A Springboard For Success

Dominika Zangerle, Assistant Manager and responsible for quality management at Casino Admiral Ruggell Liechtenstein chats to Peter White and Damien Connelly

From working in après ski and financing her own studies, through measuring bone density, to helping manage a casino expansion, Dominika Zangerle has learned a lot of practical skills. She should go on with that to develop her career and in the coming years step into a c-suite role with an operator. What follows is a fascinating insight, all too brief, into the choices she has taken that see her today in the role she holds with Casino Admiral Rugell.

What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on?

I am checking the whole QMS (Quality Management System) of our casino within the yearly audits, so it remains always up to date. Beginning next year, I will start the process audits. As Assistant to our CEO I administer all the contracts and important documents of our company and help them to prepare presentations for our administrative board, cross check facts and the regulations and I’m protocolling our weekly meetings with the different departments.

In general, my position requires a lot of flexibility, because next to my assistant job and QMS responsibility I got jobs in different departments due to my work during the construction phase of the casino because I have got all the connections to the construction and Facility companies. So if something breaks, I am the person who organizes the repair work (same with electricity or ventilation problems).

What were amongst the primary reasons for making your career choice with NOVOMATIC?

The career chances that NOVOMATIC offers young managers are some of the primary reasons why I chose to work for NOVOMATIC.

Prior to NOVOMATIC I worked as a study assistant for a long-term pulmonary research study called LEAD (LEAD stands for Lung, HEart, SociAl and BoDy). I was responsible for the DXA Scan (bone density measurement via dual energy X-ray absorptiometry), the medical psychological questionnaire and for the quality assurance of the data (we tested over 11,000 people). Professionally I reached a point where my development was completed, so I needed a new challenge. While I was looking for a new challenge I found the casino and arcade management traineeship of NOVOMATIC, which is forming young leaders for their operational fields. Since I worked during my studies (biology BSc. and theater, film and media Mag.phil.) in the hospitality sector (I financed my studies myself without the financial help of the government or family) I could see myself in this role. I am happy that I decided to work for such a global player.

What were amongst the key aspects of the training course provided by NOVOMATIC that impressed you most?

The willingness of the people within the company to share their knowledge and to give young competent people like me the chance to strive is something that impressed me a lot. Also the whole training, the way it was structured and the knowledge I was able to gain is impressive. I was chosen with another 8 people out of nearly 400 applicants to conduct that traineeship. Within 1.5 years I was able to work in the slot production of NOVOMATIC, get to know all the processes there, then they sent me for 6 months to do my training on the job in the Arcades in Germany and after that I was stationed for 6 months in Casino of Mendrisio.

I held regular feedback sessions with my mentors. I had a coach on my side with whom I worked on expanding different competence fields and on my personality. We had courses in responsible gaming, sports betting, slot game mathematics, negotiation techniques, nonverbal and intercultural communication, conflict management, change management, HR, controlling, leadership skills and many more. To gain such a profound knowledge in both operational sectors (Casino and Arcades) paired with the theoretical knowledge that I could use during my training on the job is quite impressive and aspiring.

Can you give an example of where an aspect involved in that training course assisted you with handling a situation in your current role?

During the construction time of our casino expansion in Ruggell I was responsible for the permission process with the local authorities and afterwards I was every day on the construction site. The technical know how that I got taught during my traineeship in the casino helped me to get a great understanding for the necessities on the construction site. So when the construction manager came to me in October 2018 to tell me that he was going on holiday for two weeks and that I needed to do his job during this time (he gave me a telephone list with the numbers of the different construction workers), it helped me a lot to organize the construction workers and the works to be done just right.

The leadership trainings and the input I got from my mentors during my traineeship helped me to handle the different kind of people on the construction site, manage complicated situations (litigations between workers or difficult personalities) and I was able to gain their respect so they followed my instructions (it is not easy for a woman to be accepted on the construction site — especially since the communication is quite rough and it is a male dominated work field). My leadership qualities gained during my training helped me to overcome many obstacles.

My early background in my career involved being a Resort Manager for a leading lakes and mountains and ski operator based in Austria, so I understand the demands of working in the tourist industry. How have you found your experience in tourism has assisted you in your career?

It was mandatory to have a background in the tourism industry or gastronomy to enter the traineeship. My background is the hardcore version of the tourism and gastronomy industry: après ski (where people come after skiing to get heavily drunk and party). When you work for nine seasons / years in such a field you get quite tough and have a high resilience to stress. That gives you the ability to keep cool and polite even in the worst situation and keep focused even in a seemingly chaotic environment.

