Alumni Stories – Wendy Runde

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 love school. I wanted to get to work and I wanted to focus on something that had an end in sight. Until landing at Southwest Tech I was lost. My instructor, Lily Long, 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, but if I didn’t, I still had that degree and could always do something different. She made me feel like that was okay. She gave me focus and a feeling that I was on a path to success, whatever that may look like.

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 and after finishing my second internship at Honkamp Krueger I was offered a full-time position to come on board 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 because she was happy where she was but she told me about the call. I thought the position sounded interesting and the thought 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 everything operated. The general manager of the Diamond Jo at that time saw something in me and told me about an opportunity to build a casino in Kansas under our present management company. I agreed and became the assistant director of operations for the Kansas Star casino. My degree was so relevant at that point because I could strengthen what I was already good at in accounting and it also really helped me with what I consider my weakness of organization. I’ve been back in Dubuque at the Diamond Jo as the vice president and general manager for 6.5 years now.

Has it been difficult to take on this role as a woman?

Yes and no. I’ve had people that believed in me and saw opportunities for me that I may not have thought were possible. I think my performance speaks for itself though. I’ve walked into board meetings for organizations I work with where I’m the only female in the room. I definitely sat a little taller and was thoughtful about what I said but I always want to be a strong voice in the room for myself and my team. I’m passionate about putting my best foot forward. I may not be the smartest person in the room but that’s why I work harder or longer than others. I’m determined and I love what I do. I’ve been able to build a lot of positive relationships.

Your community involvement is impressive. What organizations are you currently involved with?

I’m the past chair of the United Way and vice-chair of the Greater Dubuque Development Board. I’m an advisor on the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium board. I serve on the Boys and Girls Club Board, Iowa Gaming and Dubuque Chamber Board as well as Travel Dubuque.

What piece of advice would you offer to young professionals starting out?

My advice for anyone is to be inquisitive. I was always wanting more and always putting my hand in the air and that has served me well in my career.

Original source: Alumni Stories – Wendy Runde

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