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Oct
1st

Congratulations to our Graduates

Posted by Rachel Kelly
Degree Apprenticeships
This week, some of our team members are graduating after a long few years of lots of hard work. They joined as Graduate Apprentices back in September 2018, whilst studying Digital and Technology Solutions at The University of Sunderland and they're finally completing their studies to begin new, permanent roles with tombola.

Congratulations to Cameron Laing, Kaine Miller and Michael Cooper.

Here their managers tell us why they've loved having the guys as part of their teams.

This week, some of our team members are graduating after a long few years of lots of hard work. They joined as Graduate Apprentices back in September 2018, whilst studying Digital and Technology Solutions at The University of Sunderland and they're finally completing their studies to begin new, permanent roles with tombola.

Congratulations to Cameron Laing, Kaine Miller and Michael Cooper.

Here their managers tell us why they've loved having the guys as part of their teams.

"Cam has been and will continue to be an asset to both the Ops Support team and the tombola family. Cams mains duties in the world of Ops Support has been our account/ equipment provisioning and providing top quality support to our colleagues when needed.

As part of his studies Cam has been working with the team on some automation works for the user account provisioning process to help make this process easier to the team and help in the quick onboarding of our new starters.

I'm sure everyone at some point has been helped by Cam and I look forward to working with Cam for years to come. "
Graeme Orton, Ops Support Manager

"From their first days in the office Michael and Kaine were affectionately referred to as Michael Kaine, inseparable from each other but also there to support each other on their tombola journey.

It didn’t take long though for both Michael and Kaine to show their own personalities and integrate into the team. Although when we realised they hadn’t seen Jurassic Park it made the rest of us feel pretty old.

Within weeks we could see that the pair were going to be a great additional and more than capable of being valuable team members long before they graduated from their apprenticeships. The first major piece of work the pair picked up together was rewriting our Emoji game from javascript to TypeScript.

After this both Michael and Kaine took on projects on their own.

Michael
After starting with Emoji Michael was tasked with helping out on a variety of projects ranging from ticket fetchers to updating our games to help with the release of Sweden and Denmark's suite of arcade games. Michael was also instrumental in the work on Flip to add in the new bonus rounds. Once Flip was live, Michael began work on a new scratch mechanic that unfortunately never saw the light of day due to mechanic issues however his work and attitude on that project was always positive.

Currently Michael is working on our next free game which is scheduled for release in January.

Kaine
The next undertaking for Kaine was working on multiple game rewrites to bring them up to date with our newer tech stack. The list of games he worked on includes spin 1, spin 2, glow and bubble. Kaine then spent some time updating our game lobbies to help accommodate our rapidly expanding suite of games. More recently Kaine helped update the I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! free game.

Currently, Kaine is working on a match and win game. 

The biggest compliment I can pay to both Michael and Kaine during their time at tombola is that after their first few months we didn’t see them as apprentices, they were developers, and more importantly they were members of the team."
Tom Jolly, Game Lead - arcade

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Jul
27th

A big tombola welcome

Posted by Bobbi Temple (L&D)
Induction Group
At tombola we run group Inductions every month to welcome all our new starters and over the last 6 months we have had around 90 people join an induction! In June we had so many people that we had to cover this over two separate sessions.

What a rewarding month June was! It’s been great to see so many new faces joining us, and to see so many teams expanding.

At tombola we run group Inductions every month to welcome all our new starters and over the last 6 months we have had around 90 people join an induction! In June we had so many people that we had to cover this over two separate sessions.

We really try to make our inductions as informative, but fun as possible. Here’s a snapshot of what we cover and the teams who cover all things tombola.

 

Ops Support team

Our Ops Support team give regular support to everyone throughout our business on a daily basis. When someone new joins us the team are on hand to help, whether that's setting up teams, emails, systems etc, basically making sure everyone is ready to go from day one.

 

HR team

The HR team are usually one of the first teams that anyone will speak to when joining us. On top of sorting contracts, carrying out employment checks and setting people up on internal intranet & HR system, the HR team is also on hand to answer questions from new starters and managers in the run up to someone’s first day. The team host a session for our new starters covering who’s who in our people team, as well as some of our great benefits and perks. 

