New year, new Walt Disney World Resort Ambassadors! We caught up with Ken Facey at the iconic Ambassadors lounge in Team Disney to learn more about his Disney journey. The Ambassador Program began over 50 years ago and is steeped in Disney heritage and tradition. Walt Disney created the program during the Disneyland Tencennial celebration, when he selected a cast member to represent the resort at public appearances during the celebration.
His Disney Journey
Ken’s story, began when he was seven years old. He would watch Walt Disney World’s 15th birthday celebration over and over, and beg his mom to take him to visit. When she finally agreed and they made the drive from Brooklyn, NY to Orlando, he was overjoyed. He vividly remembers being on Main Street, U.S.A. and becoming enthralled watching a cast member’s interaction with a family. He says the cast member excused himself and came back with a delivery. Ken recalls the way the family looked at the cast member, “It was like a hero being born.” That one moment made an impact on, not only his vacation, but his life.
Later, he asked his mother if he could work at Walt Disney World when he was older, and she responded by purchasing his first book about Walt Disney. He read it thousands of times, further igniting his passion for the company and cementing his life-long dream of becoming a Walt Disney World cast member. The second love of his life was music, so when it came time to go to college, he studied the science of music, music performance and composition.
When he finished his degree, he started the Disney College Program – and fell in love with being a cast member. During his time on the program, he worked at Tomorrowland attractions. At the completion of his program, he wanted nothing more than to stay a full-time cast member. Since that time, he’s worked a variety of roles and locations including Casey’s Corner, Main Street Operations, Frontierland, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror & Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith, Guest Relations and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. In 2015, he was chosen to be a Traditions facilitator and helped welcome over 5,000 cast members to the company.
Disney College Program, from Ken’s Perspective
Two of the biggest things he learned from the Disney College Program were camaraderie and vulnerability. Camaraderie because, while everyone comes from a different background and decides to do the program for different reasons, everyone is going through it together and experiencing similar things. When Ken worked in Tomorrowland, he and his College Program co-workers would take on challenging situations together – and he valued those moments. Vulnerability is the courage to take the risk and go to a class, network with different people within the company, and more, so that you can find your passion.
Importance of Networking
Networking is extremely important, because, at the end of the day, it’s all about the impression you left on somebody, the impression they left on you and how you connect. It’s being vulnerable and stepping outside of that box of your everyday operation to ask your leaders about their journeys, backgrounds and more. It’s through those conversations that you’ll begin to learn more about the operation. They can also connect you to cast members outside of your operation. When you make connections, always keep their names and be appreciative of their time. They’re giving you their time to teach you more about the company! Always email them a sincere “Thank You!” following your meeting and remain connected with them through the years. When he became an ambassador, Ken received a “Congratulations!” card in the mail from someone he met on the Disney College Program!
Learning to Handle Difficult Situations
Ken’s leaders wanted him to get the most out of his program, and learning how to interact with people and make tough decisions was a part of that. When he ran into sticky situations at his attraction, his leaders would give him options and give him the opportunity to make the call. That was a skillset he didn’t believe he had until the College Program. Even to this day, when he runs into challenges, he takes a step back to evaluate the options.
If He Could Go Back…
In hindsight, Ken wishes he would have spent more time with his roommates and friends around Disney Housing. While he was working, his roommates made many memories together that he wasn’t a part of. You’ll never be able to recreate those moments, so take advantage of them while you can!
Walt Disney World cast members often experience or create “magical moments” for guests. One such moment, which fatefully changed Ken’s journey, occurred while he was in the Guest Correspondent Associate role. In this role, he would read letters about incredible experiences and reply on behalf of the Walt Disney World Resort. In one letter, a guest shared that she had saved up all her money to travel to the resort with her mother. For one reason or another, her mother couldn’t make it and though devastated, she made the trip anyway. She felt down and lonely, but the way the Housekeeper made her bed reminded her of the way her mother used to make her bed. This simple thing put her at ease. After reading the letter, Ken recalls making the trip to meet the mentioned Housekeeper and her leader. Because of that moment, Ken made his way into a Housekeeping leader role at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
Joining the Traditions Team
“Traditions is just so special,” Ken said, “I can’t even really sum it up in words.”
During his time on the Traditions team, Ken felt the pressure of the role. “When you’re facilitating the class,” he shared, “you realize that you are sharing that Disney brand with people who are going to continue the legacy of this company. These people are heroes.”
He appreciates the hard work and dedication of Traditions cast members to this day, going as far as to say that they embody what it means to be a cast member. He also made lifelong friends on the team – including Brandon Peters, his co-ambassador. He was a peer mentor for Brandon’s first Traditions class, and it was one of his last. It really is “a small world after all!”
Describe Your Team in 3 Words
Supportive, Incredible, Unpredictable
Words of Wisdom
Ken is full of wisdom and advice, but one thing he stressed was never giving up. He attributes his success and movement throughout the company to his positive attitude and unwillingness to give up. Though he wasn’t always exactly where he wanted to be, he knew, “the meaning behind the nametag and the impact that it could have” on guests and fellow cast members. He encourages those in roles that may not be their end goal to take full advantage of it. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn, so keep your eyes open and a smile on your face. The advice he gave to the 2016 Traditions team was “Don’t blink in a moment because it’s over.”
“On the Disney College Program, there will be times where it will be challenging,” he cautioned, “but you’re making a memory – something so precious in life…Just breathe it all in, take advantage of it, ask questions and never be afraid.”