For Immediate Release
Contact: Kim Schmelz, External Relations & Alumni Development
Mail: 1800 Bronson Blvd., Fennimore, WI 53809
Date of Release: August 13, 2020
Runde’s path from Southwest Tech to Vice President and General Manager of the Diamond Jo CasinoFennimore -
Wendy Runde is a 1995 Southwest Wisconsin Technical College alumna. After graduating high school she attended two four-year universities and then decided to enroll at Southwest Tech. After graduating with her Associate’s degree in accounting, Runde was hired at the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque, Iowa. After several promotions, she is now the vice president and general manager.
Tell me about your journey to Southwest Tech?
I did well in school, but I didn’t want to attend college simply to prolong the inevitable…life as a working adult. When I graduated from high school, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was eager to get to work and couldn’t wait to add value somewhere, somehow. Until landing at Southwest Tech, I was a bit lost. My instructor, Lily Dall, was very calming and reassuring. She made me feel like I could take the program one day at a time and if I decided I really liked accounting, I could make a career out of it. If I didn’t, I still had that degree and could always do something different. She assured me that my uncertainty was normal and okay. She kept me focused and helped me to see I was on a path to success, whatever that looked like down the road.
You’re the vice president and general manager of the Diamond Jo. What was your career path to get here?
I completed two internships in college. After finishing my second internship at Honkamp Krueger, I was offered a full-time position to join their company after graduation. I accepted and planned to start my career in public accounting. As fate would have it, my mom received a call from a former colleague letting her know that there was an Accounts Payable position open at the Diamond Jo and asked if she would consider it. My mom wasn’t interested in the opportunity, but I overheard the conversation and couldn’t help but be tempted to check it out. I thought the position sounded interesting. The idea of working at a casino at the age of 22 sounded fun and edgy so I asked if it would be okay if I applied for the job. With my mom’s blessing, I went to the interview and was hired on the spot. I knew it was the right fit. I loved every minute of it. I was promoted to staff accountant, then controller then director of finance. In my role as director of finance, I was able to ask a lot of questions in all areas and just be curious as to how and why things operated the way they did. The general manager of the Diamond Jo at that time saw a drive in me and offered me an opportunity to join him in a new role in operations at a then soon-to-be sister property of a casino near Wichita, Kansas. I agreed and became the assistant general manager of operations for the Kansas Star Casino. My degree was so relevant as opening a brand-new property includes an immense effort from an accounting perspective. Processes, internal controls, SOP’s, daily audit worksheets, financial reviews, you name it, it all needed to be set up. It additionally allowed me to help others on my team better understand their financials and forced me to work on a personal weakness which was organization. I was the assistant general manager for three years when an opportunity presented itself back at home. Today, I’m back in Dubuque at the Diamond Jo where my career in gaming began, but now as the vice president and general manager. I’ve been in my current role for seven years and couldn’t be happier. What I’m doing today isn’t directly tied to accounting, but my background paved the way for where I landed.
Has it been difficult to take on this role as a woman?
Yes and no. I’ve had people along the way throughout my career that believed in me, they pushed me to stretch a little farther, and saw opportunities for me that sometimes I maybe didn’t think were possible. I’ve walked into board meetings for organizations I work with where I’m the only female in the room. During those moments, I sit a little taller and am thoughtful about what I say, but I always want to be a strong voice in the room for myself, my team, and women in the workforce. I’m passionate about putting my best foot forward. I believe my performance speaks for itself. I work hard, I’m determined, and I love what I do.
Your community involvement is impressive. What organizations are you currently involved with?
I’m the current chair for Greater Dubuque Development Corporation. I’m the past-chair for the United Way of Dubuque Area Tri-States. I serve on the Boys and Girls Club Board, the Iowa Gaming Association Board, the Dubuque Chamber of Commerce Board as well as treasurer for the Travel Dubuque Board. I’m also on the Advisory Board for National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. As you can see, I don’t like to sit still, and relationships are important to me. Being involved in the community is a great bridge to building meaningful relationships.
What piece of advice would you offer to young professionals starting out?
My advice for anyone starting their career is to be inquisitive. Be hungry for more. Look at hard work today as an investment in your future and most important, love what you do and who you do it with.