Learning and Development

Our Learning and Development team give our new starters a run down of all thing's tombola covering; our brand, our history, our values, the structure of our departments and much more.

 

Safeplay at tombola

Responsible gambling is at the heart of everything we do at tombola so it's important to us that everyone gets to hear from our Safeplay team as soon as they join. Our new starters are introduced to our tools and features, the importance of Safeplay, the impact this can have on our players and why our teams do what they do.

 

FY22 plans and tombola’s strategy

Our COO James comes along to every induction to host a meet and greet with the group. He also talks through the FY22 plans and our strategy. This helps everyone understand our business objectives and the part we all play in achieving our goals.

 

An introduction to tombola arcade & tombola bingo

Our bingo & arcade teams join us to give our new starters a taste of what our games look like. We’re also introduced to the structure of the teams, important terminology, our brand values and where we sit in the market.

 

Information Security

Our Infosec team come along to make sure our new starters have a solid understanding of all things Information Security and help people know what to do and where to go if they notice anything suspicious.

 

An hour in the life of a Chat Moderator

Everyone who joins us gets the chance to spend some time with our chat team and experience what it’s actually like to be a Chat Moderator. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to see what our player community is like, how we interact with them and the work that goes on behind the scenes. 


We’re always reviewing and finding ways to make the tombola induction experience a great one for everyone that joins. The feedback we receive from our new starters, plays a crucial part in paving the way for any changes or enhancements we make to our induction programme.

 

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Jul
22nd

Diversity in our tech teams

Posted by Krysta Storey
Diversity in our tech teams
Despite our overall workforce being made up of 59% women and non-binary individuals, this isn't always the case within our technology teams. We're therefore committed to ensuring we create equal opportunities within our tech teams to support our goal for a diverse and representative workforce.

Our people are encouraged to be their authentic selves at work and we’re super proud of having a diverse workforce. We really care about diversity and recognise there’s a lot more progress we can make in this area. 
 
Despite our overall workforce being made up of 59% women and non-binary individuals, this isn't always the case within our technology teams. We're therefore committed to ensuring we create equal opportunities within our tech teams to support our goal for a diverse and representative workforce.
 
Recently we celebrated a promotion which meant we have our very first female tech lead. We want to keep building on this and achieve further diversity in our entire tech team and this is why we’re currently working on building an internal Women Support Network which will be inclusive of they/them and she/her. The aim is to empower this group to bring about positive change within tombola.  

We’ve also recently opened our graduate scheme and we think this is an ideal opportunity for more diversity in our tech teams.

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Jun
8th

Application Modernisation Team

Posted by James Conway
Application Modernisation Team
The AMT will be a small virtual team. The team will include our most senior developers and engineers and will also be different people over time depending on the tech being looked at. The AMT members will be responsible for building a strategy and vision collaboratively. Their main focus will be to review the group wide technology landscape and solve group wide technology challenges. The stuff that isn’t owned by a single team.

As mentioned in a previous article about Durable teams tombola has come a long way since its inception.

From a technology perspective there have been many, many achievements that should and have been celebrated. tombola has grown to become quite complex in terms of technology. This increase in complexity is natural in a growing business. It is often required to improve performance or speed of delivery. However, in some places our technology has become unnecessarily complex and is a result of an evolution in many different areas.

It’s easy to look at our technology and look at some of the decisions that have been made with the gift of hindsight and see where another direction might have been better, but I think this does us all a disservice. We have achieved a lot over the years and our technology has helped enable lots of these achievements.

Being critical of our technology is essential though, but only if we turn criticism into positive action. We’re all used to retrospective reviews, whether it be games, payments projects or “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” but we rarely do this with our overall technology landscape at tombola and as tombola grows this starts to cause more and more challenges.

We have several large development teams at tombola, all with their own goals and objectives. It’s important that each team is empowered and enabled to be a distinct unit with complete technical freedom but that comes at a price. This freedom increases the risk that two different development teams solve the same or similar problems in two completely separate ways. This costs tombola time from a development and operational perspective.

This is a common problem in technology and most businesses solve this problem with a separate technology architecture board, or team, that designs all system implementations. In my opinion there are more serious problems with this approach though, such as limiting innovation and restricting ideas to a few select people. This not only limits innovation but also limits ownership.

