As a member of the Wood Mountain Lakota First Nation and direct descendent of Chief Sitting Bull, Jada Yee closely follows his ancestral teachings, believing that, “The circle of life is all about having a reciprocal relationship. You take, you give back.” Yee was taught that when it comes to learning, you learn as much as possible from everyone, no matter what religion and color they are, and in return, you share your teachings to them.
The Earth, he says, “is just one big classroom, and we are all here to learn and share experiences to make a better world for future generations.”
This philosophy of interconnectedness speaks volumes to Yee’s personal experience in the gaming industry, to his commitment to the community and to his loyalty to his longtime employer, SaskGaming.
Regarding his first visit to a casino on a family trip to Reno, Yee recalls, “The crowds of people, the noise of the slot jackpots going off and the exciting atmosphere—I just knew one day I wanted to work at a casino.”
It wasn’t long after that moment that Yee began his career at the early age of 19 for the newly opened Casino Regina in Saskatchewan Province. Starting out as a security officer, Yee took advantage of the many opportunities offered through his company, including the tuition reimbursement program which enabled him to attain his bachelor’s degree in business administration while working full time at the casino. However, Yee’s education didn’t stop there.
Throughout the years, he continued to work his way up the ranks through numerous departments, leading to his current role as food and beverage manager. Yee was fortunate to learn from many great managers along the way, gaining valuable knowledge that allowed him to become a strong and diverse leader.
Yee credits two men in particular for shaping his leadership abilities.
The first was his former CEO Marty Klyne, who taught him the importance of a leader’s employee engagement. Yee recalls how Klyne “would walk through the gaming floor remembering each staff member’s name and the names of their kids. He would do this almost every day, and you could really see the difference it made to the staff.”
As a leader, Yee strives daily to ensure that his staff is fully engaged. To attain that, he believes that a leader must “communicate, inspire, recognize and share in their success.” Overall, Yee describes it as challenging work, but with a reward well worth the effort.
Yee’s current mentor, Bob Crowe, the director of food and beverage at Casino Regina, taught him, among many things, to “always be willing to take risks and encourage innovation.”
Yee believes that a true leader never stops learning. He advises young professionals to always be willing to research new trends in the local, national and global gaming industry, and to find ways to make the casino a better place for staff and guests.
It’s no accident that Yee is devoted to SaskGaming. On the company’s obvious devotion to the community, he says, “SaskGaming understands that to be a leader, you need to make your community stronger.”
Throughout the years, Yee has helped his organization raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society, local food bank and women’s shelters. Yee brings his education and experience full circle, by participating on committees and boards, speaking to youth regarding leadership and, most recently, by teaching gaming and hospitality courses at the university.
A dedicated family man, Yee somehow finds the time to return to the university for his master’s degree. “Early on in my education, I was able to talk with some First Nation elders, and they told me to always keep learning in life,” he says.
He has always kept those words in mind, happily admitting that after 17 years at Casino Regina, he still looks forward to every shift.