Professor Karen Holford

Professor Karen Holford FREng is Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University



“I was always fascinated by how things worked. ”

How would you describe your current role to someone who knows nothing about engineering?

As part of the senior team of Cardiff University, I am responsible for the day-to-day oversight of the university, with a specific responsibility for physical sciences and engineering.  I am also a professor of mechanical engineering, which means that I contribute to the scientific research that creates knowledge to inform our teaching, to translate into industrial applications and to improve many physical aspects of our environment.


Why did you choose to go into engineering?

I was always fascinated by how things worked. I was curious about the great advances that happened during my childhood, such as the moon landing and Concorde’s first flight. It was this that first sparked my interest, but enjoying maths and physics at school, as well as having a passion for cars and motorbikes, led me to choose to pursue engineering through an undergraduate apprenticeship. 


What do you like most about being an engineer?

I love the fact that every day is challenging and different and that I work I as part of a team. 


Tell us about an achievement that you are most proud of.

The great thing about being an engineer is that there are always so many achievements to be proud of. I am really proud of being an engineer and especially being part of a profession that contributes so much to society.


How do you think gender parity in engineering can be achieved?

Inclusivity is key. We need to ensure that the engineering profession recognises talent at every level and that this doesn’t come in the same form. Engineering requires teamwork and diverse teams work better, so the future of engineering depends upon attracting, retaining and promoting talented people.

How has being a woman in engineering changed since you started working in the engineering sector?

It has changed a lot actually. There are more girls studying engineering at university and continuing into the profession so it’s no longer seen as something shockingly unusual, which makes it easier for us to just get on with our jobs. The sector has benefited enormously from this.

What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering? 

I would encourage anyone to consider a career in engineering and to find out first about the great breadth of opportunity across a broad range of sectors.  There are so many different types of career in engineering so there’s definitely something for everyone.