This technical freedom is quite unique. You don’t see this in many organisations because of the challenges it creates. The benefits are great though. The problem we have now is that the challenges are starting to encroach on the benefits. If we don’t start to consider and retrospectively review our technology landscape soon the balance may start to tip in the wrong direction.

To solve this problem, we are introducing what we are calling “The Application Modernisation Team” (we'll refer to it as AMT).

 

What is the AMT?

We have long felt the need for something that fostered more collaboration and sharing between the tech teams. We have tried things in the past that didn’t work due to a lack of resource or ownership (Technical Innovation Team). 

You can think of the AMT as a Durable Team focused on technology. The AMT will be a small virtual team. The team will include our most senior developers and engineers and will also be different people over time depending on the tech being looked at. The AMT members will be responsible for building a strategy and vision collaboratively. Their main focus will be to review the group wide technology landscape and solve group wide technology challenges. The stuff that isn’t owned by a single team.

 

How will the AMT work?

The AMT will initially spend a lot of time reviewing our platform technology capabilities and collaboratively highlighting capabilities that could be useful to tombola. They will use these highlighted required capabilities to formulate a strategy and plan to deliver these capabilities. They will then be responsible for delivering these capabilities.

 

 

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May
26th

Introducing Meet Free Mornings

Posted by Krysta Storey
Meet Free Mornings
We're introducing Meet Free Mornings on a Thursday each week across the whole business. We hope that this dedicated meeting free time is a chance for our people to really focus on getting things done and be at their very best.

Our people have made us so proud over the last year with how well they have adapted to a new way of working in such unusual circumstances. We know that working from home has brought with it many positives for them, but also many challenges - an increased amount of time in virtual meetings being one of them. After over a year of working this way and listening to feedback from our recent staff survey, we know it's important that we learn and adapt to ensure we’re equipping our people to be at their very best. 

So, from next week we're introducing Meet Free Mornings on a Thursday each week across the whole business. We hope that this dedicated meeting free time is a chance for our people to really focus on getting things done – maybe it’s that thing that's been on their to do list forever or just the opportunity to get away from their screen and come up with ideas, designs or plans.

For those of the team who ordinarily work in the office full time the idea is that we’ll keep this going when we're all back together in the office too. 

This shift in the way we work will hopefully give everyone the opportunity to get uninterrupted time and enable them to be at their very best. 

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May
18th

We've partnered with AWS

Posted by James Conway
AWS
One thing we have is a unique culture around technology. Technology decisions are never “top down”. We make a point in empowering our teams to build solutions in the best way they can using the right tools for the job – and any tool is an option. We have just partnered with AWS to deliver a deep dive training course to almost 50 of our engineers. Everyone gets a place on this course, from our most junior new starters through to our most senior tombola stalwarts.

As mentioned in my previous article on durable teams, over the years tombola has grown significantly. When I joined 7 years ago there were maybe 20 developers looking after 3 territories. Today we have over 150 developers and engineers looking after 6 territories.  

 

Our technology 

From a technology and infrastructure perspective the evolution has been rapid. 3 or 4 years ago we migrated our on-premises infrastructure into AWS. Initially it was a “pick up and shift” exercise and a gradual migration to AWS native services. We have made huge progress and have seen huge benefits being 100% hosted in AWS and we’ve learned a lot along the way. 

 

DevOps? 

One of the big learnings was the cultural shift that being cloud native would cause. One of the most notable shifts was how our developers engaged with the underlying infrastructure. The lines between developers and cloud infrastructure are blurred heavily by AWS. In some cases, there is no distinction.  

This has presented some interesting challenges. Our developers and infrastructure engineers are forced to work in a very collaborative way with automation being key  

Previously our infrastructure engineers would operate largely behind a help desk – “Can I have a new server?”, “Can you open port x?. There wasn’t much crossover between our development and infrastructure teams and likewise with their respective development projects.  

Nowadays our developers and infrastructure engineers form multi-disciplined development squads – everyone is very much closer to the product.  

This is all great for our product. We see much better collaboration and innovation. Much more valuable conversations are being had with an improved open dialog and we have reaped the benefits of this as a business. Because of this, we believe that we, as a business, produce some of the most highly skilled AWS engineers in the region. 

