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Women of Seminole Gaming meet in Immokalee

Sally Tommie, owner of Redline Media Group, serves as the keynote speaker July 26 during a conference hosted by Women of Seminole Gaming on July 26 at Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee.
Sally Tommie, owner of Redline Media Group, serves as the keynote speaker July 26 during a conference hosted by Women of Seminole Gaming on July 26 at Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee.

IMMOKALEE — Women of Seminole Gaming, created in October by a group of Seminole Gaming senior executives to mentor, develop and educate gaming employees, held its first conference July 26 at the Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee.

“Our goal is to help the growth and development of future leaders in Seminole Gaming through a mentoring network and education,” said Tracy Bradford, Seminole Gaming senior vice president of Purchasing. “We want women to know we appreciate them and want them to succeed and advance in the company.”

Keynote speaker Sally Tommie kicked off the day by addressing the theme of the conference: empowerment.

“I know each and every one of you here are the reason we are able to be as successful as we are,” said Tommie, owner of Redline Media Group. “You make that difference for our Tribe.”

Tommie told the attendees she grew up in a Fort Pierce camp and as a child served as a translator for her mother, who spoke no English but still needed to navigate the federal government’s bureaucracy of food stamps and welfare payments. Although she didn’t know it until she was an adult, the skills Tommie learned as her mother’s translator was training for her future as a business leader.

“Life allows us opportunities and experience,” she said. “If you are paying attention, you will understand what they mean and apply that knowledge to other places and situations.”

Tommie urged everyone to take advantage of opportunities — like the Women of Seminole Gaming conference — to expand their horizons, learn, and evolve. She gave some practical advice before leaving the podium.

“As women, we need to make our own priority a priority. Write a [career] blueprint and revisit it often. Have a winner’s mentality and change when necessary. Enjoy the harvest, but prepare for the famine. Be as loud as thunder and be your best self,” she said.

With those words, the attendees adjourned to the educational sessions.

To ensure the conference would be relevant to its participants, surveys were sent to members asking what topics would be helpful to them. The response was greater than the organizers anticipated. The subjects chosen were public speaking, personal branding and financial wellness. The sessions were led by gaming employees with expertise in those areas. Approximately 100 employees representing every Seminole Gaming facility attended.

“We couldn’t have anticipated the level of interest we got,” said JC Ayers, Tampa vice president of Human Resources. “This is what they wanted to learn.”

A personal branding class focused on communication style, social media, business writing, and best practices.

“We have to work for our next opportunity and promotion,” said Meaghan Ryan, Seminole Gaming director of Talent Acquisition. “When is your interview scheduled for your next job? Every day. You are constantly evolving and need to establish your brand.”

An apt quote from Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer and founder of Amazon, was projected on a screen: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.”
Ryan asked the participants what qualities they liked about their most accomplished colleagues. Responses included confident, hardworking, good listener, and responsible. Additionally, she asked what they think people are saying about them.

“That is your brand,” she said. “Make sure you have an idea of how you are perceived. Your brand identifies you.”

A public speaking class focused on anxiety, preparation, skills and practice. Moderator Matthew Faciana asked the group what makes a public speaker ineffective. Responses included distracting mannerisms, rattling change in their pocket, saying “um” and “uh” and not looking at the audience.

Mark Twain once said, “There are two kinds of public speakers in the world; those that are nervous and those that are liars.”

“Public speaking anxiety is very real,” said Faciana, Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood training manager. “Public speaking is the number one fear in our culture.”

He said fear is caused by not being totally confident of the subject matter, feeling ill prepared and being afraid of ridicule and failure.

A financial wellness session, led by Trevor Armstrong, Seminole Classic Casino vice president of Finance, focused on personal budgets and how to read a profit and loss statement. He defined risk versus reward when investing; the more the return, the higher the risk.

“The top concern of financial planners’ clients is outliving their savings,” Armstrong said. “They fear running out of money more than they fear death.”

He advised saving in a tax deferred 401K, which is matched by their employers. Armstrong suggested that every time they get a raise, take a portion of it and invest it.

“The facilitators did a great job of giving tips and skills,” said Summer Raygor, Immokalee Casino director of Marketing. “We are meeting new people and sharing ideas. We are all on the same page and going in the same direction, which is up.”

The opportunity to put a face with a voice or email messages was not lost on many of the participants. Some met colleagues in person that they already knew from a distance.

“This is a fantastic opportunity and positions everyone to be a successful leader,” said Kim Coker, vice president of Finance at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. “That’s our goal.”

Edward Aguilar, Immokalee assistant director of Casino Operations, was pleased the inaugural program came to Immokalee and that many of his employees participated.

“This is a great program and it falls in line with who we are as a brand,” he said. “I want our employees to connect with other women, become tomorrow’s leaders. This is something to build on and share.”

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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