Parking’s Leading Lady: An Interview with Reachel Knight
Who Is Reachel Knight?
A few weeks ago, one of the busiest women in the parking industry took the time to sit down with me and chat about how her career has unfolded so far. Reachel Knight is the Acting Manager of the Facilities Department at the Calgary Parking Authority (CPA); she is the Alberta Regional Director for the Canadian Parking Association; and is also a mentor for Women in Parking. She has established herself as a leader in the parking industry with her contributions and experience. I feel lucky to call her my colleague and to be able to learn from someone so smart, yet so humble. So let me start this by thanking her for her advice, her time, and maybe even her friendship.
Let’s start with a brief overview of your career path, and how you got to this point in your life.
I started off with an Environmental Science Degree which had a coop program. Somehow in that coop program, the Toronto Parking Authority (TPA) took a chance and hired me as a project analyst. That’s where my parking industry adventure started. I spent the next few years with TPA gaining experience in several areas, starting with property planning, followed by real estate opportunities, and then eventually landed in a role where I focused on redevelopment. After I had put those experiences under my belt, I moved to the BA Consulting Group as a parking and transportation analyst. I did a lot of work with traffic and parking studies, and eventually moved into a role where I was creating parking policies and strategies for municipalities. I then went back to the City of Toronto and worked for four years as a traffic planner, where I would review and approve plans from developers. I built my team around the skills I had – and especially the ones I didn’t. Always know your weaknesses, and hire people that are amazing in those areas.
I loved that job, but my family comes first. My husband was transferred to Calgary, so away we went. I considered a few roles out west, and was fortunate to land an amazing position at CPA as the Planning and Development Coordinator. This role lets me analyze our capital projects and negotiate our major contracts. When the department manager retired in June, I was asked to take on the role of Acting Manager of the Facilities Department, which is where you’ll find me today. I have new focuses, have changed the way of organizing the department, implemented lots of new City-wide parking policies, and draw a lot on my experience at the TPA.
It’s pretty obvious you are a smart and ambitious woman, and you’ve worked hard to establish yourself as a leader in the parking industry. What’s next for you?
First and foremost, I think it’s important to have an open mind. I don’t always have a detailed plan, but I know that I need to love my job and with that, the right opportunities will present themselves. In terms of some items on my agenda for 2018, I’m working on some joint venture projects with Calgary based companies, focusing on my leadership skill set, and doing big picture strategic planning at CPA.
I think it’s important to keep progressing your knowledge of whatever industry you’re in, and stay current with new developments and trends. For me, professional certifications in parking (Certified Administrator of Public Parking – aka CAPP) and in real estate (Certified Commercial Investment Member – aka CCIM) are definitely on the horizon. I’m currently working to include Canadian content into the CAPP program as I think we have some unique requirements up here. I’m also keen to work with the Parksmart sustainability initiative so I can learn more about the program and make sure the organizations I’m with follow sustainability programs.
So, if I want to catch up with you at a conference in 2018, where will I find you?
Well first and foremost, since I’m on the Board of the Canadian Parking Association, I’d definitely recommend you come check that out. I always have time to chat and love walking the trade show floor. Other ones I’m looking at for 2018 are the World Parking Symposium in Germany, and the International Parking Institute conference in Orlando. It’s great to go to one of the bigger shows so you get a look at the overall trends impacting the parking industry. I won’t complain about seeing old colleagues and friends and catching up on what their parking organizations are up to either.
I think it’s also important to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on outside parking as well. Staying up to date on real estate trends is easy with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), and other real estate industry conferences are on my radar as well.
ParkPlus goes to a lot of conferences each year (see a list of them here), but near and dear to our hearts is the Canadian Parking Association annual conference this year – lots of diverse attendee backgrounds, a good mix of sessions and trade show hours, plus everyone-is-welcome-style social events. So I’ll definitely second your recommendation on that one!
Next question. What do you think are the hot topics in parking right now?
Oh my. I can’t say that I keep up with every trend. I know autonomous vehicles are a big deal right now. But for me, I think topics that are more imminent and relevant to my role are green parking, futureproofing parking lots, and capital planning for the future. I play a large part in any new parking facility the CPA decides (or decides not to) build. So I look at how we can repurpose features in the future if the facility becomes unnecessary. I look for designs that accommodate new technologies (like self-driving vehicles), but take into account how we live right now as well. I really have to think big picture about the financials (especially revenue) of any investment we make, as well as the big picture implications for our city.
Last question. You mentioned that you’re a mentor for the Women in Parking program. I’m sure you give great advice. Where did you learn how to do that?
I’ve had some amazing mentors myself. I would be remiss not to thank Ian Maher at the TPA, Ralph Bond, and Dean Bell at the CPA for all of their time, energy, and belief in me. They provided advice in complex work situations, acted as sounding boards when I needed to work through a tough problem, and gave me great career advice. I appreciate all the lessons I’ve learned from them and wanted to pay it forward, so that’s why I joined the mentorship program. Now I think about what I would do in their situation and try to look at it from a neutral perspective. Sometimes it’s hard when you’re in a situation to look ahead before you act, and that’s the piece I hope to provide to my mentee.
Reachel not only are you thoughtful about your job and the industry you work in, but you’re a great person as well. And a really busy person too. Any last thoughts before you kick me out of your office?
Act with integrity. Treat people with respect. That will always come back around. And… don’t ever burn a bridge in the parking industry. It’s a really small world out there!
Thanks Reachel! And for anyone wondering about the photo – Reachel is very camera shy. This the best photo of this parking industry leader I could get.