The University of Rhode Island has many notable alumni, one of them being Rachel Barber, the senior vice president at International Gaming Technologies, primarily known as IGT.
The company manufactures slot machines and games that reside in casinos. Barber graduated from URI in 1991 with a degree in computer science. She was confident in her studies of computer science until an internship junior year. Barber and a few of her classmates landed an internship that made Barber question her desire to be a computer science major.
Barber’s friends were placed into another program at the internship, where they got to do hands-on work. However, she got stuck being an assistant. This negative internship experience created uncertainty for Barber, as she did not know if computer science was for her.
When speaking to her advisors about potentially changing her major during her junior year, they informed her that she would have to graduate a year later to meet the course requirements. This led her to select a minor in management information systems, which focuses on the business side of computer science. When speaking with her academic advisor, they encouraged her to go back to the internship and tell them what she didn’t like about it. This strengthened Barber’s confidence to speak up for herself, which helped her later on in her career.
Barber told a story about how she stood out in her interviews. At the time, Barber’s mother was a state senator in Rhode Island. Her mother introduced her to IGT. When Barber was being interviewed, the interviewer told her that the position she was being offered was only an entry-level position.
“I felt disappointed because I could do so much more than what I was being offered,” Barber said.
With the confidence that she gained from speaking up at her internship, Barber told the interviewer that this position was not something that she wanted to do. The interviewer left the room and came back with a stack of papers. He told Barber that he would return in 20 minutes and that the papers needed to be completed. Surely, 20 minutes was not remotely enough time to complete this task. However, Barber got straight to work. The interviewer returned and Barber apologized for not finishing the papers. Little did she know that she would be hired for a more experienced position.
“They are looking for the type of person you are,” Barber said.
Years later, she realized that the interviewer wasn’t looking for her to actually finish the papers, he was looking to see how she reacted under pressure, and how she handled a task like that.
Surely after working at the same company for 30 years, life lessons are bound to be learned. One life lesson that Barber shared was that she came to realize that it is ok to be yourself. Even though she was comfortable at her job, she was one of the only women in her department. Early on working at IGT, Barber found herself mimicking who she saw was successful, which were the men in her department.
She found that trying to be someone else caused her to struggle in her projects. Although these men had their successes, Barber also had her own unique set of tools to make her stand out. It was when she realized her authenticity was a strength that she too saw herself being successful. Barber transitioned quite easily from college life to career life. She mentioned that she worked all throughout high school and college, she knew working was something she was going to have to do.
“I don’t remember it [the transition] being difficult, I remember it being really exciting,” Barber said.
The next time you see a slot machine, remember that Barber was most successful when she was authentic to herself.