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Itís a Crazy Industry for Newbies

November 12, 2021

Kevin Uhlenhaker

November is a busy month, with both Thanksgiving and the IPMI Conference occurring at the end of the month. I don’t recall a significant parking event this close to Thanksgiving before, but we live in strange times. 


Trade shows are an excellent way for people new to the industry to connect and learn. Our question this month comes from a newcomer to the parking industry. 


Dear Kevin, 


I just joined the parking industry a few months ago. What advice do you have for a new parking professional? 


Newbie in North Carolina 


Welcome to the industry! There is a lot to learn, but luckily, there are many good people in the industry who are willing to help. Answering your question was more difficult than I expected, but here are a few ideas. 


To begin with, I would recommend reaching out and connecting with others in the industry. This process might seem challenging, especially at first, but there are more groups than you might expect. Search for local and regional parking groups, associations, and meet-ups. 


The Carolinas Parking and Mobility Association has an annual trade show, online webinars, and a member directory in your area. Training, certifications, online forums, and networking groups are offered for members of the national parking associations, International Parking and Mobility Institute (IPMI), and the National Parking Association (NPA). 


Depending on your vendor, some offer forums and customer groups which can be a good place for questions. There are even email listservs out there; one of the oldest is CPARK, which focuses on university parking, but generally has good parking information. 


In any circumstance, before asking a question, take the time to read historical posts, let the group know you are new, and reach out directly if you have a question for someone specifically. 


I might also suggest you subscribe to Parking Today (it’s free) at Parkingtoday.com. Overall, you will find most people in parking are friendly and willing to help. 


There are three national trade events, sponsored by the NPA, the IPMI, and Parking Today Media. Log on to their respective web sites for full details and dates. 


Be willing to try new things in your new role, but remember there is likely a reason for the status quo. This fact is true in most jobs, but is especially true in parking. 


As you spend more time in the industry, you will learn that parking is, as I like to say, deceptively complex. There is almost always a non-obvious reason for what is done. 


Parking operational choices can be affected by contractual, legal, procedural, political, historical, geographic, and political reasons. It is rarely as straightforward as it seems at first glance. Be quick to ask why, but patient enough to find out the real reason. 


The same goes for parking technology. In many ways, the parking industry can seem years behind the rest of the world. But many times, there are justifiable reasons for the technology decisions made. 


In some cases, it can be as simple as the lower-tech solution is more efficient or can be used by more people. Remember, parking is improved by technology, but can always function without it. 


Finally, keep in mind that parking is one of the only things that is “free” in one part of a town, but can be quite expensive in others. It is also one of the few things that typical adults have no problem stealing and then bragging about it. 


How many times have you been happy you got “free parking” when you didn’t pay to park somewhere? 


Almost no adult would walk into a convenience store, fill a large cup of coffee, walk out without paying, and brag about the free coffee. 


Customers are never happy to pay for parking, so the more convenient and seamless you can make it, the better. 


It is a crazy profession, but it’s filled with great people doing a challenging but necessary and rewarding job. Good luck with your new parking adventure.



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