How did you find your start in the industry and how did you arrive at your current position?
I started in the hospitality industry over 30 years ago commencing work as a bussie picking up glasses at the then, Noble Park Football Social Club. My sister worked there as a second job and they were short one Saturday night, so she asked would I be interested in helping. Well one shift turned into several and before long I learnt the bar and then back in 1995 after gaming came to Victoria I also got my gaming license. In fact, I did the course just 2 weeks before giving birth to my third child. In those days you had to be nominated by a venue to sit the course to gain your gaming license. I worked there for approximately 8 and ½ years and whilst working at NPFSC I also picked up some hours at the Mulgrave Country Club, commencing in February 1996. In fact, I worked at both venues at the same time for 6 months, but as the hours increased at Mulgrave Country Club I found the hours at each venue more and more difficult to juggle so left NPFSC giving Mulgrave my undivided attention. Shortly afterwards, and within 6 months of commencing at Mulgrave I was promoted to Supervisor/Duty Manager working all nights until 4am so that I could be home during the day with my young family. I held this position for approximately 5 years. After my youngest child started school the opportunity arose for me to advance to Operations Manager which I accepted. I then worked mostly days and every Friday night. I had to learn so many new skills including computer programs, POS systems, HR, rostering, ordering etc. This was extremely daunting at the time and although challenging set me up for the next position bestowed upon me. After working 6 years as Operations Manager I was approached to take on the role of General Manager, a position I have now held for almost 12 years.
What do you consider to be the biggest achievement of your career, so far?
By far my biggest achievement has been working from the ground up to the position I now hold. Equally though to this achievement was when we, my then General Manager, Michael Silcock and I opened a brand-new venue back in 2004. The board spent over 9 million dollars on a redevelopment that has since seen us become one of the largest venues in Victoria.
I remember it well. Our 9-million-dollar redevelopment was set to be completed in January 2004. Then February, then March, then April and finally in May when the builders tried to delay the opening yet again, we had to put pressure on them as on the 30th May 2004 we had three functions booked and just had to open. I would like to share with you my experiences on the 29th May 2004, opening day. I arrived at work early in the morning to be greeted by a similar scenario to that of the last day of a room reveal on The Block. There were contractors of all sort, painters, TV installers, electricians, you name it working frantically. Outside was another story. Dozens of trucks lined up Jells Road extending into Wellington Road waiting to drop off deliveries. Deliveries of food, beverages, crockery, cutlery, furniture to mention a few. When I walked into the venue that morning it was just a shell. I had an army of staff unpacking boxes, stripping plastic off new furniture, stacking fridges, washing crockery, prepping food, all under adverse conditions because we had to work around the contractors. I had staff coming in all afternoon for orientation and to pick up new uniforms as well. Remember this was the first day that staff were able to enter the building and familiarise themselves with their new working environment.
Back to deliveries, when the beer barrels arrived I hooked them up, to find that the bulk gas wasn’t working. I had to plead with the supplier to deliver some portable bottles urgently, so we could sell beer that night. Then I received a phone call from our liquor supplier saying that the delivery truck had broken down in Campbellfield and there would be no delivery that day. Panic set in, I explained the predicament I was in, so they organised another truck to pick up the stock. That truck didn’t arrive until 7.00pm.
What a day! At 6.20pm I changed out of my grotty work clothes back into a suit and a 6.30pm opened the doors to the new Mulgrave Country Club. We ran with a limited menu that night. Business tripled overnight. People would come in asking for work and I’d have them start immediately. For the first 8 weeks after opening I worked everyday and 12 to 15-hour days. We went from 4 individual tills to 14 all networked around the club and went from 20 staff to today where we employ approximately 120 plus contractors.
We did undergo another redevelopment spending an additional 9 million dollars back in 2012 which I had a much larger role in, holding the position of General Manager at that time.
I would like to think that I contributed largely in bringing our Club up to the next level and beyond and believe that is a great achievement.
What advice would you give your younger self, starting out in the Gaming Industry?
Over the journey I’ve had to toughen up and I did have to work extremely hard to get where I am today. Working with a lot of men and even serving predominantly men particularly in the late 90’s and early 2000’s I did get harassed constantly. There were a few tragedies along the way with work colleagues especially when going from mate to manager. My advice to anyone climbing the rope is to stay strong, be firm, be authoritative and stand up for yourself. Don’t be complacent, if you believe in something and it’s not right in your workplace – speak up. Go the extra mile and make yourself get noticed. I did, and I didn’t even work days when the General Manager did. Get involved outside of your square. There are so many networking opportunities with Women in Gaming now one of them. I joined the Club Managers Association and spent 5 years on the Victorian committee as secretary. Until this year I was also a member of the Industry Advisory Board at William Angliss Tafe a position I held for 8 years. I put my hand up constantly to assist anyone that asks.
My love of the club industry sees me committed to the business in more ways than one. Just the support we give so many in the Community through donations and sponsorships makes me so proud. Over many years we have forged lasting relationships with so many wonderful people and organisations. No day is the same and most days come with new challenges.
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 believe women have to prove themselves more in a role than men and there were some skeptics amongst my board of directors when looking to fill the GM role here, but they gave me the opportunity and I haven’t looked back. Granted I have always worked hard and long hours and juggling my career with children wasn’t easy in the early days. When I first become Operations Manager back in 2001 it was predominantly a male dominated industry. I’m happy to report that I have certainly seen a large shift with many females now working in gaming and in managerial roles and being respected for their roles.