Gena Caviness is no stranger to hard work, having begun her career at just 20 years old as a promotions representative for a small casino. Two years later, her responsibilities tripled when she found herself juggling work, school and motherhood.
Says Caviness, “It wasn’t always easy, but I tried to tackle every challenge that approached by staying positive, making the most out of the experience, and growing with it.” Her relentless optimism enabled her to view such challenges instead as opportunities, and in time, she acquired knowledge and experience on both the operations and regulatory sides of gaming, climbing the corporate ladder until she reached a managerial role in 2014 with the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission.
A Cherokee citizen, Caviness credits her tribe for the invaluable experience she gained, remaining ever thankful to such mentors at the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission as Kelly Myers, Traci Asher and Jamie Hummingbird, who all taught her patience, gave her chances, and trusted her to make the right decisions.
But the person who impacted her the most? Her sister, Jennifer Sanders, assistant athletic director for Tulsa Public Schools, someone Caviness looked up to all her life, and who pushed her to excel. And with the added support of her husband, mother and children, Caviness has felt continually empowered to achieve her goals and advance her career.
Now with talented leaders such as National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman Jonodev Chaudhuri to look up to, Caviness is tackling her new position as auditor at the NIGC with the same determination and edge that has served her well for the past 13 years.
Known for her honesty, trustworthiness and optimism, her outgoing personality and propensity for voicing her opinion are both traits that have benefited Caviness despite her original lack of experience, and have gotten her on the road to senior management. Caviness has also benefited from taking on unconventional roles and stepping outside of the box, noting that such experiences have educated her on different aspects of the gaming industry.
Caviness continues to learn from those around her, and she takes pride in her ability to maintain both confidence and a positive outlook.
“There have been some challenging times in both my personal and professional life,” she says, “but keeping my head up, being true to myself and working hard have all kept me pushing on with my career.”
Her “everything happens for a reason” family motto has also played a part in her career choices, and whether good or bad, the decisions she made allowed her to grow and to learn. She believes, “There is a plan in place for all of us, and it’s just up to us to make the most of it.”
Caviness’ success has given her a natural passion for mentoring, as she loves sharing her knowledge of the gaming industry with other young professionals, her truthfulness about the hard work that goes into climbing the ladder being one of her main methods of support.
“I believe that providing people with expectations and challenges helps them prepare for the future and what’s to come,” Caviness says.
She was particularly excited to be named among the Emerging Leaders of Gaming “40 Under 40” Class of 2018-2019, calling the program “an honor that represents hard work and passion for the gaming industry.”
In looking back on her career journey, she offers advice to other eager, young professionals looking to move up. “It’s OK to be patient,” she says, “Listen to the leaders around you, and take chances. Those chances are what provide future opportunities.”