Sarah Chandler, a junior from Clarkston, Michigan, had the opportunity to intern for a semester in the place where dreams come true. That’s right, she participated in Disney’s Professional Internship Program at Walt Disney World in Orlando. The Industrial Engineering major never imagined getting hired at a large and influential company such as Disney, but she encourages underclassmen to apply to places that seem out of reach because you never know what companies will see in you that you may not see in yourself yet.
Q: What attracted you to the company/position?
A: I have grown up vacationing at Disney World and the older I get, the more amused I am with how they deal with so many guests every day yet still manage to be the “Happiest Place on Earth.” What I didn’t originally realize was how big of an impact industrial engineers had on fulfilling this. At Disney, Industrial Engineers are known as internal consultants of the company and they touch all parts of the parks and resorts. The IE position gave me a glimpse into how Disney operates and it brought new challenges with each day.
Q: Can you tell me a little about what your overall experience was like working there and what your typical day was like?
A: My experience at Disney still seems too good to be true. From technical to professional skills, I learned more than I ever could have imagined. I had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects, some of which I owned from start to finish and others I supported for shorter periods of time. My projects served many different clients among Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and I worked on teams with all levels of Cast. I can’t really say there was a typical day at work because every day brought something different. Some days I was in the office all day in meetings, designing studies, or analyzing data. Other days, I was out somewhere else on the Disney property completing studies.
Q: What were your Disney perks?
A: As a Disney Cast Member, I received discounts on almost all of my purchases from merchandise to food, a main gate admissions pass to all the parks, and some special backstage tours and opportunities.
Q: Did you live on the property? Were there other college interns living/working with you?
A: I did not live on Disney property, I lived in company sponsored housing a few miles off property. I lived with a two other industrial engineering interns and an architecture intern. The neighborhood we lived in housed many other professional interns working at Disney along with permanent residents and families.
Q: Did they have events to help you meet other interns?
A: Because many of us lived in the same neighborhood, it was easy for us to do things together after work or over the weekends. Disney helped us to connect with other interns by putting on several events throughout the semester. Some of these events included renting out Typhoon Lagoon for the interns for a night, a canvas painting party, going to baseball games at ESPN Wide World of Sports, a scavenger hunt at Disney Springs, and intern breakfasts/lunches. While we were at work, all the IE interns sat in the same general area so there was always someone around to talk to or ask for help.
Q: Do you feel that your past internships helped prepare you for this one? If so how?
A: Prior to interning with Disney, I had one internship after my freshman year with a large automotive supplier. Because I had just completed my first year in college, I did not have many technical skills or really an understanding of industrial engineering concepts at all. My first internship exposed me to what it was like to work 40 hours a week, to be the youngest and least experienced one on the team, and the challenges of working for a large company. Stepping into Disney with that experience behind me helped me adjust to the work environment quicker and jump right into project work.
Q: What did this job teach you about yourself?
A: The internship taught me that I am capable of more than I ever thought I was. When I talked to Disney at IR, I was only a sophomore and was enrolled in my first two IE courses. I thought I was crazy to think I was qualified to work for such a large company that is known for efficiency. And even after I started working, a lot of challenges came up, many due to my lack of experience. I took it upon myself to learn new data analytics programs complete my projects and I often stepped out of my comfort zone when doing this.
Q: What career advice would you give to underclassmen?
A: Don’t give up on something because it doesn’t seem realistic. I never thought I would end up as a professional intern with Disney. I didn’t think that I had any particular qualities that set me apart from the thousands of other students that were applying to the same position, but there must have been something. You never know what a company is looking for in a candidate and there may be something unique about you that you don’t realize will set you apart.