Breaking Barriers: Misbah Mahmood’s Journey from Midwife to Digital Leader

In the ever-evolving world of healthcare, technology has become an indispensable ally, streamlining processes and improving patient care. Misbah Mahmood, a midwife-turned-digital-leader, has been at the forefront of this transformation, blazing a trail for women in the field of healthcare technology. Her remarkable journey from the delivery room to the digital realm is a testament to the power of perseverance, adaptability, and unwavering dedication. As she navigated uncharted territory, Misbah not only transformed her career but also shattered glass ceilings, inspiring a new generation of female leaders.


The Unconventional Path


Misbah’s foray into the digital realm was unexpected, yet serendipitous. “About five years into being a midwife, an opportunity came up for a six-month secondment to implement an electronic patient record at Leeds,” she recalls. Little did she know that this temporary assignment would ignite a passion that would shape her future and propel her onto a path less travelled.

Embracing the challenge wholeheartedly, Misbah embarked on a steep learning curve, leaving the familiarity of clinical practice behind. “It’s been a massive learning curve and an amazing journey,” she says, reflecting on the transition from the delivery room to the digital realm. With no predefined roadmap or formal training, she had to carve her own path, relying on her innate resilience and adaptability to navigate the uncharted territory.


Overcoming Obstacles: Breaking the Mould


Like any pioneering endeavour, Misbah’s journey was not without its challenges. “Quite often, you have to fight for a seat at the table,” she admits, recounting the hurdles she faced as a trailblazer in a male-dominated field. The notion that her path should follow a traditional trajectory, with a predetermined number of years in clinical practice before exploring alternative roles, was a hurdle she had to overcome. However, her unwavering determination and belief in her abilities propelled her forward, fuelled by a desire to effect positive change and challenge the status quo.

Misbah’s success can be partially attributed to the invaluable support and guidance she received from her mentors. Sarah Hanbridge, Chief Clinical Information Officer for Nursing, Midwifery & AHPs at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, played a pivotal role in nurturing Misbah’s potential and advocating for her inclusion in influential panels and decision-making bodies. “Sarah was the chair of the digital health advisory panel, and she realised that there wasn’t a midwife represented on the panel. So she really advocated and pushed, asked, and helped me be on the panel,” Misbah recalls with gratitude.


Breaking Barriers: Paving the Way for Others


Misbah’s journey is not only a testament to her personal growth but also a beacon of hope for women aspiring to leadership roles in male-dominated industries. “I was awarded a Chief Nursing Information Officer Silver Award for all the work that I’ve done for digital maternity,” she proudly shares, acknowledging her achievements. But her impact extends far beyond individual accolades; she has become a role model for young women, inspiring them to dream big and pursue their ambitions fearlessly.

One of the key drivers of Misbah’s success has been her commitment to networking and fostering a supportive community. “It’s so important to have those networks and be able to work together and discuss ideas,” she explains, emphasising the value of collaboration and knowledge-sharing. Through her involvement in local and national digital groups, Misbah has fostered invaluable connections and gained insights from like-minded professionals, creating a ripple effect that extends beyond her personal journey.


Advocating for Inclusivity and Diversity


Misbah’s experiences have also shed light on the persistent challenges faced by underrepresented groups in digital health. She recounts an instance where she was encouraged to apply for a separate program for BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) staff, despite her desire to participate in the mainstream programme. “That is the time that I felt discriminated against,” she reflects, underscoring the importance of creating inclusive spaces where individuals are valued for their abilities rather than their background.


Advice for Future Leaders: Embracing Opportunities


When asked for advice for aspiring leaders, Misbah’s response is resolute: “Just go for it. Don’t be scared.” She highlights the importance of embracing opportunities, asking questions, and not letting self-doubt or imposter syndrome hinder one’s progress. “You don’t need to be techy; you don’t need to be a coder or anything. You just need your clinical skills and experience,” she assures, highlighting the value of transferable skills and the notion that leadership roles in the digital realm are not exclusive to those with technical backgrounds.

Misbah’s journey has not only inspired those around her but has also ignited a desire within her to empower and mentor the next generation of female leaders. “I want her to look at me as a role model. I want her to think, ‘I can do that as well,'” she says, referring to her nieces and the younger members of her family. By sharing her story and experiences, Misbah hopes to encourage more women to pursue leadership roles, regardless of the industry or field.

Misbah Mahmood’s journey from midwife to the first Deputy Chief Midwifery Information Officer is a powerful narrative of resilience and adaptability. Her story serves as an inspiration for women aspiring to leadership roles, reminding us that with the right mindset, support, and unwavering self-belief, any barrier can be overcome.

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