Nestled in the heart of downtown Seattle, just steps away from the iconic Pike Place Market known for coffee, fresh produce, flying fish, and bright bouquets, is a large office of Disney technology employees – including interns! That’s right; Disney has an office in Seattle! Over 1,000 employees comprise multiple floors of the building on 4th and Madison, working on everything Disney tech, from the content management systems for StarWars.com to back end cybersecurity.
I sat down with three former interns: Brittney Hoy, associate software engineer; Kara Griffin, associate UI engineer; and Sierra Acy, associate engineer. We talked about their experience as interns and the creative, collaborative culture of Disney Seattle.
Let’s start with the basics! Are you currently working in the same areas you were when you were interns? And if not, where and when did you intern?
BH: Yes! In fact, I’m with the same team that I interned for: Unified Messaging!
SA: Kind of like Kara, I did three different internships, each on a different team on a very different project. My first internship was on the messaging team, and my second internship was on the emerging technology team the following summer where I worked with another intern on an internet of things project using motion sensors to help employees determine which conference rooms are free at the moment and which are in use. Then, I started my third internship right after I graduated, on the content management systems team where I am now a full-time employee. My internship project was to create a brand new UI for a project. Even now, the work I do on the CMS team is completely different from what I did during the internship.
When I think of Disney, I don’t necessarily think of Seattle right away. But, Seattle does make me think of the tech industry. Do you think that there is a real feeling of tech in the Seattle office? What makes it stand out?
SA: There is definitely a feeling of tech in the Seattle office! We are almost exclusively a technology office and are full of engineers and people with technology-focused backgrounds and specialties. We organize and participate in Hack Weeks to help foster creativity and innovation. Teams here work on projects that support every segment of the company, and because of that we are one of the few Disney offices that gets to collaborate with every other segment of the company. Even just within our building we have ESPN, ABC, Parks and Resorts, Enterprise Technology, Lucasfilm, and Marvel, and just down the street from us is a small segment of Pixar. We get to have a unique insight into the needs and inner workings of each business unit.
KG: I have actually met a couple awesome mentors that aren’t even on my team because of how many different business units there are in our office. One is a manager with OTV and the other is on the content management team in enterprise technology.
BH: It’s cool because we do lots of fun things to promote our tech and what we’re working on by hosting events such as TechVive (a week long hackathon), Tech Social (where teams would set up a booth to present what they have been working on), AWS Game Day (competition based off of AWS knowledge), and more. Although these events may exist in other Disney offices, since the Seattle office is relatively small, it brings the community together as we get to know each other.
So, what made you want to continue your career at Disney, and specifically in the Seattle office post-internship?
BH: My team has great mentors that I am always learning from, and the work was interesting! I made friends from my internship cohort where we got converted to full-time roles, and are much closer now than we were before. Really, it’s the people in the Seattle office that made my experience so magical.
KG: I think what really made me want to stay was the people and the culture at Disney. The Disney brand is all about the family, and I feel like that’s how they treat their employees.
SA: As soon as I saw Disney at the career fair in college, I knew that’s where I wanted to work, and my internships only reinforced that. I’m from Texas originally, so moving to Seattle for my internship was the first time I had ever lived out of state and far away from all of my friends and family, and I was pretty terrified. Once I got to work, everyone was so friendly and incredibly eager to help me out in any way that they could. I felt very welcome and like people were genuinely happy to see and work with me every day. The really positive attitudes and knowledge that there is always someone here happy to help and support me, and the overall “Disney-ness” of the environment made it a no-brainer to pursue a full-time position with Disney.
What are the biggest lessons learned during your internship that still guide you today?
BH: First, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Try your best to ask very specific and focused question rather than just saying “I need help.” In the interest of time, it’s best to ask an expert for help so you can learn and solve a problem quickly rather than struggling by yourself for a long time. Secondly, make the effort to attend the events that happen at your office! They’re fun, and you’d never know who you might meet that may change your life.
SA: Ask questions! I have always been pretty shy, so learning to ask questions early and often was a huge lesson. It can feel like you’re wasting people’s time when you ask a lot of questions, but in the end, it really saves everyone time. The other side of this lesson is learning when to ask someone else and when you can figure it out on your own by searching online or reading documentation. Sometimes it’s good to struggle with a problem for a little bit, but you don’t want to wait too long before asking for help.
Any final words of wisdom for students out there applying to tech internships at Disney?
KG: Take advantage of any and all networking opportunities that come your way. Whether that’s in your internship and getting to know people on your team or at career fairs and making those relationships with recruiters.
BH: At its core, Disney is all about storytelling. Be sure to spend some time shaping your resume to tell your story. It’s okay to not know everything that’s in the job description, but it’s important to show your potential and that you’re willing to learn. Apply!
If you’re interested in joining Brittney, Kara and Sierra on a Disney technology team, you can learn more about the technology opportunities at Disney at DisneyTech.com!