“At first I was afraid, I was petrified”

Gloria Gaynor, I Will Survive

Amy Ayoub, The Zen Speaker, told me that the best way to start a speech is with a quote, a fact or a question. I think I can apply the same principle to this article and I can think of no better quote that sums up how I felt on the first day of the Executive Development Program. I don’t remember when I first heard about the Executive Development Program. I do remember that I was a Customer Service team member, working at the Premium Gaming Room reception desk at Treasury Casino in Brisbane, so it must have been about ten years ago. I had heard that one of the Casino Duty Managers had gone to Lake Tahoe in Nevada USA for a development course that was specifically for leaders in the gaming industry. I set myself the goal that one day I would attend.

As I write this, I’m reflecting on one of the most challenging, exhausting, difficult and rewarding experiences of my career and my education. A joint initiative of the University of Reno and the University of Las Vegas, The Executive Development Program (EDP) is the only course of its kind, specifically for leaders in the gaming industry. The days are filled with speakers who represent the very top of their respective fields from across the gaming and casino industry and the nights are spent working with a small group on ‘the most difficult assignment that you will ever love’… and those nights are long!

The anxiety and anticipation I felt on day one, meeting for the first time the other participants and seeing the schedule of work ahead of us was honestly overwhelming. On day seven of the course, I told Bo Bernhard, (Executive Director, International Gaming Institute at UNLV and Co-Moderator of the EDP) that one of the most uniquely difficult things about the EDP for me was that there are no safe spaces. I started the course not knowing anyone, I was in an unfamiliar place and every day was filled with new information. There was no retreating from the experience, the only way was through.

I don’t want to give away too much of what we spent our time on in Lake Tahoe; one of the great experiences for me was that nobody had told me what to expect in too much detail. For those of you that aspire to go, I don’t want to spoil your experience.

I will say that I was inspired every day.

The industry that I choose to be part of is vibrant, fast paced and innovative. Now, more than ever, it is also an industry that values the importance of social responsibility, diversity and inclusion. The 2019 cohort had the highest female representation to date.

We listened to speakers who shared their knowledge and experience gladly with us. This to me was one of the most valuable part of the whole experience; the willingness to share and the importance of collaboration. As one of our amazing speakers reminded us about working with teams, 10% of 8 brains is better than 10% of 1.

At EDP I was surrounded by 57 other participants who have the same energy and passion that I do. We heard from incredible innovators whose voices will certainly be in the back of mind when I look at the way I currently work and whether there is a different or better way. Every speaker challenged us to consider alternative ways of thinking, to look at things differently, to view the bigger picture beyond the current situation.

We learned about ourselves and our leadership skills, about the importance of ‘sharpening our axe’ and honing our native gifts and how we can bring our talents to a team.

EDP was an exhausting and demanding ten days that I honestly wouldn’t have made it through without my working group, or the comradery of my 57 new friends. I am invigorated and excited about the future for gaming with so many great leaders emerging, all of whom I know I can reach out to at any time, as they can to me.

When I first learned that Women in Gaming and Hospitality Australasia had awarded me a scholarship to attend EDP I was stunned. I honestly didn’t understand why I had been selected. Now, I am grateful and so proud to have completed such a challenging program. I know that this experience will inform the way that I move forward and the impact that I will have.

If attending the Executive Development Program is something that you are considering, I strongly urge you to go for it.