Pechanga Resort & Casino

Ronan Urena

steven spotlight

The trees. It was the trees that first captivated Ronan Urena, that first told him he was meant to be here, that told him he was supposed to break out of his Las Vegas comfort zone.

“When I first landed and looked around, I thought ‘Look at all these trees. We don’t have that in Las Vegas,’” he said.

As a result, and because Urena didn’t miss either the trees or the forest of opportunities Pechanga offered, the largest resort/casino on the West Coast had themselves a new front services manager and Urena had a new horizon of opportunities.

“When I first saw Pechanga, I was impressed. I knew where it was, but I didn’t see myself working here until I saw the property,” he said. “In my mind, how was I going to leave the Mecca of hospitality industry in Las Vegas to work at Pechanga? Then, I visited the property a couple of times and realized this place is really impressive. I never knew it existed.”

Urena, who oversees the 160 team members working in valet parking and the bell desk, joined Pechanga in September 2018, after spending six years working his way up and through various Caesars properties in Las Vegas. But it wasn’t only Las Vegas, where Urena migrated to from his native Philippines when he was 11, that made him appreciate trees and greenery.

You don’t see many trees when you’re in the Navy. Urena spent 22 years in the service, performing a variety of duties ranging from Culinary Specialist and Housing Specialist to Regional Recruiting Manager for the Seattle District.

By the time Urena retired as a Chief Petty Officer in 2012, he was faced with the sometimes-tricky challenge of transitioning from military to civilian life. Urena successfully navigated that.

“I connect with a lot of my Navy friends who are transitioning and everyone asks, ‘How does a military member transition to the hospitality industry? It’s adaptability. It’s the mindset,” he said. “It’s boot camp all over again, but it’s the flip side of that. In boot camp, they take you and you learn what it means to be in the military. Here, whatever you learned in the military, you have to take that and look at it from a business sense: how do you add value to your employer?

“The reason why I got the opportunity I got was my boss told me they were looking for the leadership qualities that were instilled in us by the military. I didn’t know about valet parking, I didn’t know about the bellmen, I didn’t know about the front desk. But they always look for the leadership qualities. You can’t coach that.”

This is a lesson Janet Borland, Pechanga’s assistant director for talent acquisition, planning and strategy, has instilled in her charges.

“We’re excited he’s here,” she said. “At Pechanga, we value our veterans and value what they bring to our guests and our team members in terms of leadership and communication.”

And Urena, a married father of four daughters, values the communication at Pechanga as much as he values looking out and seeing the trees ringing the surrounding mountains.

“I always knew you had to network with other department heads, but it’s easier to do here,” he said. “The leadership was one I embraced because when you meet hotel division managers and other department heads, it’s an easy transition here. There’s a chemistry here you don’t find in too many places.”

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