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Sweet Home Chicago

Danielle Kristensen, Vice President of Technology, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures

Sweet Home Chicago

In late 2011, Illinois native Danielle Kristensen was living in Las Vegas when she decided to answer a LinkedIn ad for a position at a gaming tech startup, despite not having any formal experience in the industry. More than a decade later, this happenstance turned out to be the beginning of a fruitful career in gaming, with subsequent stops at Aristocrat, GAN and Raketech.

Kristensen was appointed to her current role as vice president of technology for Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures (MLCV) last summer, where she manages a host of services, including “IT, infrastructure, support, networking, security, and the intricate web of gaming, hospitality and business systems engineering.”

MLCV is the business arm of Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe tribe—in addition to its Grand Casino properties, MLCV also oversees ventures in hospitality, in-district investing and government contracting.

For the year ahead, Kristensen will have her hands full as she looks to navigate “our new world of AI and machine learning” as well as the myriad of “possibilities, challenges and responsibilities that come along with them.” This balance has perhaps never been more important, especially for tribal entities such as MLCV that are concerned not only with growth, but also with sustainability and preservation.

In addition to new possibilities, however, she must also be on the lookout for “ways to leverage our existing solutions” to perform better and more efficiently, which is never an easy task in an uber-competitive world such as gaming.

Despite her expertise with complex technologies and systems, Kristensen notes that in retrospect, the value of human relationships has been perhaps the most important factor in her professional success thus far.

“I learned quickly that the gaming industry is extremely close-knit, and relationships are vital,” she notes. “In this industry, everyone knows everyone. It’s critical to protect and foster relationships, because you are almost certain to come across the same people multiple times in different positions as you progress throughout your career. This is actually one of the things I love most about being in this field, the people I get to work with.”

Similarly, in addition to hard work, her biggest recommendation is to always retain a sense of individuality and authenticity: “You may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s OK. You may stumble and make missteps along your path, but if you stay true to yourself, you’ll end up exactly where you need to be.”

Having returned to the suburbs of Chicago, Kristensen enjoys spending time with her husband and their three young children, as well as the horses and other animals at the Hooved Animal Humane Society of Illinois, where she volunteers.

Jess Marquez is the managing editor of Global Gaming Business. A lifelong Nevadan, Marquez has communications experience across multiple sectors, including local government. Prior to joining GGB, he was the communications and advertising director for a prominent personal injury law firm based in Las Vegas and Seattle. He also founded and hosted The Pair O’Dice Podcast, a weekly show that focused on sports betting news and predictions. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2019 with a B.A. in journalism. Outside of work, Marquez is passionate about professional sports, classic literature and leatherworking.