So how do we keep the skill levels and the engagement levels high with our engineers? 

One thing we have is a unique culture around technology. Technology decisions are never “top down”. We make a point in empowering our teams to build solutions in the best way they can using the right tools for the job – and any tool is an option. 

There are lots of benefits in this from a business perspective: 

  • We are always innovating at the front line of technology development.  
  • We have some of the most highly engaged and highly motivated technologists in the region.  
  • Our engineers get huge exposure to the latest tech allowing them to develop and learn quickly. 
  • We have a great working relationship with AWS 

There are, however, some challenges that should be acknowledged: 

  • Our architecture can sometimes fragment 
  • Development of our engineers requires constant investment. 

While we may call these last points “challenges” tombola are happy to invest in and manage these challenges because we believe the benefits hugely outweigh the challenges. 

As an example of how we invest, we have just partnered with AWS to deliver a deep dive training course to almost 50 of our engineers. Everyone gets a place on this course, from our most junior new starters through to our most senior tombola stalwarts. We believe in creating a baseline of knowledge within the organisation. Everyone is trained to a certain extent using broad training initiatives like this one and then personal development is overlaid on a case-by-case basis. This creates a well-documented “minimum” level of knowledge and skill in AWS that can be assumed, along with a common vocabulary. 

We believe there isn’t a better place to be an engineer in the North East. We have a unique technology culture that benefits the business as much as the individual engineers. We’re proud of this. We believe we are a great place to work, whether you’re a principal engineer with years and years of experience or whether you’re a graduate fresh out of university. You will learn and develop at tombola working alongside some of the best engineers in the region, all while being supported by tombola. 

 
Come and join us 

We have exciting plans for growth and are recruiting at all levels of experience to support that, if you would like to consider an opportunity at tombola please take a look our current available roles. 

 

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May
10th

Introducing Durable Teams

Posted by james conway
To prepare ourselves for our ambitious growth plans we are about to introduce some changes to how our developers and product managers work on our platform projects at tombola.

To prepare ourselves for our ambitious growth plans we are about to introduce some changes to how our developers and product managers work on our platform projects at tombola.

We define platform as anything, from a software development perspective, that isn’t a game. This includes things like safeplay tools, player signup, security etc. 

We’re considering this an evolution in how we work rather than a fix or restructure. tombola has achieved LOTS since the days of it being hosted from a couple of old desktop PCs plugged into a dusty cleaning cupboard in the basement of our first office. We love to celebrate this fact but with all of this success and growth we need to acknowledge and be comfortable with the challenges that are presented.

When I joined tombola 7 years ago, slightly wet behind the ears with, probably, more hair ?? , there was one platform development team with maybe 10 platform developers and there were 4 or 5 main stakeholders around the business looking after 3 territories. We mostly fit in one or two rooms so getting the right piece of work done at the right time was a lot simpler. 

Currently we have 3 platform teams totalling more than 40 platform developers, looking after 6 territories (8 if you include the territories we’re due to launch in soon) with stakeholders almost too numerous to count! This poses many challenges for the platform teams, stakeholders and their projects.  

To prepare ourselves for our ambitious growth plans we are about to introduce some changes to how our developers and product managers work on our platform projects at tombola.

platform team

The old way - Projects 

Now is probably a good time to talk about the platform teams project backlog. It’s a bit like A&E on a Saturday night except that the nurses and doctors are platform developers and product managers, and the patients are projects from stakeholders. The patients that aren’t considered emergencies by the nurses and doctors tend to have a ridiculously long wait and because of this some patients don’t even bother turning up to A&E even though they probably should. 

All of our development teams worked in an agile way but agility was limited by a completely un-agile project backlog.

Challenges 

There are numerous challenges presented with how we currently schedule projects: 

Prioritisation 

How do we decide which project is done before the rest of the projects in the queue? Should it be the one that’s been there the longest? The project from the stakeholder that is the most vocal? Or the project with the biggest impact on the business? 

Measuring success 

Because of the sheer number of projects in the backlog the teams never feel comfortable taking time to measure the success of a project when it is launched. There is an implicit pressure to quickly move onto the next project – mainly because of the sheer volume of projects and the length of time some of them have been waiting. 

overview

Resource  

We really don’t like to refer to our people as “resource” but let’s be grown up here. To deliver a project successfully we need developers, infrastructure engineers, designers, testers and product managers and we don’t have infinite numbers of people in our teams. Worse still is the ability for a large important project to consume all of the people we have. A project’s ability to consume the people in the teams is a difficult thing to measure and predict. 

