for help. Say there's a screw or a bolt I can’t get out, I can ask and its supportive. I’m aware I’m not as strong as the other guys, but it’s never been an issue. We help each other however we can.

I love my job, at the moment more than I ever have. We have a brilliant new department and a great team and we all get along very well. I’d say to any women who are considering a job in engineering just try it, if you are interested in science and maths don’t forget engineering because there’s many different types. Don’t be put off because its male dominated I’ve found it to be a welcoming and rewarding career and would love to see more women in these roles.”


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