How are you finding this new position?
Oh, I am having a blast. I don’t think there is another opportunity that combines two of the hottest fields in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and technology, than the online gaming and sports betting world. It is really incredible.
Can you tell us a bit about your career and personal history to date?
I spent much of my early career in higher education in a number of roles at the University of Nebraska and the Colorado University Online, which was where I was really introduced to education technology for the first time. My interest in DEI led me to Tech Systems where I partnered with Franklin Reed, who is now their Executive Director, and Ian Moses. Together, the three of us really built and implemented a DEI strategy that encompassed the company’s 120+ physical sites and over 5,000 employees. I think that experience really led me in a completely different direction as it related to DEI and technology. That’s where it all began, and the common thread that really runs through my career is moving energy, improving organizational culture and really thinking about the way employees experience the workplace.
Why PointsBet? What makes this position the right one for you?
There are a couple of things. One, the opportunity for me to work directly with Michelle Carpenter, our Chief People Officer, and to work directly with Johnny [Aitken], our US CEO. The experience is one you cannot turn down. When I think about PointsBet and my decision, it comes down to leadership, and an undeniable opportunity to contribute to the building of the culture and employee experience. These were the critical factors in my joining PointsBet. I also recognize that PointsBet is an organization that – this became clear when meeting with the CEO – is completely dedicated to its mission, and allows employees to be authentic. With all of that in mind, it just felt like the right place for me.
Following this, why gaming and sports betting?
For me, the opportunity that gaming represents in the US right now is incredible. I believe PointsBet, as an online gaming company, is at the forefront with its technology stack. I look at its evolution and the increasing demographic shifts we are going to see in online gaming, and this felt like an opportunity to make sure the company reflected that diversity. This is a chance to do that from the beginning; we have the foundation here ready to roll.
What is the process like when entering a company with the goal of strengthening its approach to DEI?
Well, in regards to PointsBet, some of the work was really done before my arrival. We have a DEI committee, which is composed of some really talented internal employees. This group had already come together and was really working to build a foundation. That ultimately allowed me to onboard into the organization with a complete focus of meeting the needs of our 260 employees. I am currently on a major listening campaign to better understand the people of our organization, their needs, the things that they value, as well as their expectations. So, you have a foundation and you have a listening campaign and then, simultaneously, we are working to collect qualitative and quantitative data to better understand our employees. We want to know not just what the numbers say, but how people feel. What will happen is that over the next few months we are going to dive headfirst into developing our immediate and long-term diversity plan, to ensure our alignment to our mission. While doing this we need to ensure that the culture, the benefits and the career opportunities meet our employees’ needs. I think we need to understand the people and their needs; we need to build a plan that aligns to our mission, implement that plan, measure the results, and then start the process all over again to ensure we continue to be responsive to the organization and its people.
How can our industry as a whole move forward to a more diverse future?
I think about this in two phases. On the gaming side, extending the learning and understanding of games development in underrepresented populations is really important. We know that building on a student’s natural interest in gaming represents an opportunity to increase their engagement in science, technology, engineering and math. I am a huge fan of using fantasy sports to actually teach math concepts. As a former educator, I know that when a student’s interest meets relevance and context, they will have higher academic outcomes. This, then, is a really important factor in us being able to continue to create and attract the most talented people. Next, I think about it from a sports betting point of view: the train has already left the station.
We already know that women make up 20% of the sports betting population, and that 30% of sports bettors are representative of non-white ethnicities. So we have to be mindful that legal sports betting here in the States is a new thing, so we can expect major shifts in the demographic participation as the country begins to address online gaming. Overall, by keeping these things in mind, I think the industry can continue its path to becoming more diverse, equal and inclusive. Our partnership with the University of Colorado does much of that by exposing students to the key components of our business.
You have done a lot of work in your community over the years. How important to you is being involved in the community?
It is really important. We have partnerships and continue to become engaged. We see ourselves as a community-based organization; and so we want to make sure we have opportunities to serve the people that make us who we are.