For many participants, their College, International or Culinary Program is the beginning of a lifelong career with The Walt Disney Company! This is often an exhilarating time where the future seems filled with endless possibilities. However, we understand that with this overwhelming optimism comes questions of how to navigate the professional world. To help you, we’ve asked a few leaders from around Walt Disney World® Resort property to share some advice on how to make the most of your program and build a bright future with the company!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from another Cast Member?
“’Own it.’ Meaning don’t be afraid to make mistakes. As long as you own your decisions and have reasoning behind them, you will always have the respect of those around you. If you make the wrong choice take it as a lesson learned.” – Lindsay DiPonzio, Guest Experience Manager, Pandora Operations
“Your work place is your garden. If you want the work you produce, your relationships with coworkers or your career to bloom, you need to water it. My Traditions co-facilitator, Chrissy, shared this bit of wisdom with me.” – Sarah Culver, Guest Experience Manager, Liberty Tree Tavern
“One of my old leaders used to always tell me to be ‘firm, fair, and consistent’ in everything you do. Such great advice and it really helped me in learning the basics of Disney leadership. When making tough area decisions each day, I still run my choices through those three filters to help me decide which path to take and to ensure I am being fair to everyone.” – Ryan Geno, Guest Experience Manager, Future World Attractions
“’What got you here, won’t get you there.’ If you want a fruitful career you have to constantly grow and develop your professional skills while continually leveraging your innate abilities.” – Justin Atwood, Sports Event Manager
What is a helpful tip regarding networking in The Walt Disney Company?
“We have so many unique teams on property and learning about which team is right for you is half the battle. Don’t be afraid to reach and out and learn about a line of business you might be interested in.” – Allan Jogiel, Four Keys Basics Manager
“Take initiative. When you are proactive and ask your leadership for more projects and to assist more, that really shows your passion and drive that you have for your role and the company as a whole. Don’t be afraid to take on some new responsibilities and tasks within your area, whether they are big or small, they show you are a driven professional.” – Jessica Zaucha, Housing Event Manager
‘Use your local leaders to help you make connections. Then come prepared with questions and what you hope to gain from the networking experience.’ – Steve Crowston, International Recruitment Manager
If you’ve participated in a Disney program, what was something you learned that has helped you in your career?
“One of my trainers during my program told me to always remember whether you are on-stage or backstage, that someone is looking to you, and your actions and attitude make a difference. Whether it’s to another cast member, a guest that wants to be a cast member one day, and even leaders from all areas of the Resort can and will see you so make sure you put your best-self first.” – Andrew Bosko, Guest Experience Manager, Cinderella’s Royal Table
“To have fun at work while still staying professional. I had some of the most magical and fun shifts of my life back on my College Program, and those moments still carry with me today. No matter how busy or stressful Epcot can be, I always remind myself to stop and enjoy our work and have some laughs. What’s the point of working for the Walt Disney Company if you don’t get to have some fun along the way right?” – Ryan Geno, Guest Experience Manager, Future World Attractions
If you could give one recommendation to a participant on a Disney Program, what would it be?
“Reality is that not every day or every task is going to be glamorous or fun, but those are the days and tasks when you learn the most, push yourself to a new level and show the world what you are truly capable of doing.” – Josh Brasher, Disney University OperationsandTraditions Manager
‘My advice to someone currently on a program would be that the program will be what you make of it. If you are looking to learn a lot, network and apply what you have learned in school to a real role, the opportunities are all there, but you must seek them out. Set goals and intentions early, and make them happen throughout your program. The time will go by faster than you think! – Sarah Culver, Guest Experience Manager, Liberty Tree Tavern
“Network! Strong professional relationships are vital to a successful career. I would not have had half the opportunities I’ve had without building relationships with those that have trusted my work enough to give me a shot.” – Lindsay DiPonzio, Guest Experience Manager, Pandora Operations
“Enjoy your program, it will go by way too fast. But also remember that what you put into your program is exactly what you should expect to get out of it.” – Allan Jogiel, Four Keys Basics Manager
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in applying for a Disney Program?
