A Day in the Life: Electronic Engine Trainee, Transport for London (TfL)

Firas Al-Tahan, 23, is a graduate electronic engineer trainee working in the directorate of traffic operations at Transport for London.

0830 I get in to work at our Victoria offices in London having commuted for an hour. I enjoy the commute as it's a time to see the network operating at full capacity and doing what it does best -- getting people to where they need to be. On arrival, I pick up any emails and voicemail that have been left for me; sometimes I have time for a cup of tea. I check in with my line manager and colleagues to see how things are progressing and to tie up any loose ends or anything that remains from the previous day.

0900 My position can mean going out on site or being in the office. If there is a project that requires me to go out on site, I book out a car -- at TfL we travel by public transport as much as we can but safety cameras and traffic signals are based on sites that often are not near to bus stops or Tube stations. If it is a day spent in the office, I keep on going with whatever project I am working on.

My manager informs me that some routine checks need to be completed on some safety cameras in West London. The safety cameras aim to help reduce the number of accidents on the capital's roads. We get the keys and plan our route. If I have any problems with the project, I liaise with my line manager. As engineers, we're given the opportunity to be innovative, which I find to be really motivating. .

1030 When we go out on site, we are given high visibility safety clothing and steel toe-capped boots, all in line with the health and safety policy. Having driven through London -- we meet with members of the Metropolitan Police and subcontracting engineers. They go through the hardware and all the standards/rules for enforcement of speed on a public road. We try to resolve any issues and see what needs adjusting/reworking. Sometimes we visit numerous sites in one go. Having completed the required engineering, the Police allow us to test the unit with their remote radar gun -- great fun! .

1200 We move to another site, a traffic signals controller needs the communications system reset. It's a quick job, but I'm taken through the process how to identify faults in a traffic system. There is so much to learn! London has around 6000 sets of traffic signals which reduce congestion and keep the city moving. Of these, 2,800 of London's busiest signals are controlled centrally by TfL, at the London Traffic Control Centre, which co-ordinates traffic management across the capital. .

When I return from a site visit, I'll sign back into the office and get cracking on with my day. We can access the vast majority of our sites remotely from our offices. We use this to confirm the adjustments or repairs made have been successful and resulted in a fully operational unit. It might be necessary to write a report at the end of the placement, which details what you have worked on, what experience has been gained and what knowledge has been picked up. .

1300 I have one hour for lunch. We have flexi-time so that's handy. We're based around Victoria so it's near to places like Sloane Square, St. James' Park and Victoria Place shopping centre. It's easy to find parks and some people bring in packed lunches. There is also the staff canteen, which is very popular with all members of staff from across TfL, including drivers, engineers and accountants.

1400 The number of projects varies from placement to placement. After lunch, I continue with my work and liaise with my manager, meeting to outline what needs to be done next and updating the team on how things are going. Again it does vary. I might need to meet with them hourly or just at the end of my project.

1500 I speak with one of the Learning Development officers from human resources. They suggest training courses to go on but ultimately, it's up to you to decide which areas of learning you want to explore. Last year I attended courses on project management, positive influencing and an introduction to finance. The best course was probably on negotiating skills -- they're often subjects that you don't learn at university.

My line manager tells me that the traffic signals controller has gone offline again. He's asked me to contact the performance and maintenance group in the Directorate of Traffic Operations to arrange for a site meet.

1700 The performance and maintenance engineer advises me to contact BT to organise the site meet. We discuss our options for increasing the reliability of telecommunications to the site, but decide to wait until the site meet to finalise our plans. Before I finish in the office, I tie up any loose ends and check my emails again. It's a sign of modern working life that so much is done on email nowadays.

As it is pay-day, my pre-arranged "pay-day dinner" in Victoria takes my mind off things. There we discuss over a curry how some of the other graduates are doing and catch up with those outside of engineering. TfL encourages this idea of networking within the scheme, and it adds to the vibrant social scene at TfL.

Career Update Newsletter

Tips and tools to help you manage your ideal career.