Leadership Lessons: Jody Sweet, Vice President of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Recruitment, Diversity & Inclusion and Talent Management

  • Jody Sweet
Leadership Lessons” is a series of interviews with Disney executives who started their career with the company as a participant on the Disney College Program or as a Disney Professional Intern .

 

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 progress to the role you are in now?

When Disney came to interview on my college campus, I knew it was where I wanted to be. I took the role as a College Program participant in merchandise at Epcot, and ever since that time, all I could think about was ‘How do I get back to Disney?’ After I graduated, I started working for Walt Disney World Resort Operations and eventually took on various leadership roles, which resulted in the opportunity for me to assist in the opening of Disneyland Paris. Later on, I became an Operator for Human Resources (HR), so I basically spent half my career in Operations and half in HR. I’ve been here for 31 years, but I would say my Disney journey has really come full circle; I’ll always remember my recruiter.

 

What are some of your key learnings from your time on the Disney College Program?

Service orientation: People are coming from all different worlds, and you are here to provide a really great overall experience. You learn how to lift it all up to a higher purpose. If you get a request, you learn how to solve for it. This has been a transferable skill throughout my entire career. On the College Program I realized that I thrive when serving other people.

The power of the Disney brand: Being a cast member, you are able to interact with guests and peers from so many different cultures who come to experience what Disney has to offer. It was a personally enriching experience that taught me how to appreciate life beyond the U.S. I am so thankful for diversity on the program and being able to live, learn and work with people from so many backgrounds.

 

Can you speak to the importance of networking and making connections during the Disney College Program and/or Professional Internships?

By creating a community of students and/or teammates who partner together to deliver great guest experiences, you help each other succeed. Leaders are also very important partners, and creating those relationships opens a door and bridges a conversation in many different areas later on in life. The College Program is really a community like a family.

In my experience, my leader took personal responsibility for us and truly cared about us. I still keep in touch with the connections I made on the program and even receive annual Christmas greetings from my network of CPs. Our career paths have crossed at different junctures many times and it’s always nice to see how we have all grown and supported each other throughout our careers.

 

Do you think the Disney 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 gave me the opportunity to learn about different cultures, students and guests, and it heightened my awareness/desire to learn more about different perspectives. In terms of dealing with difficult situations, I learned to be really creative and heighten my listening skills so I could take a problem and turn it around. I learned to get to the core of what a person was saying, use my resources to turn a negative situation into a positive one, and throughout it all, be truly sincere in my interactions.

 

Can you go into detail about the importance of teamwork?

Innovation is collaborating together as a team, fostering a sense of community and inviting other people’s input. Celebrating collective success is paramount. I think it’s important to set the team on the higher purpose of what you’re doing. For example, when I would talk to bellmen, I would say ‘Your job is not just carrying luggage, your job is a tour guide for the hotel and carrying bags is just a part of it.’ It’s important to understand all the pieces and roles that go into the higher goal and purpose. Working with a team is energizing and challenging, but ultimately fulfilling.

 

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?

I was working as the Concierge Manager at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and had the opportunity to assist with a guest who was a father with a severely disabled daughter. He had quit his job to care for her full-time and would show her Disney videos every day at home, and her favorite character was Alice. They didn’t have the chance to meet Alice during her meet-and-greet in the park, so I partnered with Entertainment to get Alice to come up to their room where they were staying at the hotel. Although his daughter could not move her body, when Alice came into the room her face completely lit up and you could just tell, she knew. In that moment, I fully understood the magic of Disney, what it meant to people and the happiness it brought to families. It was truly magical.

 

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?

  • Exceptional
  • Optimistic
  • Energizing

 

Do you have any advice for cast members who are currently Professional Interns or on the Disney College Program and are hoping to be in a role similar to yours one day?

Always think about a higher purpose, instead of focusing on the perception of the role you might be in. For me, I started thinking, ‘Okay, so I’m working toward a four-year degree, and I’m just out here selling candies at Epcot.’ But this is the wrong mentality. I was working for a company and a brand that I believed in, and realized I shouldn’t be fixated on the semantics of the position I was in. It’s really about taking stepping stones to the role you want to be in, in the future. Each role has helped contribute to my next one. If I wasn’t on the front lines of service, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now. My service orientation that started during my time as a College Program participant is a huge tenant in my career.

Be relentless, use your networks, own your role and own the next step in your career. It’s important to trust in yourself and be patient.

 

For those interested in learning and advancing their careers, what development tools/resources/books/etc. can you recommend?

In my experience, leaders and networks are the most important development tools. I had to search deep within myself to learn what made me happy. I would leave work thinking about the elements that made the day good or bad and how I could benefit from my learnings. Listen to your internal voice, seek different perspectives from people you value in your life. Career development and personal growth is not a prescription you can read.

 


Amy
AmyDisney Internships & Programs Communications Team
November 13th, 2015|Categories: Testimonials|Tags: , , , , , |Comments Off on Leadership Lessons: Jody Sweet, Vice President of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Recruitment, Diversity & Inclusion and Talent Management