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‘If she’s your expert, you can’t help me!’

By John Van Horn

With those words a man from the Middle East stormed out of Skidata’s booth at a Parking Industry Exhibition a few

years ago. He did so after the company’s local dealer indicated that if the man wanted detailed information about their products, the best person to speak to was Karen Blasing Pradhan. Her thoughts – “It’s not personal, it’s cultural.” Karen Pradhan has been in the parking business for 30 years,

first with Cincinnati Time Recorder, then Amano Cincinnati, and for the past 12 years, as Product Manager and recently Marketing Coordinator for Skidata USA. Pradhan sees the new “Women in Parking” organization as a good step to assist women who find themselves in a world that is dominated — if not by personality, certainly by numbers — by men. She spoke to Parking Today during a break at the Intertraffic Amsterdam 2012 in late March. “Women can feel isolated,” Pradhan said. “‘Women in Parking’ can be a networking source. Those of us who have been here a while can mentor the younger women coming into our profession.”

Pradhan began her career at Cincinnati Time Recorder as a sheetmetal designer. “This was before CAD [computer-aided design]. We worked

on a board; then we went to the shop and actually made the first prototype ourselves. It was a fantastic way to get solid experience. Yes, there was that male-female bias in the early ’80s. You quickly developed a thick skin. “I was the only woman in the group, and, of course, you had to prove yourself. There was some hazing, and you had to show the men that you could make things happen. Some of the things you put up with in those days would be the cause for lawsuits today.

“A couple of times, some of the men would get a little personal – you know, hands where they shouldn’t be. I just turned around and slugged them. Once, it happened when we were surrounded by co-workers. It took that fellow some time before he lived down being decked by a ‘girl.’ In the other case, the man became a good professional friend. …

“I spent a lot of time reading the manuals and complaining

about how non-user-friendly they were. Their response? ‘Fine, you fix them.’ So, in addition to engineering, I was in marketing. “I was confident in what I knew, but the men seemed threatened. I got the ‘you should go home and ask your boyfriend’ more than once.

When Cincinnati Time was purchased by Amano, a different challenge awaited Pradhan.

14 “The new management was from Japan. Their culture wasn’t It took that fellow some time

before he lived down being decked by a ‘girl.’

used to women in the workplace, particularly in technical roles. It was a challenge. The factory was in Cincinnati, the head office in New Jersey. I commuted between the two for more than a year.” Later, when Skidata opened its offices in the US, Pradhan’s husband, Pawan, was recruited for the new company. “We were a package deal; they got us both. They couldn’t have Pawan working on their newest products, and me working for their competitor. Those were the days. There were only four of us in a single office. We all answered phones, tested equipment and worked in shipping. The company certainly has come a long way.”

Karen Pradhan began with

Skidata as a product manager, but her position has evolved into marketing. She spends a lot of time on the road, both working with dealers and customers in a training mode and at trade shows demonstrating the company’s new products. “‘Glass ceiling?’ I haven’t found it here, but certainly it exists in some companies. People tend to promote those they feel most comfortable with, and often that is a man. Women tend to do

Karen Pradhan demonstrates a new product at Skidata’s booth at the Intertraffic 2012 show in Amsterdam.

Parking Today

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