As the new year rolls in, Karolina Pelc will be pulling up stakes—again.
For the past five years, Pelc has traveled regularly from Malta, where she lives, to Poland, where she grew up, to South Africa, her husband’s homeland, and back again.
“We pack up our lives every six months,” she says of her family, which now includes a toddler. Not surprisingly, Pelc is unfazed by the prospect of moving once more, this time to London.
In October, she joined SG Digital as vice president of casino innovation. From her London base, she’ll work for the digital arm of Scientific Games, building its casino and games portfolio to “address changing market needs.”
In many ways, Pelc has been preparing for this job all her life. The daughter of a veteran casino inspector, she learned the ropes at land-based operations in Warsaw and the U.K., then spent three years traveling the world as a dealer and host for Royal Caribbean Cruises. But when she tried to break into the online side, she found the doors firmly closed against her.
“They said my experience didn’t really translate into online,” Pelc recalls. “It was tough to get into the industry.”
With persistence—and after a brief foray into the oil and gas industry—she broke through, then climbed the ranks at Paddy Power, Bodog, Betsafe and LeoVegas before moving to SG.
She was drawn not only by the company’s global reputation but its commitment to fast-forward change. “SG is making big waves, not only innovating the existing product but introducing new products for new demographics and providing an even more holistic experience,” Pelc says. “They’re investing a lot of money to make sure they’re the best in class—in products, in people, and in services. I wanted to be part of it.”
Her career to date has helped equip her for the job. “This is where the experience from the brick-and-mortar venues really matters. I have been exposed to real players. I have seen their real behaviors. I know what drives them. It’s entertainment. It may come through different channels, as mobile overtakes traditional channels. We may be adding more features to make it more social. But the common denominator is entertainment.”
And what drives Pelc herself? “Passion,” she says. “Everything else that you need—leadership, perseverance, innovating and hard work—stems from passion for what you do.”
Asked to list her goals for 2019, she replies, “It’s all about product for me. I want to build new things, innovate, challenge the status quo and give the established leaders a run for their money.”