Sharan Gill relishes the challenge of keeping Londoners on the move every day, working for the government body, Transport for London.
Why did you want to become an engineer?
The option of studying engineering wasn’t discussed when I was in secondary school. It was only through doing my A levels at a science-focused sixth form college that I became interested in engineering. I enjoyed learning about how things worked and how maths and physics were applied in the real world. In the end I got a scholarship to study for an engineering degree at university.
Did you always want to work in the transport sector?
I didn’t give much thought to the type of civil engineering I would specialise in. I have always wanted to work in the public sector so, when I found out that TfL had a graduate training scheme for civil engineers, I went for it.
What does TfL do?
TfL is responsible for managing transport services across London and for delivering the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.
This includes managing London Buses, the Underground, Croydon Tramlink, Docklands Light Railway, London River Services, and the Transport for London Road Network (a network of major roads through and around London). TfL also regulates taxis and minicabs, runs and promotes the safe use of the Thames for passenger and freight, helps coordinate services for transport users with mobility problems, and is responsible for all traffic lights across London.
What does your job involve?
One of TfL’s statutory duties is to keep the road network safe for use and fit for purpose. My main focus is to help fulfil this responsibility by inspecting and maintaining the structures that support our road network. I review the inspection reports in my area, identify structures which need further investigations or works. It can be quite exciting as we look after a lot of interesting and iconic structures, including a few of the river Thames bridges. My team also give technical advice to other teams in TfL, as well as reviewing designs for buildings etc, that may have an effect on our structures.
Why is it a good place to work?
The company cares about its staff and this attitude is entrenched in our policies, making for a friendly working atmosphere. There are also a lot of opportunities for exciting work experiences, if you are motivated to follow them through.
Do you enjoy working for such a high-profile firm?
Yes. The work that TfL does has a massive impact on people living and working in London and most of the people I meet do not realise just how much TfL is responsible for, so it’s fun explaining what I do. As we’re such a large organisation we are also able to lead the way on using new materials and methods of testing and inspecting our structures.
What is a typical day like for you?
I will normally spend most of my time at my desk, reviewing reports, responding to queries, scoping up works and reviewing project programmes and costs.
If I have a structure that needs further investigation I’ll spend a lot of time coordinating the site works with our contractors, consultants and Highways Operation Team. I often go out on the network to have a look at certain structures and I also try to join my consultants on site when they carry out material testing.
What’s the best part of your job?
I have my own projects to manage, so can get as involved in the detail as I like. I often arrange to go out on site with my consultants, as it’s the best place to learn.
What do you find most challenging?
Working with public money means our budgets are always under close scrutiny. It can be difficult keeping the focus on the purpose of a project instead of always looking for ways to drive down the cost of essential works. However, it’s also driven a lot of efficient works processes and an effective prioritisation process.
What qualities do you need to succeed in engineering?
Common sense, imagination and perseverance.
What lessons have you learnt since graduation?
She who shouts loudest gets heard first! Everyone I work with is very busy, so if I need something quickly the best way is to be proactive and to go get the information I need, rather than sitting back and hoping it comes to me.