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Science Meets Gaming

Brian Wyman, Senior Vice President, The Innovation Group

Science Meets Gaming

Brian Wyman is currently senior vice president of operations and data analytics and a partner of The Innovation Group, where he leads operational efforts as well as the data analytics group. With a Ph.D. in mathematics, Wyman gained experience in machine learning and predictive modeling while working on Wall Street. He envisions the gaming industry becoming much more tech-oriented and scientific in the way it operates.

“Advanced analytics will have a considerable impact on the way we lay out our slot floors, purchase product, choose hold settings and send offers and messages to guests,” he says. “But it will also help us manage our floors and businesses efficiently, learning the things guests find most important so we can make the best use of our labor. I expect to see a huge transformation in the way casino resorts are managed in the coming years. You can see the beginnings of this already.”

Wyman joined the industry seven years ago, making the leap from a highly technical Wall Street role to a management position at Pinnacle Entertainment, where he oversaw gaming and marketing analytics.

“I wanted to continue my own growth,” he explains. “It was a real eye-opener to go from working day-to-day with 20 Ph.D. scientists to managing a diverse team and interacting with the C-suite of a publicly traded company.”

Wyman says it was a significant learning experience, particularly navigating the politics and relationships. “I think a lot of people from the scientific community expect a complete meritocracy, that everyone will be judged solely on ideas and work product, and that the best ideas will always win,” he observes. “There’s a lot more to it than that, and I think this frustrates a lot of talented young people.” Wyman says he’s most proud of bridging that gap, moving the needle financially while keeping high-performing analysts motivated and engaged.

Wyman notes two key mentors to his success. Dave Clark, his first boss in the industry, saw the potential in bringing an industry outsider into a key role. Wyman says Clark helped him understand the social and political challenges of his new roles, as well as how to adapt to the nuances of a new industry. He also heavily credits former colleague Geoff Goodman, also an Emerging Leaders of Gaming 40 Under 40 member and Clark’s replacement. According to Wyman, “Geoff’s and Dave’s styles couldn’t be more different, even though they were both brilliant and effective. Their different approaches really shaped the way I do my job today.” Their leadership and Wyman’s intuitive, hard-working and self-driven nature were a perfect combination for success.

Now a partner at The Innovation Group, Wyman has achieved a notable level of success, but is not someone to steal the spotlight. He’s quick to point out how much he learns from everyone around him—clients, partners, friends and mentors.

“I’m not the most creative person, but I really think hard about what other people say. Whether it’s clients, coworkers or anyone else, I try to internalize and understand others’ viewpoints. Their perspective provides a lot of balance to my own approach and thoughts. I am much, much smarter and more effective thanks to them.”

Gaming can be a truly difficult industry unless you love it. Wyman offers some advice to young up-and-coming professionals in the industry.

“It goes without saying that you’ll need to work hard, be visible and make sure your work is solid. But in order to have a great career, you also need to be proactive in your role—don’t wait to be told what to do!—and build relationships. Your network is the most important asset you have. Nurture and build it thoughtfully and authentically. Oh, and don’t burn any bridges. It’s a really small industry.”

As for the 40 Under 40 award itself, Wyman has been a part of interviewing recipients and writing their profiles for several years. Still, when asked what it felt like to be on the other side of the table, he states, “It’s really an incredible honor, and it’s a testament to the really talented teams I’ve had the good fortune to work with for my whole career. I’m really humbled.”

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