The new way - Durable teams

Durable teams are a way of aligning people with the product that the players see. It is not aligning development resource to specific projects or stakeholders. It’s a collaborative and agile approach to product development that aims to keep ownership and decision making close to the product.

We have divided the non-game side of the tombola product into several areas and in each area we will form a squad. Membership of this squad is going to be durable but not permanent. These are the durable teams.

Reporting lines will not change and the divisions will remain structured in the usual way: 

division overview

How will this help? 

Because we have sliced up the overall product into areas, we think it makes managing the above challenges easier. 

Prioritisation 

Prioritisation becomes much more focused. We no longer have to prioritise certain initiatives in one area of the product against initiatives in another area of the product. 

Measuring Success 

We think durable teams builds in much more ownership of a focused roadmap. There is no more pressure to forget about a recently launched initiative and move onto the next one from the huge raft of ancient projects. Because stakeholders are members of the durable teams, we will have the luxury of having stakeholder engagement baked in from the beginning and we think this will form a culture of continuous improvement. 

Resource 

Durable Teams give us the opportunity to discuss “resource” in a much more focused way. Those all-consuming projects have a much smaller blast radius – only within their product area. We can have conversations about recruiting new people focused in a specific area without impacting the other durable teams. With Durable Teams, we actually hope to lose the word “project” from our vocabulary completely. 

When does Durable Teams start? 

Durable Teams is not something that can be kicked off overnight. We are currently going through a process of mapping business stakeholders with durable teams and fleshing out objectives and roadmaps in each team. I like to think of this process as spinning up the wheels of Durable Teams. 

Phew… 

It should be said that durable teams is a new direction of travel in terms of how we work. It’s the starting point not the final destination. We expect durable teams to evolve significantly. The vision is that we will build a new culture of ownership and collaboration around platform projects. With the following principles in mind: 

  • Focus on group strategy, objectives and KPIs 
  • Maximize ownership 
  • Minimize competition for resource and priority 
  • Reduce the need for signoff 
  • Continuous improvement 

It should also be acknowledged that durable teams will come with its own challenges. We will discover areas or projects that don’t seem to have a home. We think this is a good thing because it forces us to deal with this kind of ambiguity head on. 

It’s an exciting change to how we work full of opportunity and we hope that everyone will see the benefits very soon. 

 

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Mar
18th

Why we’re moving to a hybrid way of working - A message from James Beard, COO.

Posted by James Beard
Last week marked one year of remote working for our permanent office-based staff at tombola. There’s still a lot of debate ongoing around the future of working from offices or remotely, and some technology companies have said they will shift to a new, or different, way of working once the coronavirus crisis is over. The advantages this brings to the tech companies mean a reduced need for real estate investment and infrastructure, and talent can be hired from anywhere in the world. The potential advantage to the people is the reduction of commuting times and a positive impact on work life balance.

Last week marked one year of remote working for our permanent office-based staff at tombola. There’s still a lot of debate ongoing around the future of working from offices or remotely, and some technology companies have said they will shift to a new, or different, way of working once the coronavirus crisis is over.  The advantages this brings to the tech companies mean a reduced need for real estate investment and infrastructure, and talent can be hired from anywhere in the world.  The potential advantage to the people is the reduction of commuting times and a positive impact on work life balance. 

We’re huge believers in the value of “place” in an organisation. We feel when we physically come together it is much more of a shared experience. Those accidental and impromptu meetings, overheard conversations, the impact of body language, mentoring, learning, development and relationship building that goes beyond work is invaluable to the culture of a business.  Then there’s the less tangible aspects of identity, belonging and a visibly shared endeavour. As well as the cultural aspect we’re also very passionate about investment in the North East and we believe there is amazing talent right here on our doorstep. 

