60 seconds with... Thomas Brewster
Thomas joined Transport for London on its graduate programme in 2012 after initially taking a Project Analyst role at Associated British Foods. At ABF, he assisted with the implementation of a new warehousing Enterprise Resource Planning System for British Sugar and The Silver Spoon Company.
Since joining TfL, Thomas has brought energy to numerous deliveries across several service areas. Most notably, he played a key role managing the transition of TfL’s critical communications system from analogue to digital radio, and delivery of Surface Transport’s Push To Talk over Cellular service.
Outside of the day job, he has worked alongside other colleagues providing guest lectures on operational applications of technology in public transport at Critical Communications World, Imperial College London, University of East Anglia and will be presenting with Tait Communications' Jamie Bishop at BAPCO 2020.
How do you spend most of your time at work?
I spend most of my time kick starting, scoping and developing a wide variety of technological projects that will deliver benefits to Surface Transport in TfL. My role mostly involves representing the needs of our business customers, and getting the right people and teams (internal and external) together to develop and deliver solutions.
What’s the one gadget that you can’t live without?
My Canon DSLR.
Describe your most unforgettable project.
Overseeing from ‘Outcome Definition’ to ‘Project Closeout’ the implementation of Digital Mobile Radio for Transport for London’s 9,500 fleet of London Buses. The delivery involved ensuring operational readiness to 23,000 users, and an asset refresh on all buses and response vans, at our Radio Base Sites and Data Centres. As an added constraint, the delivery was all within the confines of an infrequency migration to a live 24/7 system.
For the cutover, we took a (de-risked) big bang approach, and in the early hours of 30th November 2018 as London was sleeping (or as close as London gets to sleeping), we forced one of the world's largest bus fleets to re-register onto our new Digital Mobile Radio Network. As the DMR sites began to quickly load up with thousands of registrations from our buses, it was an unforgettable moment seeing a project that I had been working on with a number of outstanding people (TfL, Tait Communications and subcontractors) over the past few years, come to life right in front of us.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve seen while working in the radio sector?
When visiting our (and prospective) radio base sites, my job has taken me to some amazing vantage points and rooftops across London. The most memorable was conducting a site survey on the roof of 122 Leadenhall Street with over 50 miles of visibility that day.
What advice would you give to someone who’s starting their first job in the industry?
Be a sponge. I’ve been most fortunate to work alongside some incredibly knowledgeable people from the telecoms industry, who have been kind enough to share their expertise and experiences. When you listen to these people, it never ceases to amaze me where a career in communications can take you, and how radio solutions have been deployed in such a wide variety of contexts.
There are many others in TfL too, but from the industry I have learned a lot from the following: Colin Bent; Jamie Bishop; Phil Cooke; Christian Davis; John Gardener; Michael Goldring; David Helfrich; Richard Moot and David Turner.
How has your role changed since you started working within the radio industry?
My role has developed from a position that originally facilitated change, to playing an active role in shaping the way new services will operate. I recently delivered our new Push To Talk over Cellular solution to TfL’s Surface Transport, where I played a key role with our supplier (Tait Communications) in creating one of the most technologically complex integrations of Push To Talk over Cellular with DMR.
What do you do in your free time to relax?
Free time is a rather scarce resource, but outside of work you’ll find me mucking in at one of my brother and sister in law’s gyms (Flow London and Fly London). When I do take a moment, I’m a keen photographer, love traveling and following a life changing rugby injury, have reinvented myself as an amateur runner completing marathons in Berlin, Edinburgh, London and New York.