Tips for Beginning a Disney Career

With the May 3 deadline for applying to work at Walt Disney World through the Fall 2024 Disney College Program quickly approaching, we thought it’d be a perfect time to share a few secrets of success from seven of the thousands of Disney executives and leaders who have their dream careers after starting as interns.

Disney Programs like the Disney College Program have led cast members to career opportunities throughout all areas of Disney, from theme parks to entertainment to sports and beyond, and it could be the start of your dream career, too!

Debbie Hart, Vice President, Food & Beverage and Merchandise Lines of Business, Walt Disney World
Debbie Hart, Vice President, Food & Beverage and Merchandise Lines of Business, Walt Disney World

Years at Disney: 33

First role: Merchandise Hostess in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park

Favorite part of her internship: “I have so many favorites, including:

  • Meeting people and making friends from all over the world – literally!
  • Learning guest service and delivering hospitality that is above and beyond.
  • Embracing the power of our Disney brand and ensuring we deliver magical and memorable experiences.
  • Having FUN and discovering that work can be joyful when you are able to do what you LOVE!”

Why she loves working at Disney: “It really is the Disney Difference. There are so many benefits to being a cast member, including career opportunities, cast discounts, wellness offerings and of course the lifelong friendships we make along the way.”

Advice to future interns: “Enjoy every moment. Adventure is in front of you and Disney is full of opportunity, you are the author of your Disney story – your story can be more than you ever dreamed. Dream BIG!”

Audrey Hauser, Controls Software Development Principal, Walt Disney Imagineering - pictured with first role
Audrey Hauser, Controls Software Development Principal, Walt Disney Imagineering

Years at Disney: 7

First role: Fairy Godmother in Training at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Favorite part of her internships: “I learned how our frontline operations work, which helps me now when I’m developing software for new attractions. I also had access to intern programs that broadened my network and introduced me to areas of engineering within Disney that I never would’ve known about.”

Why she loves working at Disney: “I’ve always been interested in technology and engineering as well as art, and at Disney I can do both. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway was the first big new attraction that I worked on; I’d always dreamed of working with our Audio-Animatronics figures, and helping bring Mickey’s first ride to life was a dream come true.”

Advice to future interns: “Once you have your foot in the door, you’ll have so many opportunities to network and learn about other roles. Reach out to people, because nine times out of ten, they’re going to be willing to talk to you.”

Ketan Sardeshmukh, Director, Transportation Operations, Walt Disney World - pictured with first role
Ketan Sardeshmukh, Director, Transportation Operations, Walt Disney World

Years at Disney: 18

First role: Industrial Engineering Intern

Favorite part of his internship: “I spent so much time getting to know others and learning how important this company is to so many people. Living in the program housing felt a lot like dorm life, too, which I loved.”

Why he loves working at Disney: “I love being on teams and working together to figure out how we can solve problems — we get to do that all the time and that’s why I’ve stayed here for over 20 years.”

Advice to future interns: “Understand what a good job is and try your best to do it. If I had just gone through the motions instead of fully embracing the thing I was being asked to do and everything around me, I don’t think I would’ve learned the things that I was supposed to learn.”

Ronke Olatunji, Senior Manager, Groups Events and Services, Disney Cruise Line - pictured with first role
Ronke Olatunji, Senior Manager, Groups Events and Services, Disney Cruise Line

Years at Disney: 20

First role: Front Desk Hostess at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Favorite part of her internship: “I love the College Program! It gave me a career I didn’t even know was possible and experiences I didn’t know I could have. I’ve had a lot of only-at-Disney moments. I even took classes and earned my ‘ducktorate’.”

Why she loves working at Disney: “I get to show up in a space with people that want to be around me and each other. Disney has allowed me to just be my true self, and I’m appreciated for it.”

Advice to future interns: “I learned very quickly to not put any limitations on yourself, because you don’t know what you don’t know. The great thing about our organization is if you are inquisitive and you ask questions, people will help you.

Punam Dayabhai-Jairambhai, Director, Premium Services, Walt Disney World - pictured along with Disney College Program photo
Punam Dayabhai-Jairambhai, Director, Premium Services, Walt Disney World

Years with Disney: 25

First role: Merchandise and Outdoor Vending Hostess in the United Kingdom Pavilion at EPCOT

Favorite part of her internship: “Living and working together with people from all over the world! I can honestly say those connections will last you a lifetime. You create deep-rooted friendships. And on your days off, you get to experience the theme parks yourself, and then you get to tell people about that. You’re learning about the product and having fun at the same time.”

Why she loves working at Disney: “I’ve been able to raise my hand for things. This is an amazing company where you can learn to do different things and not be boxed into one specific type of role. You just have to put in the effort and show the curiosity and courage to say ‘I want to learn and do more.’

Advice to future interns: “Learn as much as you can. Grow. Embrace every experience and build those great relationships. The brand you start creating for yourself now will follow you wherever you go, whether you stay with this company or go elsewhere.”

Sarah Riles, Vice President, Magic Kingdom Park
Sarah Riles, Vice President, Magic Kingdom Park

Years at Disney: 25

First role: Industrial Engineering Intern

Favorite part of her internship: “When I came to Disney to do my internship, I didn’t know anyone, I had never been to Orlando and I had never been to Disney, so I felt completely overwhelmed. Thankfully, I quickly realized what an incredible opportunity I had and loved it so much I made the decision to extend my internship. I met so many people who I’m still friends with today and best of all, I realized I could do what I love for a company that I love.”

Why she loves working at Disney: “Disney is a big company with endless opportunities. It’s a company with a welcoming culture that allows you to find your passion, gain new experiences and meet inspiring people along the way.”

Advice for future interns: “You all bring a fresh perspective, excitement for learning and a passion for our brand. No matter what role you are in, you’ll learn how to serve others, solve problems, be a leader amongst your peers and provide the best guest service. Work hard, have fun, and make memories and connections. No matter whether you continue to work here or go on to do other things, the lessons you learn will influence you far beyond today.”

John Dent, Director, Worldwide Auditing Publications and Projects, Worldwide Safety Assurance

Years with Disney: 34

First role: Attractions Host in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom Park

Favorite part of his internship: “I still say that my Disney internship was probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It may seem simple, but it involved teamwork, managing success and failure, problem solving and learning the business. One of the big rewards for me was exposure to our senior leadership and the lessons they took time to share. They were approachable and genuine and understood the business … and now I’m proud to be the one that passes on those lessons to future leaders.”

Why he loves working at Disney: “The people I meet and the passion we all have are the differentiator. The connections you make through the College Program and within Disney can lead to a lot of other places. The company has grown so much over the past 34 years, and there are hundreds of paths you can take advantage of.

Advice to future interns: “The Disney College Program is a great catalyst to figure out what you really want. Don’t hold back. Take full advantage of the time you’re given and realize that the company is equally — if not more — interested in seeing you succeed.”