Having said that we also recognise that for our people the flexibility and choice that working from home provides is something that they really value. So, after much careful consideration we’ve decided to move to a hybrid model of working for our office-based teams, both in the UK and Europe (our +300 people strong Chat Moderator and Customer Service teams have been working from home for the last 15 years already). This will mean people have the flexibility, if they so wish, to work for up to 2 days from home, with the other 3 days being based in the office. We also want to ensure that when our people are working from the office they have that strong sense of belonging, so we’re ensuring that everyone will continue to have their own dedicated desk which is theirs whether they are in the office or not. We think this new way of working gives a good balance between maintaining the culture of tombola that we’re so incredibly proud of, and what we believe makes us unique, whilst giving people flexibility and choice. 

We’re also going to be looking at ways we can make our existing office environments the best they can be to facilitate this new way of working. 

We have an incredibly passionate and loyal team who ultimately have made us what we are today, so it’s crucial they feel happy and fulfilled at work. We know that having a happy team is key to creating the feel-good factor that helps us be the best we can be as a business. We’ve already been blown away by how our people have adapted to a new way of working in the last year and I’m confident that this hybrid model is a positive change that will help contribute to the continued growth and success of tombola. 

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May
22nd

tombola Wellbeing - Paul Cheetham, Wellbeing Manager.

Posted by mark scott
In light of it being Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, our Wellbeing Manager - Paul Cheetham wanted to let us know what's been going on wellbeing wise within tombola over the past 12 months.

Wellbeing means a lot at tombola.  Not just for Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) but for all year round. 

In the last 12 months we’ve made a heck of a lot of progress towards our aspiration, which is: 

“ To support our people, enabling them to be the best, healthy, version of themselves for life and for work. We want to create a great place to work where our people are given the environment, tools and skills to support and manage their own health and wellbeing”.   

Our team of employee wellbeing advocates have been instrumental in making a real difference for their tombola work mates in many different areas such as financial wellbeing, physical health, nutrition, company culture and finally mental health.  In the last year, their work has led to the introduction of a new 24/7 Employee Assistance support service, the introduction of new flexible features for our holiday benefit and a new financial support partnership, to name but a few things.   

So….on to MHAW…. 

tombolaMind is a big part of our overall wellbeing plans and it felt right to put in place a week-long programme of different activities to promote and normalise people looking after their mental health.   

So what have we been doing?   

There have been a number of blog posts from many of our people, giving each person’s experiences of how they are trying to look after themselves and encouraging people to be kind to others.  We even created our own e-cards to make it easier for people to say thank you! 

We also made sure everyone knew about the main places to go to if they needed help accessing healthcare, counselling, support or information.  

We also managed to secure Mental Health Matters to put on two webinars for our people on emotional resilience which went down really well with our team. 

Our regular online Coffee café, which is our weekly social half hour for people to pop into, was turned into a Kindness café where people shared their tales of lovely things others have done for them and, with a bit of gentle persuasion, also what they had done to be kind to others. 

So, lots of people doing lots of things! 

I love my job as wellbeing manager here at tombola.  Whilst we don’t always get it right, we are certainly putting the effort into making us the best we can be when it comes to wellbeing.  That’s not down to me – it is powered by our people!  Don’t believe me?  Then when don’t you join us and find out for yourself! 

Take care  

Paul 

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May
18th

Starting a new job during a global pandemic!

Posted by james conway
Starting a new job during a global pandemic!
Our new Platform Developer - Sam Johnson, gives us a flavour of his first few weeks in tombola and joining during a global pandemic!

Starting a new job is always daunting. Starting a new job during a global pandemic - that’s just a new level!

Not being able to meet any of my new team, not being in the office and not being able to sample that amazing food at lunch. I knew that starting at tombola was going to be a bit tricky.

The first few days were great to settle the nerves that I had. I was able to meet my new colleagues through teams and it really settled my nerves. Everybody seemed to go out of their way to get in touch and welcome me. My initial days were full of really useful and informative inductions about the history of tombola and how it has become the company it is today.

Something else that really blew me away was how seriously the company values and cares about the safety of the players and how it prioritizes the safety and wellbeing of its players before any profits. The safeplay induction was a great way to understand how the company promotes its players to play safely from the amount of tools that are available so the player can play safety and a whole team dedicated to safeplay.

Overall my first weeks here at tombola have been really great and despite everything that is going on, I already really feel part of the team. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone properly! 

Sam.

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