When Allison Saillard joined Penn Interactive as a senior project manager, she knew she was taking a gamble.
Headquartered in Center City West, Philadelphia, but with a hybrid remote culture of over 350 employees, the interactive gaming company has made its name in the sports betting and online gambling space — something Saillard knew very little about.
“The industry I was working in before was very female-dominated,” Saillard said. “At Penn Interactive, it’s not just the technology, but the industry of sports betting and casino that is dominated by men.”
Working in compliance and project management, this growing group of women at Penn Interactive have helped launch its app in 11 states in a little over a year, including seven in the past three months alone.
Because each state has different laws pertaining to gambling, understanding and launching a gambling app across the country comes with its own particular set of challenges. The app is slightly different from one state to another, and without the proper communication between internal and external stakeholders, it’s a challenge to tailor-make and launch the app across the country. That’s why compliance and project management hires are essential.
Technical Compliance Manager Mary Obusek helps bridge that internal and external communications gap. She communicates externally with state regulatory bodies, taking their feedback and translating it to the internal engineering team.
“Oftentimes, I’m that conduit or middle person to talk about technical issues to our own internal Penn interactive compliance team and state regulatory bodies who may not understand the technology coming from the engineering side,” said Obusek.
Before Technical Project Manager Dara Good joined Penn Interactive, the product, engineering, and compliance teams were disjointed in many ways, attempting to communicate across siloed departments.
“I think my role came about here because the company and the engineering team at PI was growing so fast,” Good explained. “This role came about to facilitate, streamline, and road map work across teams. So I think that this role is pretty pivotal to filling the gaps that no one anticipates happening.”
Not only has Penn Interactive launched in many states in the past year, but it’s also grown its team, creating an opportunity for more voices in the room to help streamline processes and bring a unique perspective to app development.
Obusek may be an admitted “sports fanatic,” but Good and Saillard’s backgrounds are far from it. It’s that diversity of thought that helps strengthen Penn Interactive’s growth and process as it expands.
“I think we can bring a unique look, whether it’s from a design perspective, product perspective, or even an engineering perspective on how to fix things and what we do,” Obusek said. Online sports betting may skew male, but more women are joining these apps every year (and early research suggests women may even be better at betting). Bringing in different voices in the development phase could also inform the engagement from the end-user.
Penn Interactive encourages a culture of asking questions and learning on the job.
“Culture here at Penn is very open and communicative,” Good said. “People from all different levels throughout the company are constantly asking questions and encouraging collaboration to the point where no one should feel intimidated to ask questions.”
What’s more, Penn Interactive’s growing team of women in compliance and technical project management are expanding what it means to be a woman in a technical role. “Women in tech” doesn’t just mean a woman programmer. Tech-adjacent roles are equally essential in the process.
“I’m not a super technical person, but I love technology and I love being around it — facilitating it,” Saillard said. “I want other women to understand that there is a role for them in whatever aspect it is in technology, there is space for us.”
There’s the oft-cited statistic that women only apply for jobs when they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men apply when they meet just 60%. Just because someone isn’t cranking out lines of code doesn’t mean there isn’t a space for them in a technology role. In fact, Saillard said, her experience has been more about her willingness to learn on the job and ask questions than the skill sets she brought in.
“As long as you are willing to learn and willing to understand ways to improve the experience, then you are a great person to have on the team,” Good said. “That’s something that’s been super attractive to me, not only as a female but also as someone who didn’t have experience in this industry.”