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40 UNDER 40: Nicole Nollette

Chief of Staff, International Game Technology

40 UNDER 40: Nicole Nollette

Nicole Nollette’s job takes her where few gaming executives under 40 get to go: into the inner sanctum with the top 10 executives of one of the most important companies in the industry.

Nollette is chief of staff at leading slot manufacturer International Game Technology, which means she is responsible for making sure all of CEO Patti Hart’s corporate initiatives get done, on time and on budget. She works with the senior management team—Hart and nine of her closest executives and direct reports—to make sure the nuts and bolts of the corporate engine are in perfect working condition.

In short, Nollette is the executive officer to Hart’s commanding officer—a relationship for which she was prepared, thanks to five years in the U.S. Navy. After serving as a command duty officer in the Pacific—using her oceanography undergraduate training to advise on weather systems to ensure ship safety—and as officer in charge of the team responsible for the safety of military assets—human and otherwise—in the Mediterranean, she received further preparation for her gaming career on Wall Street as an investment banker and as head of her own gin and vodka company.

“To me, the gaming industry is interesting because, like the liquor industry I came from, it’s highly regulated,” Nollette says. “You have to constantly deal with the stress of being able to innovate at the seat of technology but not being able to monetize that because of the regulatory hurdles. I find that challenge very interesting, and unique. You constantly have to come up with creative solutions, and it’s that elegant tension in the gaming industry that I really enjoy.”

She also enjoys being at the center of action at IGT.

“On a daily basis, I work with the nine executives on Patti’s senior team,” Nollette says. “We deal with product issues, we deal with profitability issues, we deal with all kinds of timing issues. We deal with really everything at a very high level. Vendor issues, reaching out to our customers and partners both in North America and overseas, is a large part of the issues we discuss as a team and drive toward a resolution.

“Every day is a new challenge. That’s kind of the blessing and the curse. I certainly enjoy that aspect of my job, but it’s also a challenge, because everything changes every day. The thing that I enjoy is also the most challenging.”

Nollette identifies her first CO in the Navy and Hart as her two most important mentors. “For the past two years since I’ve been at IGT, Patti has been fantastic,” she says, “helping me take the foundation I learned in the Navy and mold it to be an effective leader in the corporate sector.”

Nollette adds that one of the best aspects of her job relates to IGT’s status as an industry leader. “We are fortunate enough to be large enough that any venue that has slot machines is a customer of ours,” she says. “And so, I get to meet so many different people all over the world, and understand the things that are working for them and not working for them. The breadth of the customer base I’m exposed to is absolutely fantastic.”

Her advice to other young leaders is to “keep your goals in mind and not get bogged down in the details. Stay positive, keep your goals in mind.”

Of course, it helps if you land the dream job. Says Nollette, “It’s a really interesting job, with great exposure, and I honestly think I have the best job in the business.”

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.