Will, Disney Cruise Line HR manager and Navy veteran, supports crew and discovers his own Disney magic

For some, working for Disney is a life-long dream come true. But for Navy veteran and Disney Cruise Line HR manager Will, it was a fortuitous discovery at a time of transition, healing and change in his life. And in his role, he’s found that supporting crew at sea has aided others just as much as it’s helped him find joy and magic in his own life.

We call that the magic of Disney but also the impact of our amazing crew and leadership creating magic at sea. We asked Will more about his life, career journey from the military to cruise ships, and what everything along the way has taught him about mentoring others and building a profession.


Tell us about yourself! Where are you from and what led to you pursuing a career in HR?

I am from Rhode Island, and I originally started out in the military with a very different job [than I’m in now]. I worked with explosives and small arms. As I progressed in my career, I naturally moved up the ranks and ended up leading people. I found that leading and mentoring people was something I really enjoyed. Additionally, I enjoyed helping people get what they wanted in their careers whether it was to stay in the military, move on to civilian life, or move to a job within the military that they wanted.

Around midway through my career - 10 years in - I decided this was something I knew I would want to do even after retiring [from the military]. I decided to request to permanently change my job to being a Navy counselor which is very much a hybrid between a learning and development manager and an HR manager. I finally ended up doing this as a full-time job during my last years in the Navy, and upon retirement, became an HR business partner with a defense contractor.

How long have you been working with Disney Cruise Line, and what made you want to work with the company?

I have been with the company a year and a half, and there were many reasons I chose Disney. Of course, the brand is a major one. Travel is another. But for me the main two reasons are that, one, I had a nephew pass away at a very young age. He loved Mickey and the gang. So, for me, I felt if I could work for Disney, I can have constant reminders of him around me - something I knew he would have loved. And two, I felt the lifestyle of being in the cruise line industry would mirror something I was accustomed to. Going on contract for months at a time is similar to a deployment cycle. Of course, it’s nothing like a deployment, but it was comforting because it is a lifestyle I am accustomed to.

Part of HR is to ensure a great crew experience. How do you feel you contribute to that experience?

My job is to ensure company policies and procedures are being upheld to the highest standards, but the most important aspect of my job is to take care of our crew. The crew are all away from home for months at a time, and they need to know they have a team of professionals ready to take care of them and look out for their needs.

For me, I view it as simple as getting to know the crew. Know who they are, where they’re from and a bit about them. By doing this I can know if something is off, and I can anticipate their needs. I make it a point to spend at least an hour a day walking around the ship and talking to the crew. Also, I have job shadowed several roles where I actually put on the costume and had a crew member be my leader for a shift. This helped me better understand their needs which in the end helps me be a better HR manager for them.

What is something from you career that you are most proud of?

For me, it really is working for Disney Cruise Line. It’s about the journey. When I was a teenager, I really didn’t know where I would go with life. I took a chance and joined the military, served for two decades, and then took the chance and applied with Disney Cruise Line. So, it’s all of that combined. If you would’ve told me when I was a teenager that I would have a long, successful military career and then work at Disney and be in a position to truly help people during their best and worst days, I am not sure I would have believed it!


What do you enjoy most about working in HR for Disney Cruise Line?

I enjoy the friendships made and the multi-cultural make-up of the HR department. Similar to the military, you just click with people, work with them a while, then go your separate ways. But the next time you work with them, you continue on as if you saw them yesterday.

Also, the culture is just different. People absolutely love the company and product. In no other job can you be missing home or whatever and think to yourself, ‘I am just going to take a walk around the ship’ because you see the kids - and even adults in some cases - looking at the princesses or Mickey and the joy and magic that fills their face. For me it kind of reminds me of my niece and nephew. It’s always something that makes my day better, and I don’t think you will find that anywhere else.

What is something Disney Cruise Line has added to your career that you don’t think you can get anywhere else?

When in the military, I served with people from many different places. Working here is the same. I work with people from all over, but this is different. I learned so much about many different cultures which I feel has made me stronger as a leader, person and HR professional.

How has working for Disney impacted you both personally and professionally?

Personally, it’s helped me with the grieving process. As I mentioned in a previous question, a big part of coming here was to in a way honor my nephew. Being here every day has helped with me being able to not move on but feel the sting a bit less. It’s hard to explain, but it’s helped a lot.

And believe it or not, both personally and professionally, it has helped with the transition from military to civilian. The Disney culture is very different from the military culture. Therefore, when I got here, I had to adapt to that. I worked another job for two years prior to coming here, and it was my first job post-military, but I was a defense contractor, so I was still in the military culture. Luckily, for me I had leaders here and fellow crew that made the transition very smooth.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to pursue a role in HR with Disney Cruise Line?

Just go for it. I never thought I would get a job here. Be yourself and be open about what you bring to the table. Do not assume you don’t have the right background for working in HR on a cruise ship or for Disney. Every person within HR at Disney Cruise Line has a different background, and we all have different skillsets. We all bring something unique to the table and that’s our biggest strength as a collective HR team. You just might be the next person we need, and you might be the one to make a difference for our crew - but you will never know unless you try!

Interested in bringing your human resources career to Disney Cruise Line? Explore roles and apply now to start making magic at sea! And learn more about The Walt Disney Company’s Heroes Work Here, an initiative that reflects the long history of respect and appreciation Disney has for the U.S. Armed Services.