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Building the Culture

Stacey Zeleznik, Senior Vice President and Chief People & Culture Officer, Aristocrat Gaming

Aristocrat Gaming has always strived to recruit, advance and retain top talent in the industry. While turnover is inevitable, the company has maintained its top position in the slot market under the leadership of current CEO Hector Fernandez.

Stacey Zeleznik, who joined Aristocrat in February 2022 as senior vice president and chief people & culture officer, thrives in the company culture Fernandez has helped build at Aristocrat.

“At Aristocrat, people and culture are our top priorities and areas of distinction,” Zeleznik says. “So we call ourselves ‘People & Culture’ teams versus human resources. It follows our mantra of our people, our customers, our business.”

The position at Aristocrat provided Zeleznik her first taste of the gaming industry in her human resources career, which spans more than 20 years. She came to Aristocrat from Ohio-based international industrial equipment giant Nordson Corporation, where she headed human resources functions for 19 years.

She took to the gaming industry, and the Aristocrat culture, immediately. “The gaming industry is a little more glamorous than where I came from in the Midwest,” she says. “It’s very much a different industry, and very much a different culture.”

As for Aristocrat, Zeleznik says she has enjoyed working with a team that includes the top talent in every discipline—a fact she also attributes to the company culture. “At Aristocrat, we have a fun, exciting, wide range of talented team members, from designers and artists to finance professionals, P&C professionals, sales reps and everything in between,” she says. “It’s very much a fun, people-first culture.

“Right after I joined Aristocrat, a game designer told me, ‘We’re not saving lives here—we make games that entertain people, and we have a lot of fun doing it.’ And that spans up, down and across the organization. We treat our employees well. They’re first and foremost in every decision we make. They, in turn, make sure we treat our customers well. That leads to good business.”

Zeleznik adds that another of Aristocrat’s strengths is a great mix of industry veterans in leadership positions. She singles out executives like Tom O’Brien, Aristocrat’s president, Americas & EMEA, who is in his second stint with Aristocrat in a 21-year career that has included executive posts at Paltronics, IGT, Scientific Games and Interblock; Matt Primmer, the chief product officer for land-based who began in the industry at Shuffle Master in 2008 and has worked for Ainsworth and United Technology Services; and Chris Rowe, director, EMEA & Latam (son of legendary Harrah’s slot VP Bruce Rowe), who has spent his entire 16-year career with Aristocrat.

“We draw on diverse experiences with a healthy mix of company veterans and industry veterans in areas of expertise at all levels of the company,” Zeleznik says. “Hector’s leadership team is a good example of that. The leadership team makes our people, our customers and our business the priorities, and that creates a culture that continues to be the guiding force for retention and recruitment. That’s why people are attracted to Aristocrat, and that’s why people stay.”

Zeleznik says her priority for 2023 will be to continue to cultivate and improve that culture. “We’ll continue to invest in our people moving forward—‘our people, our customers, our business’ as our guiding philosophy—and continuously improving to build great experiences for our employees and increased demand for job seekers that want to work at Aristocrat.”

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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