College Program Alumni Spotlight: Jaonni Riley, College & International Programs Recruitment Coordinator
Meet Jaonni, a coordinator supporting Disney College and International Programs Recruitment. A California native, Jaonni’s Disney journey began on a Disney College Program at the Disneyland® Resort in 2020 and later continued with an additional College Program at Walt Disney World® Resort. After her second College Program, Jaonni went on to do a Disney Internship with College and Campus Programs Recruitment. We met with Jaonni to learn about her experiences with Disney, special moments from her College Program and internship, and advice she has for current and future Disney Program participants.
Why did you choose to pursue a career with Disney?
I chose to pursue a career with Disney because of the limitless opportunities available. When planning my future, I wanted to work for a company that cares for their employees as individuals both in their professional and personal lives. A company that promotes from within. A company that values and prioritizes diversity and inclusion. A company where other like-minded individuals share a passion for the work they do and understand the impact it makes on others and the legacy it leaves behind. A company that I was proud to work for and made me happy. That is Disney.
Growing up in California, going to Disneyland was always a special time with my family that I looked forward to. Something I noticed on our visits is that there were not a lot of people that looked like me working in the parks. I didn’t see this as an obstacle to working for Disney but rather an opportunity to challenge myself to apply for a role and become that representation for someone else.
Tell us about your Disney College Program experience.
I did my first College Program at Disneyland in the spring of 2020 working at California Adventure in merchandise. That was a great experience filled with lots of magical moments. My role in merchandise allowed me to work in many different locations within the park so no two days were the same.
Unfortunately, that experience was cut short, but when the program returned in 2021, I had the opportunity to come to Walt Disney World! On my Disney World program, I worked food and beverage at EPCOT in the Germany Pavilion. Part of my role at the Biergarten Restaurant involved seating and greeting, so I got to interact with guests all the time.
Something I’m really proud of is how far the College Program has come! Seeing the new branding featuring a girl with curly hair like mine and greater representation among participants makes me really excited for where Disney Programs is going. I’m so grateful for the experience I had and to now be part of our continued growth and evolution.
Tell us about your Disney Internship experience?
I was an intern with College and International Program Recruitment. My team is responsible for providing a seamless onboarding experience for participants coming on a Disney Program. I assisted with pushing regular and extension College Program offers, answering participant questions within the Programs Support site, and improving the post-application, pre-arrival communication for new participants.
One of the best things about my internship experience is that I never felt like an intern. Not only did I have responsibilities that contributed to our operation as a whole, but my team felt like a family and they treated me as equal. We all collaborated together despite the difference in seniority. This experience allowed me to learn and grow personally and professionally.
How do you feel your College Program and Disney Intern experiences prepared you for your current role?
Participating on the College Program helped prepare me for my current role because I learned the importance of building a network and maintaining professional relationships. During my Disney Internship, I gained hands-on experience in the Disney recruitment process which are skills that are now critical to my day-to-day responsibilities in my current role. I moved across the country to take risks, learn, and develop outside of my comfort zone, and I believe those opportunities granted me the space to do just that.
What is a highlight from your College Program or Disney Intern experience?
A major highlight and surprise moment from my internship was when I had the unique opportunity to meet The Walt Disney Company Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek; Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Josh D’Amaro; and President of Walt Disney World Resort Jeff Vahle! This was the first time these Disney leaders visited Flamingo Crossings Village, and I had the chance to meet with them and share my experiences.
What really stood out to me about meeting them is that they were all very personable and easy to talk to. This was a great reminder that although they are very well known leaders, they are people just like me. It was also a moment of hope that any current or future College Program participant, including myself, is just as capable of becoming an influential Disney leader someday too.
What are your hopes and goals for your Disney career?
My goal is to constantly learn, grow, and never become too comfortable in any one role. Additionally, I hope to always be in a role that allows me to make a positive impact on someone else. I believe that the sky is truly the limit at The Walt Disney Company and that each role is a stepping stone to the next. I hope to always be challenged and taken out of my comfort zone. There is still so much for me to learn in my current role, but I am excited for where my journey here at Disney will take me.
What advice do you have for current participants hoping to pursue a career with Disney?
- Network! To learn more about roles I was interested in, I organized meet and greets with employees throughout the company to get-to-know them and learn what a day in their role is like. This helped me determine what I was looking for in my next role so I could communicate to my leaders what those interests were. Sharing your interests with your leaders helps them give you direction as you explore roles after your program.
- Say ‘yes’ to every feasible opportunity! You’re only an intern or on a Disney Program for so long, so that gives you the opportunity to learn as much as you can and gain new experiences.
- Be a good thought partner to your team members. You were selected for your role because your leaders saw value in your thoughts and background, so don’t be afraid to voice your opinions! Give your leaders a reminder of what makes you special as this may also motivate them to help you in your next steps – whether it be exploring a new role or staying with your current team.
If you’re ready to begin your Disney journey, now is a great time to do so! There are Disney Internship roles available for the Spring 2023 season. Visit DisneyInterns.com to explore current openings and apply today!
Applications for the Disney College Program are also open! Build the foundation for your Disney career as you create, study, and experience the magic of Walt Disney World® Resort all while making memories with friends from around the world. Click here to apply today!