No. 58 Best Place to Work in IT: Harrah's Entertainment

IT gets in on the action by creating technologies tuned for casino customers.

High energy. High optimism. Never a dull moment. That's what Maile Keliikoa says she likes best about working at Las Vegas-based resort operator Harrah's Entertainment. The business is running 24/7, "and so are we," says the lead systems analyst.

But that doesn't mean she works all the time. Keliikoa, a nine-year veteran, has earned the flexibility to take time off during the day to watch her 15-year-old daughter's softball games.

Keliikoa works with teams that change every few months. "That's something that attracted me," she says. "There are exciting things to work on, but also opportunities to learn new things." One of those opportunities to learn is an effort to develop systems Harrah's describes as "patron-based technology" that fosters communication with customers through slot machines.

Because IT is core to the gaming business, Keliikoa says she and her peers have access to everyone from "folks on the floor," all the way up to the directors and vice presidents. "That's why we do the best work," she says.

Keliikoa has also taken advantage of a mentoring program that has put her in touch with an executive for coaching, and she's doing some mentoring herself. "From a career perspective it's been tremendous," she says.

Last year was rough, with layoffs and a 5% pay cut. The cut was reversed on Jan. 1, and the business is expanding again. "On any given day, we have more than 15 [job openings] posted," says Tracy Ricketts, director of IT shared services.

Harrah's has several recognition programs. Keliikoa has been honored as a "star performer," a distinction that includes both monetary compensation and dinner event with special recognition by the company's chairman. Harrah's highest honor, the Chairman's Award, went this year to the IT group responsible for showing leadership and innovation when moving a 24/7 data center across the country. "It's quite a thrill to have a winner in IT," says Ricketts.

Kellikoa likes benefits such as the health insurance plan, which include a wellness program that pays 100% of costs, but she especially enjoys the perks of working at a resort operator. "Our properties are located in places that people want to be," and employees get special deals on rooms and show tickets, she says. "I got to lots of different places. I'm not stuck in one location."

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