What is your Disney Journey? In other words, how did you get interested in the company, what was your first role, and how did you make it to the role you are in now?
I was a sophomore in college at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga when I first heard about the Disney College Program and got interested in applying. I wanted to wait until I finished college to participate, so I applied my senior year and right after I graduated I came down to Florida to begin as a CP. I was assigned Food and Beverage (F&B) at the Coral Reef restaurant located in Epcot.
After about two weeks of being there one of my leaders approached me and in trying to get to know me, he asked, “Why are you here?” My response was that I wanted to make a career out of working for Disney and planned to become a leader and then eventually retire from the company. He was so surprised I had such a defined plan after only being there for two weeks but was also impressed.
I was given the position of Operations Manager on a Temporary Assignment (TA) before my CP ended, and I’ve been in F&B ever since! I helped open the Princess Breakfast at Norway, then went back to a permanent role working at Coral Reef. My next transition was to California Grill for 3 1/2 years then to Captain’s Grille as a TA Area Leader. Now I am in the permanent position of Area Manager over F&B at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts.
What are some of your key learnings from your time on the College Program?
Show up for work. Seriously, it’s really hard for some people, and it’s so important to show up and do your job on time.
Show passion and dedication in your daily actions. Do whatever you can to have a great attitude. Be the one to say yes and go the extra mile when tasked with a responsibility. Say, “Yes, I’m here for the team.”
Can you speak to the importance of networking and making connections during the College Program and/or Professional Internships?
Learn from other’s experiences and find out what made them successful. Networking is about a give and take. You want to build trust with your connections and establish a good foundation for relationships. You will also create so many friendships and companions just working with people and you’ll be surprised by how you will probably work with people from your “past” at least once more in your time at the company.
Do you still keep in touch with your roommates or friends that you made on the program? Have these connections made an impact on your Disney journey/experience?
I still keep in touch with one of my apartment-mates and we have maintained a strong friendship for the past 13 years. We used to go to the parks together and were interested in the same things like fun, Disney, and living life to the fullest. As we moved on from our time as CP’s we stayed in touch throughout it all. The fact that we lived together and worked together really strengthened our bond.
Do you think the College Program prepared you to deal with difficult situations and overcome obstacles in your personal life or work environments? Can you provide examples?
The College Program gives you valuable work experience that you will take with you throughout your career. You have the ability to work alongside leaders in the field who have experienced everything in the operation and it’s important to learn from their extensive knowledge. Having this work experience on the College Program was crucial for me as it taught me how to manage stressful situations and understand how to manage a wide array of challenges. I learned how to take time to listen and understand, and then seek out solutions.
Can you go into detail about the importance of teamwork?
Make sure your relationships are not just within your line of business but with everyone in the operation. Say hello to everyone when you walk in and go out of your way to make connections across the board. It’s important to stand out in a good way.
When speaking with other cast members, I often hear references to Disney as a family. Do you think this is a good word to describe how people relate to and respect each other as fellow cast members?
I think that word broadly captures the positive, accepting, and incredibly diverse company culture which is beautiful. We all establish a commonality through Disney. It all goes back to trust and building bridges of communication, which can create friendships and strong working relationships.
We often hear talk about “Magical Moments” that occur on property. Can you describe your favorite “magical moment” you experienced during your time working for the company?
A guest named Billy wasn’t able to talk growing up but he enjoyed listening to the Disney music that is played when you are on hold waiting to talk to a cast member at the Disney Reservation Center (DRC), so he would call their number often. In the beginning, Billy wasn’t able to engage with the cast members on the other end of the line, but eventually he started talking. To celebrate this huge step, his family planned a trip to Walt Disney World Resort. The DRC teams from Orlando and Tampa that he had been talking to for years knew he was coming and put together an “unbirthday” (celebrating your birthday on any day that isn’t your birthday, from “Alice in Wonderland”) party for Billy at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. I was a part of bringing this event together and it was so powerful to see Billy embrace the people he had been talking to for so long. Everyone was crying, and Billy’s father said that Disney had saved his family because Billy was now able to communicate, had a desire to leave his house and wanted to interact with others. His father felt that for Billy, talking to the cast members at DRC was like therapy.
When we conduct interviews at different segments, we ask cast members to describe the team they work on in three words. Can you provide us with your personal three?
Do you have any advice for cast members who are currently Professional Interns or on the College Program and are hoping to be in a role similar to yours one day?
Don’t give up. Take every opportunity, and when they ask you to go somewhere for a role, say yes. Try new things out, share your passion, and have confidence in yourself. Always do the best you can. Dedication to your job is very important, so as you grow, understand what you are working towards.
For those interested in learning and advancing their careers, what development tools/resources/books/etc. can you recommend?
- Take a personality test to find your strengths and things that you might need to work on
- Utilize all the resources the College Program provides such as the Disney Learning Center and variety of classes
- Read as much as you can, knowledge is free