The Conference of Appreciation: Hear, See, Engage, Grow


The Conference of Appreciation: Hear, See, Engage, Grow

“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” – William James

My favorite thing about working for Parking Today Media is an opportunity to go to various conferences. Be it Intertraffic, Parkex, Parking Australia’s Outlook or Pace, IPI or NPA conference or our own PIE, the thing that gives me most joy is learning. Lectures and seminars make me feel like a kid and bream with excitement and enthusiasm. So, when I come back home, I can create more value for every company Parking Today Media strives to promote and for every person who works for that company. 

This past September 17-19, I was fortunate to participate in one of the best conferences ever and that is 2018 SWPTA Fall Conference from South Western Parking Association. SWPTA’s vision is “connect, share and educate.” And connect, share and educate, they did. 

William James says that what drives us most as human beings is a need to be appreciated. Julie Dixon, the current president of SWPTA; Brandy Stanley, the former president; and Dawn Marti, the event’s manager, and the board of SWPTA, seem to understand that need better than anyone. 

From the moment this gathering begun at the SWPTA Team Building at Top Golf and then at the opening reception, every participant was appreciated. Appreciated, seen and heard, invited to speak, share and to be fully engaged. As Julie Dixon mentioned in her Wednesday presentation, we are all in this one cart called parking and transportation industry. One bad apple ruins the whole cart. 

Yes, data is a new oil.

SWPTA is a smaller regional conference versus the large national or international ones, but the enthusiasm of this fall conference was un-paralleled. What made this gathering of people from cities and municipalities, universities and various companies so great? 

It was Julie, Brandy, Dawn, Elisa Tapia, the group’s Secretary and every presenter and participant. Enthusiasm is contagious. It raises the vibrations. Hence, if a leader or a boss sets the tone, the others will follow with their own passion and engagement. If the people in charge step into the arena showing their courage in their vulnerability the others will demonstrate the same openness. 

The first seminar session at the SWPTA fall conference was presented by Michael Sherwood, the City of Las Vegas’ IT Director. I heard Michael speak at PIE 2018, and I was enthralled this time, too. Michael was able to connect me to his talk on Smart Cities initiatives in Las Vegas. He talked to me but not at me. 

 I think that seeing a slide of his closet full of wire drycleaners hangers while talking about conversational computing, IoT and curb monetization, made his presentation more accessible from the human point. 

Yes, data is a new oil. Yes, there are specialized sensors and TCS as traction control system in my car’s tires. Yes, Alexa can not only find my next parking space, give me the quickest route to get to see the Las Vegas Knights or pay my water and power bill with one password. Change is here and more change is coming. Yet, there is one thing that stays constant and that is we are human beings first. Technology must serve the people. 

That theme of technology making our lives easier while protecting the environment was very much in evidence in the presentation of David Karwaski, Senior Associate Director, UCLA Transportation and Renee Fortier, Executive Director, UCLA Events & Transportation. Their seminar addressed UCLA: Changing the Campus Mobility Paradigm. 

Right, we can’t talk about parking or transportation separately. They are both a huge part of something larger and that is mobility. And mobility is changing. This is the age of disruptive technologies. We are not yet in the day of self- driving cars. No there is no Uber Air yet. No imaginary Jetsons-like flying transportation devices that could take me from the roof of the UCLA buildings to the parking lot in my neighborhood of Long Beach, Calif. in 15 min. helping me avoid the dreaded LA 405 freeway. 

Yet, today, the streets are filling up with Bird and Lime scooters. How do we enforce the rules of these scooters not riding on sidewalks? There is geofencing that provides a fixed, inexpensive rate for Uber and Lift in 5-mile radius of campus. Thus, do we build more parking garages or demolish the ones we have? Do we build more bike lanes and create more drop off zones? What serves us better and make our lives easier? 

Park City’s Kenzie Coulson in her presentation on Implementing Paid Parking, shared and engaged others with challenges she experienced in her own city. She brought the most important aspect of our perceptions. How we interpret concepts and words. Talking about paid parking creates a not-so-pleasant visceral reaction. 

However, talking about mobility, and making parking an essential part of it, makes people focus and appreciate solutions. Kenzie is incredible at listening to people and hearing them. In other words, appreciating them. It might be because she is a classically trained cellist, she can pick out the hidden notes of people’s hearts instead of just focusing on the latest trends. Her solutions are people based. 

People based was also the focus of SWPTA sponsor’s pitches in between presentations. Todd Pierce, the CEO of PICTERFORM, didn’t just talk about his company. He introduced us to former meter maid from Venice Beach, Calif. and current stand-up comedian Jackie Pucci. Jackie had us all in stitches while having us see parking enforcement and the person behind the enforcement in a new light. 

The pitch that had many of us in tears and also uplifted us, came from LAZ. We were all given a form from LAZ to fill out. It focused on questions such as, what was your first job? What is the one thing people don’t know about you? The most important question was related to LAZ 2018’s mission and that is “Own Your Mojo.” 

What does “own your mojo” mean to you? For LAZ, based on Operation Manager Robert Gallego’s presentation, it means people first. LAZ cares about every employee in the company. They stand by their teammates in the most challenging times, be it natural disasters or health issues. Because of their CEO Alan Lazowski, the company implements a hugging culture. Therefore, everyone is appreciated and is seen, heard and welcomed in every instance. 

And that is how it was at SWPTA. LAZ’s hugging culture and heartfelt leadership and service of SWPTA’s Julie, Brandy, Dawn and Elisa connected us all. But most of all, it educated us on how to be better workers, leaders, employees, decision makers, teammates, and most of all, better human beings. Thank you SWPTA! I can’t wait to see and appreciate everyone next year! 

Astrid Ambroziak is the editor of She can be reached at


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Astrid Ambroziak
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