Jackie and her daughter, Cara Brady (Photo credit to Phillip Kuruvita, Launceston)
How did you find your start in the industry and how did you arrive at your current position?
Firstly, let me start by staring that I promise my answers will get shorter after this one…!
I commenced working for the TAB (now Tabcorp) as a Supervisor at Tabaret, the first gaming machine venue in Victoria. The venue was popular due to pent up demand (& great service by the team!) but really took off once gaming reel-style product was approved and taught me the importance of getting product matched to customer desire.
With approval of gaming legislation and expansion of gaming across clubs & pubs I took the opportunity to move to the Greatest Team of All at the Geelong Football Club and the success of our Social Club venue was sadly at odds with our two Grand Final losses. I loved working for a sports organisation embedded within the community and delivering connection between members, guests and team.
From there I joined the Crown Casino Melbourne opening team and enjoyed launching a multi-faceted service focused entertainment offering to the people of Melbourne.
When I was offered the exciting opportunity to head overseas and open Skycity Auckland I said yes without hesitation and embraced how different NZ is to Australia. The property operator was the US based Harrah’s (now Caesars) so I took the opportunity to move to the USA to run gaming at the Riverboat property Harrah’s Joliet. The Mid-West region is incredibly friendly but very cold over winter and we lived through worst blizzards on record. With my opening experience of casinos I was asked to move to Harrah’s largest casino being developed in New Orleans. What an amazing and very different part of the USA that is with great music/arts and a sultry climate. A third of our employees came from families living below the poverty line so I know how influential a career in our great industry can be in making a real difference in people’s lives.
Following a successful opening, I felt home was calling and returned to Australia and joined Fosters Group as National Gaming Manager for Australian Leisure & Hospitality, a group of 135 pubs at that time. I learnt all about juggling family and work during this time and know how important it is to support men and women in our industry with flexibility & creativity. I learnt, too, the importance of delivering 100% of the time on the promise to customers. When you have little ones at home you get to socialise rarely and it really does matter that all customers leave with happy memories of their experience -every time. ALH pub group was sold off by Fosters and publicly listed – an interesting and engaging process for the leadership team and it has continued to grow under the Woolworths banner.
My next move was to Queensland as General Manager of Jupiters Townsville as part of Echo Group and was followed a year later by a move to Jupiters Gold Coast to support the relaunch of the property following a multi-million dollar investment. What a magical part of the world Queensland is and it remains a favourite holiday destination of mine.
I had promised my Irish born husband that if we ever had the chance to move to Europe we would do it so he could be close to family so when I was offered a role with Aspers Group we moved to London where I was Chief Operating Officer of the VIP casino, Aspinalls, in Mayfair and opened up a number of regional casinos across the UK. This venture was part owned by Crown and when the group expanded into Canada with the acquisition of Gateways Casinos & Entertainment, nine casinos across British Columbia and Alberta, I took the opportunity to move to Vancouver and work through transformation of the casino properties again as Chief Operating Officer.
Upon my return to Australia I took a break from my career to care for my young family and my Mum, who sadly passed away from Alzheimer’s, and she left me with the enduring legacy of the importance of investing in yourself whilst servicing others, life-long learning (such as attempts to expand my Japanese vocabulary!), having an open mindset and recognising life is precious.
When the time was right to get back into the industry it was not easy and I encourage everyone to look at breaks in a career as a real positive that provides life lessons and inspires individuals to think through their priorities. Fortunately, I was provided the opportunity to head south and have spent the last three years in Tasmania as General Manager of Country Club Tasmania, part of the Federal Group. Tassie, like so many places I have lived, is a combination of extraordinary landscapes and great people.
What do you consider to be the biggest achievement of your career, so far?
My biggest achievement, the one I am most proud of, is that I have supported the development of strong, wise leaders for the future. It is rewarding to see someone start in a role and move their way up via promotion and maximising every opportunity to achieve greatness. Succession planning that includes believing in your team, wise risk-taking, spotting and developing talent is key to delivering sustainability in our industry. I believe in the Simon Sinek servant leaders’ philosophy and focus on walking in other people’s shoes. Leadership applies to both our personal and professional lives and I love it when my kids relay back to me elements of my belief systems and am proud my husband and I have always encouraged them to consider males and females both capable of achieving great careers and sharing the commitments that family life demands.
What advice would you give your younger self, starting out in the Gaming Industry?
Enjoy every moment, we are an incredible industry with wonderful peers, leaders, owners & suppliers. We create extraordinary memorable experiences and many favourite times are with my customers and team.
I’d be braver on a daily basis, try new things that scare me, understand earlier that failure is the best way to learn and be extraordinarily grateful and appreciative of those around me. Like my daughter I am the youngest sibling and I see myself in her attempts to be heard amongst the lads in the family. I now recognise that being considered in what you say and being a great listener and coach is even more rewarding than being heard.
What do you think is the most significant barrier for women in the industry, today? How do you think this barrier can be overcome?
I do not think there are genuine barriers to women in the industry as WE ARE FANTASTIC! An extraordinary compliment of women work in many gaming/leadership roles across the globe. Women are strengthening their capability and gaining confidence and are key influencers in many buying + lifestyle decision making. Our opinion and emotional intelligence matters and we should remember that those closest to pain are the best at delivering the required change in our society. With the raised profile of the importance of responsibility and ethical decision making in our maturing industry, women are well positioned to create and execute sensitive frameworks to solve complex issues. Juggling multiple demands at home and in the workplace has honed many women’s ability to be efficient and effective and I am proud of improving gender diversity in my teams primarily because it is the right thing to do and is creates better business outcomes.
Women are usually the predominant gender in service industries and the customers we serve are significantly female. It is important we offer flexibility, look for creative solutions such as work hours that fit around external family demands to create a win/win solution for women and men and any reduction of the pay gap will further facilitate this.
Who or what inspire you and why?
I am forever curious about new ventures and opportunities which led me into gaming back when it took off in Victoria in the 90’s! I have been inspired by many of those I have worked with, male and female and there are too many to name as it is not only the leaders who provided me with opportunity and learning but the cleaners and floor staff and those working 24/7 around the clock to service our guests continually who provide daily inspiration.
A great lecturer of mine in my tertiary studies encouraged his students to get as many roles as possible, working for great and not so great leaders so you learn to become the best you can be. It has made for a great journey.
I am inspired by the opportunity to give back to my community and I am very proud that at Country Club we have volunteer staff who run a Community Support Fund delivering donations in cash and kind to up to four local charities each year. We give significant time to and sponsorship to support the Beacon Foundation who actively create pathways for student into employment in Tasmania. One of the Beacon participants is now an apprentice chef, the winning student of our dessert challenge gets their dessert served on our buffet for a month. One female student undertaking training by our commercial lead wrote in her school newsletter that she thought you could drop maths but now understands it is a skill needed for the rest of your life and with that insight she could one day head up gaming where analytics provide such valued insight into our customers and products. In summary it is people who inspire me: my kids and my husband, family and friends, colleagues and customers across the globe that have provided life-long lessons and joy. My eldest son loves all things space and one of his hero’s Chris Hadfield, the astronaut, signed his picture at a meet & greet with “The Sky is Not the Limit” and I think that best sums up our inspiring industry and the opportunities within it for women to succeed.