Leadership: Freedom to Take Chances and Make Mistakes


Leadership: Freedom to Take Chances and Make Mistakes

Balu Subramanya

CEO of CivicSmart, Inc.

Balu Subramanya is CEO of CivicSmart, Inc. CivicSmart is the parent company of Duncan Parking Technologies, one of the oldest and largest manufacturers of parking meters and meter technology in the world. CivicSmart is also a provider of a wide range of smart on-street parking solutions including automated parking, vehicle detection sensors, mobile applications, reservation technologies, enforcement, and more.

Balu is a former NASA engineer who has taken the insights, innovations, and leadership skills developed during that intensive experience and applied them to needs he identified in the parking industry. In this early career, Balu honed invaluable knowledge and an inventive spirit while working on high altitude projects using the U2 spy planes. 

The U2 spy plane is an American single-jet engine, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated over the past half century by the U.S. Airforce and the CIA. Its features include all weather intelligence, high-altitude capabilities, and other extremely sophisticated technologies that had not yet been possible with previous aircraft. 

Balu is an innovator, mixing his astute expertise for solving business problems and creating economic value with his passion for advanced technologies and data systems. His understanding of technologies at a fundamental level has led to solutions that are some of the most innovative technologies available including wireless and embedded devices, Internet of Things technologies, software architecture and design, and urban parking and traffic management systems. He holds multiple patents globally for parking technologies, including advanced sensors.

Following his time at NASA, and a few years at leading wireless companies, Balu set his sights on the parking industry where the challenges were enormous, and Balu saw opportunities to leverage technology to make impactful change. Having understood the evolving needs in curb management with increasing competition for limited curb space by diverse uses, he set out to solve the curb management issues experienced by cities globally and create an efficient way to manage on-street and surface lot parking.  

The innovative, automated parking technologies developed by Balu and CivicSmart have changed the traditional enforcement-based model used in the industry for decades, while completely reimagining the future of the curb. The solutions collect every piece of information possible to provide operators with real-time vehicle identification and occupancy data, evaluate parking and transportation patterns, and create a more friendly experience for drivers.

From a leadership perspective, Balu spent his years dedicated to innovation at NASA identifying the most valuable tools, traits, and characteristics that help shape a great leader. Balu believes that some of the most important leadership skills include allowing your team the freedom to take chances and make mistakes, to ultimately succeed at discovering new opportunities or solutions. 

Communication is key of course, making sure as a leader one is available to provide guidance, advice, and expertise to make the process move more smoothly. Balu has set CivicSmart on a mission to make the parking experience better for cities and motorists alike, and shares his vision for a new paradigm in curb management both within and outside the company. 

He never hesitates to roll up his sleeves and solve complex engineering and manufacturing challenges and break the mold when needed. As a leader with many experiences and a wide range of expertise, Balu is focused on providing direction and counsel by allowing individuals to navigate and realize the power they have to achieve their goals through research and trials and identify opportunities that may not have previously been possible.//

Megan Leinart, LEED AP BD+C, CAPP is president, Leinart Consulting

Article contributed by:
Megan Leinart
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