Derrick J. Yazzie

Executive Director of Slot Operations

For Derrick Yazzie, Executive Director of Slot Operations, the biggest challenge of his job is having team members understand the importance of what guest services are all about.

“Working with the Navajo Nation, we never had this particular training, but within the gaming industry, guest services are such an important aspect of this industry, because you are working with patrons on a daily basis,” said Yazzie, who has worked with the Navajo Nation for 20 years.

Yazzie’s first job with Navajo Gaming was as a slot technician.

“I came about this position through a friend who notified me of a new gaming enterprise and said now would be a good time to consider this organization,” Yazzie said.

Since then, he has climbed the ladder to Executive Director.

Yazzie said his college years helped prepare him for the positions he has held since leaving school.

“My primary and secondary schooling helped with the basics of grammar, history, mathematics, and science,” he said.

Yazzie lived in several locations on the reservation during his early years, including Fort Defiance, Rough Rock, and Dilkon, Arizona, finally ending up in Tohatchi, New Mexico.

His mother’s clan is Water’s Edge and his dad’s clan is Mexican People. His maternal grandfather’s clan is Bitter Water People and his paternal grandfather’s clan is the Towering House People.

Yazzie is most proud of having the opportunity to move into a leadership position in his current job and develop a team that would grow within the organization.

Yazzie named Paul Hamm as his top mentor in the gaming industry.

“He was our Slot Manager for Fire Rock Navajo Casino,” Yazzie said. “He knew that the people coming into this field would have limited knowledge of the gaming industry so there was a teaching skill that he would need to develop so we could grow and learn the industry. He was deeply knowledgeable and very professional.”

Yazzie said he has learned to work with various software applications such as MS Word and Excel.

“I have learned to work with our Casino Management software,” Yazzie said. “I have also developed my interpersonal skills of communication, empathy, leadership, and commitment to projects.”

Yazzie said he is pleased the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise has an excellent benefit package that is comparable, if not better, than some of the local organizations.

“They have an excellent medical, life, dental, and vision plan as well as a good 401K program,” he said. “NNGE has also developed an excellent training program for all employees. Your training and development begin the first year you are hired. The training programs are continuous, so you are always learning and developing your skills.”

Yazzie appreciates that his executive level allows him to do a lot of traveling and be a part of key projects. He attends training sessions that are necessary to maintain federal regulatory requirements and provide a safe environment for his personnel.

“This position also allows me to enjoy and appreciate my immediate family as well as my grandkids,” he said. “Time spent is minimal, but when I get the chance, I always enjoy the family.”

He also enjoys playing basketball, reading books and learning about the success of others outside the Navajo Nation.

“Finally, I like meeting people in my industry,” he said. “They have so much to offer and they are always there to develop your skills and knowledge.

“My advice to anyone starting with Navajo Gaming Industry is to be patient, to learn, to develop, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be open to various opportunities and learn about the various departments within the NNGE organization. Learn and develop your guest services skills. This skill can take you a long way in your career.”