A Career in Parking – Can you go from CSO to CEO?

If someone asked me what I would be working as when I was 30 then I’m pretty sure I would have given many different answers, such as IT Technician, Bar Manager, Restaurant Manager, the mix would have been diverse as I was never sure of my path but I can absolutely guarantee that I would have never said anything to do with parking.

I left my job as the area manager of a large leisure company back in 2002 at the age of 22 because I knew it wasn’t for me and that I needed more career prospects. I was offered the job of Parking Supervisor at a large shopping centre, which I thought was an odd concept but I was promised many opportunities and prospects in shopping centre management if I simply proved my abilities. I took the job and started to learn about the industry, it was clear that I had no idea how much work went in to keeping car parks running and the amount of management that was needed.

It was also clear to me that back then we still had some way to go before many of us could claim to have excellent facilities that offered exceptional customer services, and my car park was definitly one of them! That said, over the years I beleive we have all learned the benefits of well trained staff and what great customer services can mean to your business, and with the help of certifications such as Park Mark and the recognition of excellence from the British Parking Awards, parking has come on leaps and bounds.

The thing that worried me was the seemingly limited options in parking careers. As I looked forward and wondered how I could forge a career, I was met with what appeared to be a case of ‘jobs for the boys’ an industry of people who have been here forever and newcomers weren’t welcome, let alone able to get any significant position in the industry. I was also worried about the lack of options, parking is a big business but in reality, its a small group of companies which inherently makes opportunities limited.

Over the last 8 years I stayed in parking and never took the shopping centre route. I have worked my way up from Supervisor, Senior Supervisor, Deputy Manager, Manager, and I am now the Portfolio Manager for the entire UK parking division of Land Securities. Ive had to create and develop my career, but Ive also been fortunate to come into parking as the industry has become very mature and we all now know that parking is not something that can simply be left to its own devices.

Im glad to say that my initial perceptions of the industry were wrong, its not ‘jobs for the boys’ its simply a tight community and you need to prove yourself to make your way up. We’ve had a number of ‘newcomers’ in senior poistions over the past few years such as Adam Bidder from Q-Park, Paul Gillespie from ACS and Sean Dunstan from APT Skidata amongst many others and I think its fair to say that, just like me, every one of them would have never dreamed of working in parking.

So, can you work your way up the ladder in the parking industry? Of course. I have and so have many others. It’s a unique industry, but its growing fast and the opportunities are there for the taking, so grab hold and work hard and you will get your chance. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, one day when people are asked what they want to do when they are older they will actually say “work in parking”…

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