Employee Stories - Mark Dylo
Mark Dylo loves to come to work. No, really.
He still feels the same energy and excitement walking through the doors of Prairie Meadows as he did on his first day over six years ago.
“This place has always called to me,” Mark said. “I love the casino atmosphere — the buzz, the thrill of it. I wanted to be a part of it long before I was.”
Mark had been a conference and events manager at Drake University for several years when he noticed an opening for an Events Coordinator at Prairie Meadows. His interest was instantly piqued. But although he made it through the interview process, the position went to someone else.
“Sometimes the timing just isn’t right,” Mark said. “It didn’t happen for me at that time, but I kept Prairie Meadows on my radar. Just a couple of years later, the position opened up again and I took another chance. I’m so glad I did. I would tell anyone who tries and strikes out to not give up. I’m living proof that you should always try again.”
As a brand-new Prairie Meadows events coordinator, Mark got a crash course in both planning and sales. Once the sales team booked a client, it was up to him to facilitate everything from agendas to audiovisual planning to food and beverage. His intense focus — and willingness to learn — has helped him understand several roles across every department, an education he still cites as priceless.
“I got to know some great people right off the bat,” he said. “Prairie Meadows does a great job with employee retention, so I still get to see many of the people I worked with so closely with when I began my career here.”
Although Mark thrived in his role as Events Coordinator, it didn’t take long before he was ready to spread his wings. Almost two years ago he was promoted to a supervisor position in the Special Events sales office, and a mere eight months later, he became the Special Events manager.
“It was a pretty drastic change in mentality from events coordinator to overseeing the entire process. But I’m so lucky to have a really knowledgeable team,” Mark said. “I’m a collaborator, so listening to and absorbing the experience of people who are great at their jobs is conducive to my process as a manager and the overall success of the team. Our synergy is instrumental in getting us to the next level.”
Mark acknowledges that a steep learning curve can be intimidating, but believes those challenges — and the challenges to come — are necessary for positive growth.
“Our managers, directors, and vice-presidents push us to be better for the greater good,” he said. “It keeps business humming and encourages us to stay invested and interested in what we’re doing. When you wake up in the morning, you want some purpose. And here, you don’t have to go looking for it. It finds you.”
Mark has never shied away from daunting work. Before he moved to Iowa from DeKalb, Ill., he was a nursing student. Mark worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) while going to school and had every intention of working in pediatric oncology. That choice came from personal experience: Over 20 years ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Although healthy today, his experience with the illness prompted his desire to help others.
“I’ve always loved connecting with people and connecting people to others,” he said. “In nursing, you have to have tremendous empathy and be a good listener. And honestly, it’s no different being a manager. To understand great service, you have to understand people first. My nursing experience was paramount to making me the person and leader I am today.”
But while Mark had a lot of pride in his nursing ambitions, he felt distracted by a handful of personal uncertainties. When his brother announced he was moving to Iowa to open a hockey shop with their cousin, he urged Mark to come with him. Mark reevaluated his goals and decided to go for it. The move to West Des Moines opened up an entirely new path for him, not to mention additional family. He met his wife while they both worked for Drake University, and two kids followed shortly thereafter.
And home is where his heart is. When Mark’s not spinning plates making sure an event goes off without a hitch, you’ll find him spending time with his family. And he doesn’t balk at home improvement, either. In addition to getting great personal satisfaction out of being a husband and father, he also loves mowing the lawn.
“I know it sounds weird. But with constant social media chaos and busy work schedules, being able to disconnect is so important and necessary. Mowing the lawn is my way to unplug from the world,” he said. “There’s an order and precision to the task that I just love.”
And, as you’ve probably guessed, order and precision is a hallmark of Mark’s job at Prairie Meadows, too. A seamlessly orchestrated event requires many, many hours of honing in on every finite detail. Yet, he doesn’t consider himself micro-focused on his department.
“I go out of my way to look at things comprehensively,” he said. “That goes far beyond my corner of Prairie Meadows. If I chose to hibernate there, we’d be hitting roadblocks at every turn. Taking a more ‘global’ approach is much more my leadership style.”
Any ambiguity he once felt about making those big changes all those years ago has long since evaporated. Mark knows he’s exactly where he wants and needs to be, both professionally and personally. He’s grateful to be associated with a company that’s keenly focused on its employees, quality service, and giving back to the community.
“Prairie Meadows takes care of people, which is one of the reasons I’m so proud and excited to be a part of it,” Mark said. “Employees know they’re well-taken care of, from good pay to outstanding benefits. It shows in the loyalty and hard work I see every day —not just from my team, but from every department. We want to do our best for Prairie Meadows because Prairie Meadows does its best for us.”
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