Doing business should be fun, exciting, and creative — especially when you’re changing the lives of millions of people through better traffic management that affects their day-to-day.
So, it’s really a gift to the transportation world that one of the leaders at Imperial technology in the U.K. is a dynamic performer whom everyone thought would end up in the bright lights of theatre.
Meet Ashley Bijster, who pretty much grew up on stage as a dancer, singer, Shakespearean actor and even a mime artist who performed for Princess Anne. The Bristol native is now Managing Director of parking control and compliance solutions. She went from piano keys and costume changes to computer keyboards and team-building.
“I was quite naughty,” Ashley says. “I did my A levels and was going to go to university for English and Drama, and then decided I would join a band much to my parents’ dismay.”
She played gigs for a couple years, “dossing around” and having a good time as young people should. After some thought about what to do next, happenstance landed her a job at BUPA, the British United Provident Association, one of the first private healthcare companies in the country. That’s where she learned hands-on sales, call center training and the value of a great team.
“It was the best thing I ever did. The training was amazing, I loved the people and we’re still in touch.”
Then a recruiter called her for a training manager job for a large managed services business. She presented a Wizard of Oz storyline about courage, heart, and brains for the interview. “I took a shoebox and I got a baby slipper and covered it in red glitter. I took a bit of fur and a bit of tin foil and did a whole presentation around upside-down thinking.”
She was offered the job on the spot. It was a pivotal career change, bringing her into IT solutions for local government and healthcare services. Then marriage and a potential move to Scotland for another tech-innovation role for a firm that provided software for police, legal and parking. Ashley gravitated toward parking because it was revenue-generating and in need of smart interventions for enforcement and payment.
“It is quite exciting to be in that area because it’s all about transportation,” she says. “There’s always something that you can do and there’s always new tech coming out.”
The experience set her on an upward trajectory for managing technology businesses and knowing the ins and outs of mergers and acquisitions, and how to stickhandle commercial issues like customer retention, product integration and sales and staffing.
She joined Imperial in 2006 when the company was bringing in another traffic management company to focus on connectivity. The move paid off and aligned with her interests in greener travel, parking, and smart city technologies.
“I’m quite a social beast and I love networking, so I got very involved in the British Parking Association and ended up as their President. I enjoyed my time as President very much and a real privilege knowing that people had voted for me as their figurehead for the Association.” She credits the Association for promoting women in an industry that now offers them more opportunity for career development.
Ashley has also been vocal about how parking fits with a smart, sustainable city.
“It’s all about looking at where we are now and the kinds of journeys we take,” she explains, where parking is often at the start and end point. The focus is on things like clean air zones and emissions, rider behaviors and the modes of travel available, including bicycles and scooters.
“In all seriousness, technology is already helping to improve urban mobility. But, today, we’re only scratching the surface. The potential for technology to truly transform the way we move in and around our towns and cities is absolutely huge. Just look at the progress being made in Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality, not to mention the seemingly unlimited advances in the world of apps! These are really interesting times and I’m excited about the connectivity and mobility priorities of Modaxo.”
Outside the office, Ashley is equally enthusiastic about sports, cycling and being active with her two boys. As a young girl she used to play soccer on a boy’s team because there was no women’s team around.
She brings a lot to the table.
“With tech, if you are creative, you can see things that maybe other people can’t see. I think that helps me with the role that I have.”