For Julia Boguslawski, education in gaming came quickly and completely. Recruited from a lodging company to become the director of investor relations for Shuffle Master (later SHFL entertainment), Boguslawski quickly became enamored with the industry.
“I pretty much loved gaming,” she says. “I had a weekly poker night when I was living in Florida. I hit the Hard Rock in Tampa frequently, so I loved it from a player perspective. As an IR (investor relations) professional, it’s always very helpful if you’re passionate about the product you are promoting. And I fell in love with the company and the product offering.”
But it was the purchase of SHFL by Bally Technologies that began the real education for Boguslawski. And with the subsequent purchase of Bally by Scientific Games, she’s ready for Round 2.
“It’s a benefit that we’ve been through integrating two companies,” she says. “We learned a lot along the way what works, what we would modify next time. Be mindful of communication throughout the entire process. Everybody feels like it’s déjà vu, but we’ve done it before so we have some kind of comfort level this time.”
Boguslawski says that focusing on the vision of the two combined companies is crucial.
“We’re going to be aligned with the other company in style and substance, so we need to commit ourselves to reaching those goals,” she says.
Pressure is something that Boguslawski deals with on a daily basis. She says after joining Bally, which she describes as a “phenomenal organization,” she didn’t want to make any missteps.
“If you have your great leadership in place—and I’ve got great leaders in trade shows, events, communication, corporate marketing—you need to get out of their way and let them do what they do best,” she explains. “I’m here to guide and direct, but I don’t carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. We’re all a team and we work together. We always focus on the finish line and how it’s going to feel when we reach that goal successfully.”
Boguslawski made the shift from investor relations to marketing, not a usual career move. But there are similarities in the two, she says.
“The positioning of your company, the messaging, the alignment of the message and making sure external audiences know who you are and are able to grasp the value proposition,” she explains. “Those are things that marketing and IR have in common. IR is focused strictly on investors, and that’s a whole different animal. Marketing is customer-focused, and we talk about product, product, product. So it’s different in that respect. Investors ask about strategy, the balance sheet, possible acquisitions and financial concerns.”
In marketing, she’s supervising over 25 people versus the two she directed in IR.
“I’m lucky to have inherited this fantastic all-star team that have helped to make my life much easier,” she says.
She says a background in IR helps her do her job in marketing.
“I’m always mindful of every piece of communication that’s out there, that it truly reflects who we are. I worked so closely with legal in my IR role, that I can stand back and be mindful that we’re a public company. Are we being prudent with shareholder money? So I think that’s important.
“And with marketing, I realize that our customers are everything. If they’re not happy we don’t have a viable business model and our shareholders aren’t going to be happy.”
She wouldn’t be where she is today without mentors.
“Gavin Isaacs (former SHFL CEO and current leader of Scientific Games, which bought Bally), is obviously a great mentor,” she says. “He was the first one to hire me in gaming, and I appreciate so much his passion, enthusiasm and vision. Lyn Fox, who was the CFO at SHFL, was very supportive. He was hands-off but always there for guidance and direction. Katie Lever has been a fantastic mentor, just to have another woman to talk to, who has been a great sounding board for me. And I wouldn’t want to miss my executive coach, Tim Furlong. It’s great to have someone who is outside of everything that is going on. He helps me figure it out for myself.”
Boguslawski encourages people who want to advance in the gaming industry to have a fresh perspective.
“The best way to do that is the relationships you make in the industry,” she says. “Find mentors, learn and stay humble. You’ll never learn everything about this industry in a lifetime, so every single day you can learn something new. Have respect for people in the industry and you can impact people with your fresh ideas and new perspectives.
“Most of all, you have to have passion. If you don’t have passion for the industry don’t be in it. Passion will drive you to make the best decisions for yourself and for the business, and you’ll advance quickly on your passions.”