Matt Nixon serves as a Senior Account Manager for the Global Talent Acquisition Marketing team based in Florida. He began his Disney journey with the Disney College Program driving the monorail at the Walt Disney World Resort in 2003. In his current role, Matt supports all of the Walt Disney International corporate businesses.
In an effort to get the Recruitment Marketing team in Shanghai up and running, Matt has spent the past two years in China leading and training the Shanghai Disneyland Resort Task Force team.
When were you in Shanghai?
Over the past two years, I’ve traveled back and forth – a few months on, a few months off. The majority of the past year has been in China.
How did you get ready for something like that?
I did a lot of reading online about life in China and watched a lot of YouTube videos from expats that live there and travel blogs to see what I should be prepared for. Disney provided a quick introduction to your task force assignment course, so I went to Disney University and that prepared me as well.
What was your most challenging/eye-opening moment?
At the beginning, I came to the realization that though we were going to be running a Disney operation and it should essentially be the same of what we would expect in the U.S., it’s not because it’s being ran in a different country.
You have to learn fast that things are done differently and you have to make accommodations. From the way you do business, to the way you communicate – I learned so much!
What was your most rewarding moment?
During the recruitment process, my team’s job was to drive application flow by having advertising, promotions and marketing messages.
A moment that really hit me as memorable was when we were having test meals at the Toy Story Hotel. All of the security guards, housekeeping, custodial, food and beverage and culinary cast members were saying ‘hello’, and they all had smiles on their faces. It was the most magical Disney experience because all these people had never worked for The Walt Disney Company before.
It’s amazing how all the teams on-boarded them, trained them, and the recruiters hired these people with skills that form into extraordinary Disney cast members. To know that I played a part in getting those people into those roles and now their lives are forever changed…it’s very humbling!
What do you feel like you have gained from this experience?
Every day was a new challenge like I’ve never experienced in the U.S. before, so it gave me added confidence that after doing that project, I can do anything.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the Shanghai Disneyland Resort Task Force/Opening team?
Overall, it’s been an incredible and invaluable experience. This is my first opening team and it’s been an honor. It’s such a cool opportunity – you have to work really hard to be part of the task force, so it was amazing that my leadership supported me to be part of this project.
It’s also cool to open a Disney theme park in an area that has not had a lot of exposure to Disney in the past. Unlike in the U.S., Chinese people have not grown up with as much Disney heritage as we have. So a lot of this is new and it’s going to blow them away, because they’ve never really seen anything like it before.
Share a magical moment from your time in Shanghai.
What a privilege to walk through that park before anyone else could! Our leader took us to the park and showed us where everything was. My breath was taken away whenever we went under the main entrance to the park and entered Mickey Avenue, you can see the castle straight ahead. Even though it was under construction and the castle was off in the distance, you could envision what everything was going to be like. It was just so magical!
What advice would you share with someone interested in being a part of a Task Force/Opening team?
They’re looking for people that have had experience in that field. So work really hard in your current area, learn as much as you can, ask questions to your leader and express to them that you’re interested in the next park, resort, or cruise ship that’s opening, so they have in their head that that’s the kind of development you want—that you want to be able to teach new cast members and share with them all of the knowledge that you’ve acquired in your career.
On the task force we’re all brand ambassadors, Disney legacy holders, and keepers of the magic. We’re all of these things to not only protect the brand and Disney name, but to share it and teach it to everyone else, so we have to be able to demonstrate that.