“Be honest, be open and have fun! It is important that when you are applying and filling out your role check-list that you are honest with yourself. If there is a role you are not interested in and you know you would not be willing to try, make sure your check-list reflects that. That said, be aware that the role you are selected for will not be your role for the rest of your career. Every role offers its own unique blend of challenges and rewards that help to build a solid foundation for a future career, so challenge yourself to stretch your comfort zone and try to see yourself in roles you might not have thought of at first. Finally, no matter what role you are selected for, have fun with it, work hard and be the best you can be!” – Joe Iglecia-Scholl, Housing Administrative Services Manager
“Apply! For me it was life changing! At the time I didn’t know it, and now I am over 10 years into my career. I thought I was applying for a seven-month break from my life, but what I didn’t realize was by applying I ultimately changed the course of my future and looking back I wouldn’t change a thing!” – Valerie Drebsky, Project Manager, Housekeeping and Custodial
“Know that it is an experience that you will take for the rest of your life filled with memories, experience, and many new friendships.” – Andrew Bosko, Guest Experience Manager, Cinderella’s Royal Table
What lesson from a Disney film continues to impact your life today?
“’Just keep swimming!’ Things change all the time and by just making sure you personally hold yourself accountable to being the best cast member you can be at the end of each day then you can make it through anything.” – Steve Crowston, International Recruitment Manager
“’The Lion King’. Don’t dwell on the past. All you can do is learn from it.” – Zachary Jones, Guest Experience Manager, All Star Movies Resort
“The theme of ‘Remember who you are’ from ‘The Lion King’ has always resonated with me. What that means is simply this: Be authentic in all that you do in life. Coming across as genuine and sincere to your fellow Cast Members and guests alike goes a long way in showcasing ‘who you are’ and what qualities you bring to the table each and every day.” – Jeff Hickman, Disney Campus Recruitment Manager
Looking back on your career thus far, what advice would you give to your former self during your first year with the company?
“Strive to be the best in your current role. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have reached your dream job with Disney yet. However, being great certainly will shine a bright spotlight on you in the eyes of your leadership. You want your leaders to be advocates with respect to supporting your growth and development. Yes, networking and pushing yourself to gain additional visibility with other leaders is important. But it really all starts with the support you receive from your existing leaders. And it’s incredible what other growth opportunities this will create for you!” –Jeff Hickman, Disney Campus Recruitment Manager
“Be patient. Your career path is an individualized journey, therefore, you can’t compare your successes and failures to a friends or peers career path.” Justin Atwood, Sports Event Manager
“To realize the mountain in front of you. When I first started with the company, I knew that I wanted to get into a leadership role (the summit of the mountain for me). I was standing at the foot of the mountain. I knew where I wanted to get to, but blocked out the actual mountain. I saw some of my peers get to the summit very quickly (like taking a helicopter to the top!). It does not matter how you get to where you want to be within the company, just know that there is a mountain in front of you. Some people are destined to walk up the mountain and some people are destined to fly to the top of the mountain.” – Zachary Jones, Guest Experience Manager – All Star Movies Resort
“Don’t be afraid to talk to your leaders; they were once in your shoes. They aren’t scary, they’re people!” – Josh Brasher, Disney University OperationsandTraditions Manager
“Be open to where your journey will take you and try not to close any doors. I started in Quick Service Food and Beverage on the College Program and never even knew at that time that my current role existed. I thought I had this master plan to take me to where I thought I wanted to be, but as I learned more about our Company, I saw so many other fantastic opportunities. Now I try to view my ‘master plan’ as more like ‘guidelines’ and keep my eyes open and my ear to the ground to see what is coming my way next.” – Joe Iglecia-Scholl, Housing Administrative Services Manager
Remember that every career starts somewhere and each person has their own unique story to tell! Don’t be afraid to reach out to your leaders to hear how their Disney journey began and what they’ve learned on their path to their current role. Know that your leaders are there to support you as you grow professionally during your Disney program! Once you start reaching out to fellow Cast Members, you’ll realize how much you have in common and how it really is a small world after all.