The most important skill though that I learned from the tourist industry is the focus on the demands on the clients. It is an honourable job to serve someone and being able to make people happy with little things. I think this mentality is also very important to have as a leader: you serve your employees, make sure they can do their job joyfully and yet lead them in the right direction. In a positive environment everything strives.

Customer satisfaction is a major priority in the tourist industry. Do you think there are aspects from that industry that the casino sector can learn from?

Definitely! Of course, you will never be able to make everybody happy, but you should have the goal to give your customers a great feeling, even if it’s not their lucky day. That’s why the casino hosts and everyone who has customer contact has such an important role. To enhance the mentality, that to be able to serve somebody is an honourable job — to give the customer something they need — is important. Because once you do not have customers, you have no job.

Having four languages must be a big advantage being based in Liechtenstein?

Yes, it is indeed, even though my Spanish skills are basic. But I see the big advantage in speaking Italian, since NOVOMATIC has also Casinos in Tessin, the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. Also, during the construction time of the casino my Italian knowledge helped me a lot to communicate with some of the construction workers, since they were Italian. To know how to speak the language of the people you work with shows them respect and you can build rapport, so it facilitates the collaboration and it builds trust.

How has the increasing level of technology on the gaming floor impacted your role?

It did not impact my role much, since I am working in the administrative field. But I see that many technologies help the staff on the floor to conduct their work easier. Especially the whole administrative documentation is more easily available, and the communication is faster.

I think for Controlling, the Cashiers, the technicians and the Duty Manager the technology on the gaming floor has helped to facilitate their jobs.

What inspires you most and what keeps you awake at night?

Inspired people, who have true passion for what they do, that have a positive and open mindset and want to share their knowledge inspire me. To be able to work in an environment where people support each other and are happy to see each other strive inspire me. I am grateful that I was able to get to know many such people through my traineeship. To gain new perspectives and never stop to learn inspires me the most.

Only flies or mosquitos keep me awake at night. I learned quite well how to control my mind and thoughts, that’s why I can switch off and relax.

How do you achieve work-life balance?

I do not separate work and life since my time spent at work is part of my lifetime as well. So, I try to do whatever I do joyfully — otherwise it would be a waste of my lifetime. I am a very humorous person and I like to joke and laugh, even during stressful times. On my days off I meet with people I enjoy spending my time with, make music (I play various instruments, sing and write songs — nowadays for myself but in the past, I was also booked for concerts) and love to read and do sports (Yoga).

From where do you draw your inspiration?

I have a strong intrinsic motivation to get better in everything I do. To stay humble yet to know what I can do and specially to know what I am not yet able to do inspires me a lot and gives me the necessary inspiration.

Why are there not more women in the casino Industry?

There are many women in the casino industry but not so many in leading roles in my opinion. There are many studies that explain why it might be difficult for women to land a leading job and the same applies for the casino industry in my opinion.

Is a career in the casino industry one for all women? If not, what qualities do you think serve a career in this sector best?

The casino industry has many different working fields: there are the jobs on the floor for example. A Host, at the table (Croupier, Inspector, Pit Boss), a Duty Manager, technician, IT or Security or Surveillance staff. Then there are the administrative jobs — like mine or the accountant, controlling, HR or Compliance. For every sector you need a different skillset. But what all need to bring to the table is a certain awareness and consciousness for the job they are conducting. Then there is the leading role in the Casino: the CEO.

I believe that as a CEO of a casino you need to be a generalist, have social skills, need to be able to switch quickly between different topics and be able to understand details without losing focus for the whole — the big picture. But most of all you need to have a special awareness, be able to ask the right questions and be able to identify existing and future problems.

I believe strongly that all the different jobs mentioned have nothing to do with the sex of a person but with the qualities, consciousness, work ethics and skillset a person has.

What do you think is the biggest barrier for women in the industry today? How do you think this barrier can be overcome?

This is a very difficult question. There are many studies, that analyse those barriers and propose different answers. I decided to encourage women to go for a career in the business and try to help them through sharing my experiences and knowledge.

In general I am happy for everybody — man or woman — who shines through his or her competences and can climb the career ladder. I believe strongly that if you are focused on expanding your competences (business knowledge but also social skills) and are willing to work hard it will pay off in one way or another.

Management to Board Room level is still dominated by men. Do you think the industry should be doing more to promote careers to women in the casino industry?

Yes, I believe that if there were more women in such roles many others would follow. I also believe that a modern company understands the value women bring to the table.

What are amongst your main ambitions over the next five years?

To see a business and the people who work for that business flourish and be able to be a part of it is one of my main ambitions. But to be more specific: I want to gain a lot of experience within the business, expand my competences and become CEO of one or more casinos within the next five years.

*This interview was originally published in Issue 132 September 2019 edition of Casino Life Magazine.