When Rory Shanahan was completing his undergraduate studies in business administration at the University of Miami, he did not have his sights set on a career in gaming. Shanahan, who currently serves as director of B2B products and marketing, interactive at Scientific Games, came into the industry by chance.
“While looking for a summer job before my final year at the University of Miami, a family friend who worked with a number of casino operators in the Midwest got my name to the Rio, where I ended up as the sole intern with the 2005 World Series of Poker,” explains Shanahan.
With a great introduction into the industry, Shanahan hit the ground running and did not look back. “I was hooked on the industry by the end of my first week at the WSOP,” Shanahan says.
Since his internship with the 2005 WSOP, Shanahan has quickly progressed through the product and marketing channels within the industry. His progression did not come without setbacks, however. During the Great Recession, like many other young professionals, Shanahan was laid off as his department at a previous employer was eliminated due to a merger and subsequent restructuring.
“The recession wasn’t much of a picnic,” recounts Shanahan. “The recession was hitting Vegas full-steam. There was a massive over-supply of casino talent with very few open positions.”
Despite the significant challenge, Shanahan was able to lay the foundation for both his professional and personal life during this time period. “It turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” says Shanahan. “The recession drew me to Chicago and to the supply side of the industry, where I’ve seen the bulk of my professional growth and met my lovely wife.”
Working at WMS Gaming in Chicago, Shanahan rose quickly through the marketing ranks and helped grow the division that became SG Interactive when WMS was acquired by Scientific Games.
When considering his professional and personal mentors within the gaming industry, Shanahan says countless people come to mind—a good problem to have.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate the past 10 years to work with many great mentors in this industry,” explains Shanahan. “Too many to mention in any great detail.”
From his early career, Shanahan names Nolan Dalla, Gary Thompson, and Dawn Petrick—with whom he worked with at WSOP and Harrah’s Entertainment—as people who helped instill a passion for gaming. In more recent years, Shanahan values the guidance he receives from the leadership team of Scientific Games’ Interactive division—Jordan Levin, Bob Hays and Tom Wood.
“Each has a dedication to our teams and the culture we continue to build,” says Shanahan. “I’ve learned a ton in the past three years and continue to learn daily about both business leadership and product strategy from them.”
Shanahan believes the quality that has best served him throughout his career in gaming is the fact he is “truly passionate about the industry, its future, and the value we create.” His advice for young leaders in the industry is to, first, determine whether or not you truly are passionate about gaming.
“If you’re getting started in the industry and you find it’s something for which you have a passion, then all the cliches apply,” says Shanahan. “Never stop learning, try to understand as many sides of the industry as possible, and do your best to understand player motivations.”
Additionally, Shanahan stresses the importance of understanding the player experience—“not just winning or losing—but win or lose, if the experience was entertaining,” explains Shanahan. “That’s what we do, no matter supply, casino or lottery side in this industry—we create entertainment experiences”