Jose Gonzalez got into the gaming industry out of necessity, but there isn’t a day that goes by he isn’t thankful for his fate. Gonzalez has been in the industry for more than 14 years, his latest role as director of compliance for the Tuolumne Me-Wuk Tribal Gaming Agency.
Gonzalez was 20 years old when he—and the rest of the country—was mired in a recession. Needing a job, he went to the only place that was hiring, Black Oak Casino. The casino, located in Tuolumne, California, hired Gonzalez.
“I applied and got hired at an entry-level position,” Gonzalez says. “I thought I would be around for no more than a year. In that short time, I began to climb the casino ladder, receiving promotions and gaining an interest in regulation in gaming.”
It was an interest that Gonzalez had from an early age.
“As a child I was always intrigued by law and how things were read and/or were interpreted, so I guess you could say that drew me to it, finally landing on the tribal gaming side of things in 13 months,” he says. “From there my supervisor and director really took me under their wings and provided me with an amazing work family. I was hooked.”
Having guidance and mentors really allowed Gonzalez’s career to flourish. “Leadership plays a crucial role in shaping one’s career and personal growth,” Gonzalez says. “As the saying goes, ‘Great leaders inspire greatness in others.’ I have been fortunate enough to have had great leadership and positive influences in my career that have helped me grow both professionally and personally.”
One person in particular made an impact for Gonzalez, not only in his career, but personally.
“My late mentor, Danny Wandersee, has played a significant role in my journey,” he says. “Danny was not just a mentor to me, but also a friend, a guide, and a confidant. From the moment I met him, I knew I was in the presence of someone special. His passion for his work and dedication towards his team were truly inspiring. He had a unique ability to bring out the best in people and push them to reach their full potential. Working under his leadership, I learned the true meaning of being a leader—to lead by example, to motivate and empower others, and to always strive for excellence.
“Sadly, Danny passed away a few years ago, leaving a void in my life and in the lives of everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. I still think of him often and remember his words of wisdom. I am grateful for the time I spent under his mentorship and for the impact he had on my life. I know he would be proud to see what I have been able to accomplish professionally as well as the person I have become.”
The lessons he learned from his friend, he is still applying today. Gonzalez says anyone getting into the tribal gaming industry can expect a rewarding career.
“The tribal gaming industry has experienced significant growth in recent years, with more and more tribes across the United States entering the gaming market,” Gonzalez says. “This trend is expected to continue, making the tribal gaming field a promising career path for those interested in the gaming industry.
“This industry is constantly evolving, and it is essential to be adaptable and open to learning new things. This can include learning about new technologies and gaming trends, as well as adapting to changes in regulations and laws. Being open to learning and embracing change will not only help you succeed in your career, but also contribute to the success of the tribal gaming operation.”