"I really like solving problems, and designing and making things, and engineering was the best mix of all those things."
Kamala, Traffic Control Engineer, Transport for London
A-level: Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Art
Degree: (BEng) Electronic Engineering with Communications (University College London)
MSc: Physics, Optics and Photonics (Imperial College London)
What does your job involve?
Transport for London (TfL) is responsible for all the transport in London, so we look after the tubes, the river services, the buses, and the road network. I work in the department that looks after the roads, in particular traffic signals. In my job I’m responsible for designing, and putting into action, traffic control schemes at new crossings or making changes to existing traffic signals. We design the layout, change the timings and check the signals work properly. We make sure they’re safe for pedestrians and cyclists, for vehicles and buses, and we also make sure they don’t cause congestion, as much as possible.
How responsible is it?
When we’re designing traffic light signal systems we take a lot of different things into consideration. We need to know where people are going to be walking, in particular if you’re going to school, and we think about where crossings need to be located to help kids cross the roads safely and what the timings need to be so everyone can get across the road safely. We need to balance this with the needs of other road users such as cars and buses. We have to meet strict rules and regulations to make sure the traffic lights are safe but it’s quite rewarding to know that once you’ve done a job properly, and the lights are working, you’re helping road users with their daily lives by making the roads safe.
What inspired you to become an engineer?
At school my favourite subjects were maths, physics and art. I really wanted to have a career that could be technical, creative and allow me to solve problems, so I think engineering was the perfect career to combine these things. I really like solving problems, and designing and making things, and engineering was the best mix of all those things.
What was your route into engineering?
I decided to study electronic and electrical engineering at university and so I studied maths, physics, chemistry and art at A-level. I applied for a graduate electronic engineering scheme at TfL and got “on-the-job” training as a traffic control engineer through that. Traffic control engineering draws on different types of engineering. It has elements of electrical engineering, electronics engineering, civil, mechanical and highways engineering.
Why should young people consider a career in engineering?
It’s a really well-respected profession. It’s like a ticket to travel the world because good engineers are valued everywhere. It gives you the chance to be involved in some really amazing projects. I worked on projects involved in the London 2012 Olympics and that’s been one of the highlights of my career. If you want that sense of achievement that your work is being used to improve society and life for the general public then it’s a really good career to consider.
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