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Summer Stories – Jacqueline Beato, Harrah's

Fun and work were two words I thought I would never say in the same sentence. This summer proved me wrong. My brief experience with Harrah’s Entertainment made me realize that it was possible to work in an environment that was fun, exciting, engaging, and challenging all at once.

My summer began with a rotation through all the front-line operational units of Harrah’s Joliet Casino & Hotel. I worked dispatching slot hosts for jackpot payouts on a busy Saturday night. I cleaned malfunctioning bill validator machines in the tech shop. I used noisemakers and congratulated winners as a member of our Prize Patrol during a popular promotion. I observed members of the security staff as they settled tense customer disputes. I stood in the table game pits observing player bets and tracking customer behavior. And I watched in awe at the center of our count room as all the day’s earnings were tallied by large sorting machines. It was an exciting two-week period, and I truly gained an in-depth understanding of how the casino business functions from the ground up.

However, the excitement was only just beginning. Week three involved a flight to Las Vegas to the company headquarters for our global intern training. I might be breaking the rules of the old adage “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” but the brief trip to Las Vegas was certainly one of the summer’s high points. The intern class wined and dined with executives and former interns at popular Vegas locales, such as Rao, Voodoo Lounge, Margaritaville and Pure. Our training sessions included interactive meetings with top executives such as Chuck Atwood, the Vice Chairman of Harrah’s Board of Directors. We visited high-roller suites at Caesars Palace and toured the World Series of Poker, two of Harrah’s most world renowned brands. We even broke out into groups to do a competitive shop. My group was given money to eat at the Wynn’s steakhouse and check out the action on their casino floor, where my teammates taught me the excitement of a Craps table.

Despite the good times in Las Vegas, I was happy to return to Joliet and finally dig in to my summer assignments. The projects I worked on spanned the full gamut of the casino’s operations, including analyzing the profitability of making layout changes to the casino floor and designing revenue generating projects for the hotel. I worked on several projects simultaneously, four of which I was able to complete and present to the management team at Joliet. Having more than one project on my plate added to the excitement and engagement I felt at Harrah’s. I was dealing with most major areas of the casino hotel, and I never had to worry about being bored.

Work wasn’t the only thing maintaining my engagement. The culture at Harrah’s Joliet was a perfect fit for me. Employees were friendly, but quick-witted. There was plenty of friendly banter, and people went out of their way to help folks in any way they could. I was also allowed to participate in various training and development courses, such as a two-day diversity workshop and an online Microsoft Access database course. Harrah’s takes employee development very seriously, and I felt fortunate to participate in these training seminars as an intern.

Harrah’s also takes fun very seriously. After all, it is an entertainment company. During my ten week stay I engaged in more than my fair share of entertaining activities. I attempted to dunk members of management during an employee celebration (all the executives took a turn sitting in a dunk tank filled with ice cold water to raise money for charity). I participated in an employee softball tournament held on a professional baseball field. I applauded and laughed during an employee karaoke contest. I attended a luncheon where Harrah’s Joliet was awarded one of “Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For,” as well as an elite award for Employee Engagement. I attended the annual Human Rights Campaign Gala in Chicago, for which Harrah’s is a sponsor, where I saw the performance of a scene from Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity. I handed out playing cards and beads prior to watching a Toby Keith concert. I was treated like VIP at the grand opening of Horseshoe Hammond’s new barge (another Harrah’s property), where I saw Bette Midler perform. And most importantly, I had fun – lots of it.

One of my favorite things about working at a Harrah’s property was the ability to break away from the computer and catapult into an environment where people were having a good time. During my summer, I made it a point to limit the time I spent locked in my office on the computer or the phone. While those moments were very necessary for the success of many of my projects, much of the learning I had took place outside of the four walls of my office. I constantly walked the floor or the offices asking for feedback from long-time employees. I took breaks on certain days of the week to help with promotions and get a feel for what the execution of many of my promotional ideas involved. I entered scores during a slot tournament and dawned promotional gear during a prize giveaway. I had frontline employees read promotional copy I created and asked them what they would pay for the stated services. I constantly asked questions, and I received support from every employee I interacted with. The employee dining room, whose buffet-style dining is to blame for the added pounds on my waste line, was a great place to relax and interact with employees from all areas of the property. The communal dining helped me cement relationships, as well as forge new ones.

My final presentation, the culmination of all my summer work, was a bitter-sweet moment. I was excited to present my work and thank everyone who had helped me achieve my results. However, the summer felt like it had raced by too fast. In the short time I was there, Harrah’s Joliet really made me feel like an important member of the team. My input was always considered, and I never felt lost or forgotten. Most importantly, I met many great people and made plenty of new friends. The culture at Harrah’s Joliet was something I never expected out of an employer. I spent my days with a smile on my face, and Mondays never provoked a grumble. I would be remiss not to thank the entire team at Harrah’s Joliet for making this a truly memorable summer – thank you.

A career in gaming seems a little off the beaten MBA path, and some members of my family still can’t understand why I would give up a career in banking to get my MBA and work as a dealer (despite my efforts to explain I was not dealing cards, that is the only job they associate with a casino). However, I think it is an industry with a wealth of opportunity. There is plenty of data floating around to make the analytical types squeal with excitement (slot volatility, occupancy rates, customer worth, hold percentages, customer trip frequency, customer satisfaction ratings, etc.). There is also an abundance of creative energy to channel, with experiential promotions and customer interactions abounding. For someone looking for variety, analytics, and the opportunity to innovate – Harrah’s has it all.

September 2, 2008
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