People Who Inspire Us: Danika Cuero
A few months ago, I got a call from an old friend, John Warkentien. He had read one of our previous Back of House columns and couldn’t wait to tell me about a team member he recently started working with. John had just landed at Golden Acorn Casino in Campo, California. Just one hour east of San Diego, John took on the role of Director of Marketing, after semi-retiring from a casino four times larger in the same market. Golden Acorn provided him with what he’d been looking for in part two of his long gaming career: to help a smaller casino with loads of opportunity get to the next level. He was hired by yet another new transplant, Dr. Samantha McDonald, who had just taken the reins as General Manager.
What the two found was a gem of a resource: Danika Cuero, who held the interim marketing director position and is now their Strategic Marketing Manager. For 11 years, Danika had been the one constant for all things marketing and database throughout several changes in leadership.
She started with the casino in 2009 when she was 19 after applying for a one-year intern position through her Tribe, the Campo Band of Diegueño Mission Indians. She shared, “During that year, you work in just about every casino position. You name it, I’ve done it. It opens your eyes to what the frontline team members really do, and that’s invaluable.”
When she finally landed in marketing, she liked every aspect, especially seeing the numbers and evaluating what was actually contributing to the casino’s bottom line. “Being in such a small property, there would be days that I would host promotions or call bingo; there were so many different jobs and I loved them all.” Soon her interest peaked to learn even more. “There wasn’t a database coordinator at the time, and I always liked numbers, watching play and time on device, so I asked if I could be trained.”
In chatting with Danika, her enthusiasm about learning is off the charts. And her attitude about her previous directors is a positive one, not a negative one as sometimes change and disruption can bring. “I learned something from everyone who has been in that position; it’s been interesting to see how everyone approaches work differently, their values, their ideas, how they view data.”
John has been so impressed with her drive to learn about everything in gaming and the way she relates to people. John added, “Danika is a strong female leader, and will continue to make huge impacts for her Tribe – I’m so impressed by her. She innately understands how to diplomatically handle people at all professional levels and ages. You respect her opinion, whether it is business or personal; she gives solid advice, as well as listens. One of her inherent skills is the ability to garner respect and trust from people; she’s passionate about acquiring all these skill sets across many fields; she’s interested in everything. She’s a good leader, very modest and humble, with a level of humility. She has an innate skill, that she shares with our GM Sam, to break down silo-ism; she works across all areas to get cooperation.”
A mutual fan club exists for Danika as well. “John is a generous and giving man; he doesn’t hesitate to share his knowledge. The ideas he comes up with! Even though he came from a much larger property, he has a way of making those ideas fit into our smaller casino and fit our guests. As a mentor, he’s very positive, and encourages me to be positive as well. I’m inspired to be that creative.”
Working with her GM, she says, “Samantha is very confident and through her confidence, we feel confident. She’s very professional, but still very down-to-earth and I consider her a mentor. We talk about our guests’ play and overinvestment and she’ll ask me, ‘What do you think, Danika?’ She’s great at saying, ‘Let’s test it,’ and going for it guns blazing.”
Danika is also a mom who homeschools, and her partner is also in the gaming industry. When asked that age-old question that really only females get asked, she tells me that, “We make it work; when I’m at home, I’m at home. When I’m at work, I’m focused on work.”
What’s next for Danika? “I want us to be a destination stop; we’re just an hour from San Diego, really in the middle of nowhere. I want people to hear about us and say, ‘This place is amazing.’ I strive to grow the property larger. To add a hotel.” Her next career stop? “I’d like to be the casino’s Director of Marketing!”
Watch out, John, this young woman is already a leader who inspires us – we can’t wait to see where her journey takes her.