Interview with Sonny Kombo, Graduate at TfL

Written by: Natacha Cullinan
Published on: 27 Oct 2020

Name: Sonny Kombo

Job title: Assistant Bridges & Structures Engineer

Company: Transport for London

Sector: Transport

What did you study and when did you graduate?

I studied Civil Engineering with Appropriate Technology at the University of Warwick. I graduated with an MEng in 2011.

What inspired you to apply for the role you’re in?

I grew up in Kenya, which is densely populated and lacking in quality transport. This grew into curiosity on my behalf as to how transport worked in highly populated cities – I wanted to learn how somewhere as busy as London could be kept moving.

How long have you been working at TfL?

I have now been at TfL for four years.

How did you apply for the role? Which steps did you have to take?

I applied for the graduate scheme online, answering a series of competency questions. After this came numerical and verbal reasoning tests, a telephone interview, then an assessment centre.

What do you think helped you get the role?

I was truly curious about the work TfL does. At the same time, I was also very active in extracurricular activities, therefore had a good basic experience of real-life scenarios for the TfL core competencies.

Have you got any tips for the application form? What about the interview?

Both require you to display competency. Research TfL’s values and ensure your experience aligns with what they look for. For the interview, make sure you brush up on your technical knowledge. Finally, keep calm and enjoy it – I found that people on the other side truly do want you to succeed.

What can graduates expect from a role at TfL?

The graduate scheme offers six month rotations around the company. Some schemes are two years long; mine was six months. This means you have a chance to fully experience four to six jobs and understand what you enjoy before you settle into a ‘career’. TfL is very supportive of professional development and will invest a lot to help you develop as an individual.

What do you like most about your role? What do you dislike?

I love the forensic aspect. Civil engineering on a 150 year old network is never typical. Often, I have to investigate how a building is standing with very little information and to old standards that I have never come across before. My technical knowledge has grown a lot because I’ve had to match old and new engineering styles.

It is hard to think about something I dislike. At a stretch, I would say that there are times I plan on getting one thing done, and then a phone call comes in with new information, and everything changes. This isn't really a dislike, as it’s good to be kept on your toes.

Describe a typical week in your role.

I start off researching a structure’s history to understand how a building is put together, and then develop a concept design in line with the scope of the project. Once this is accepted, I move onto detailed design and modelling. I work closely with engineers from all disciplines and CAD technicians.

What do you want to go on to do?

I am working to gain my chartership. After that, I’d love to work on projects in international development.