If you are considering a Professional Internship at WDW or have recently been accepted into the program, this blog is written for you. Feel free to leave comments if you have further questions!


Things I knew and didn't know

Back when I was preparing to leave for Disney, there seemed to be this trend on the YouTube vlogs to post a video showing the many random and pointless things you were packing for your trip:


Oh, you crazy College Programmers...  Well, I'm no College Programmer (I'm a computer programmer), so you're not getting my list of 103,495 things I brought.  There's a Wal-mart just 8 minutes from the Disney housing complex for PIs.  It's usually swarming with Disney interns.  The Disney apartments are, of course, pretty bare and ugly, so while you can pick up most of what you forgot at Wal-mart, you're going to want to remember some little things to remind you of home.  Just be aware that your apartment might not come with TV (unless a former intern decided to leave it in the apartment rather than lug it back home...that was my experience).  Also, you'll be sharing a toilet, sink, shower, and walk-in closet with your roommate, so bring things that help organize your personal items.  The apartment bedrooms are built for one, but Housing Ops cram two interns in each room.  On a related note, I think that the official Disney housing is way overpriced, yet some of my best memories come from living in that apartment complex with 5 other awesome guys.

I was sent a big red folder containing lots of information about Disney Professional Internships, but strangely enough, nothing about my specific IT internship.  I assumed that I'd need business attire, so after flipping through the "Disney Look" book, I started compiling my dress shirts and slacks.  I brought a suit too...didn't need it at all.  I also brought a handful of ties...I impressed a few people when I wore a tie to work for a week, but it turns out that ties aren't required in the Disney professional look.  They still came in handy when I was giving a major presentation, so I'd recommend bringing a few, guys.

The Disney Look book, a guide to achieving that "timeless" appearance that Cast Members are known for.

A week or so before my arrival date, I was sent instructions on how to check-in at the apartment complex.  But oh the things I was oblivious about!  Where would I be working?  Would I be programming?  I know when I move into the apartment, but when do I start work?

Oh, yeah, bring a car!  All the papers I received stated that I needed a car, but some PIs that I worked with still didn't have one.  It was pretty rough for them.  The College Programmers get a bus service that picks them up from the apartments and takes them to the theme parks.  PIs don't usually work in the theme parks (especially not the IT interns), so this really isn't an option!  Those poor guys and girls had to hope to meet someone else working in the same building and carpool with them.  Not fun.  Bring a car.  Besides, how else are you going to explore the Disney entertainment on the weekends?

All Aboard!

I alluded to a few details about myself in the first post, but let me take the opportunity to give you a little back story before we launch into internship discussion.  My name is Bryan, and I was a Disney intern from May - August 2009.  Once my internship had ended, I returned for one more semester of college where I earned my B.S. in Digital Arts & Sciences, a program that emphasized software engineering alongside art and design.  And let me tell you, that little invisible footnote on my diploma that says, "I'm sort of an artist too!"...I can tell you without a doubt that it contributed to my success at Disney.  I've found that the wider your skill set is, and the more projects you can contribute to, the more valuable you will be.  Sure, sure, it sounds obvious, but I think it's even more vital to success at a company like Disney that thrives on creativity and innovative entertainment.

I stayed in close contact with Disney after my internship (more about how I did that later in the blog), and I was hired as a regular Cast Member in November 2009 - no, it wasn't as as an attraction greeter in the park (though I have since then had the opportunity to experience that role).  I was brought onto the same team I had worked with during the summer.  Hopefully that lends some credibility to my ramblings on the lofty subject of "How To Be Successful in a Disney Internship."

I'll try to answer all of the questions you might have (What did you do during your PI?  What are the perks of working for Disney?  Is it hard work?  Where did you live?  Was it fun?), but first I'll spend some time on the application/interview process.  Okay?  If you're saying , "Been there...done that...," just skip to the next post.

The application is straightforward.  I don't remember it too well, but I do recall freaking out because it was a long time after I mailed in my application before I received any response from Disney.  I don't know if the response time varies from program to program, but I think I waited a month or longer.  At long last, however, I received a call from a woman who, I believe, was with the general Casting department.  She wanted to ask me some general questions just to be sure that I wasn't raving mad before sending my paperwork onto the "real" application pipeline.  Yeah, I was nervous, but I survived the short 10 min. phone interview and the very open-ended questions like, "Why Disney?"

Almost two weeks passed during which time I ran over and over the answers I gave during that interview.  I swear I had almost convinced myself that it was the worst interview ever, but I received a second call from Disney while sitting around in my college dorm doing some homework.  This time it was more formal: the Cast Member on the other end was from the IT department, and he wanted to schedule a time later that afternoon for a lengthier phone interview.  So we planned one for a half hour later, and I took the extra time to prepare the perfect interview environment.  Used the bathroom, charged my phone, got a glass of water, found a comfortable chair.

I distinctly recall this interview being challenging.  I was told that there would be general as well as technical questions.  Technical questions?  I'm aware that some tech companies like asking tough questions about how to solve certain word problems or write certain algorithms, so I started to sweat a little.  However, the "technical" questions were all related to past computer science projects I had worked on in college.  My interviewer had my resume in front of him, and was inquiring about team sizes, project scope, languages used, etc.  The toughest questions were the open-ended ones about my strengths and weaknesses or specific times I'd failed at something and what I did about it.  "Failed at a technical project?" I asked.  "Anything, technical or just life itself."  I think that one of the things that made my application and interview more successful was the emphasis I put on specific projects in my resume.  Sure, I wrote down the classes I had taken and the organizations I belonged to (not many), but I believe it was the creative nature of some of my school projects that propelled me forward.

The scariest thing that happened during my interview was a dropped signal.  I felt like it was the end of the world.  Oh, god, what happened...the phone just died...did he think I just hung up?  But looking back, it's just sort of funny.  Yes, Disney will still hire you even if you have a weak cell carrier.

I don't recall how long I waited before getting my acceptance phone call.  I'm sure, though, that it felt a whole lot longer than it really was.  A woman from the Casting office called me early one morning (actually, she woke me up!).  But when I saw that 407 area code, I was immediately jerked out of the groggy morning state of mind.  I was in!

I was too distracted to concentrate in classes that day, and my friends noticed it.  Oh, well, I was the luckiest guy ever even though I had no idea what sort of internship I had just signed up for.  It turns out that my mind was still incapable at comprehending how lucky I really was.

How's that for a cliffhanger?


I know why you're here

I started this blog a LOOOOONG time ago.  I had just been accepted into the Disney Professional Internship program, and I was planning to document every step of the way right here.  The inspiration came from the countless YouTube video blogs by College Program participants.  Those guys seem pretty outspoken, but where are the Professional Interns?  Before and after receiving my internship invitation, I was hungry for information about the experience, and I suspect that's why you've stumbled upon this blog.

I know that feeling of wanting to discover all the details about the program and reading the awesome stories of past interns to pass the time as you wait for your own adventure to begin.

So one year ago, I began my own tale, but the blogging unexpectedly ended just as I arrived at Disney.  Blame it on my demanding internship or the fact that the four theme parks were distracting me regularly.  In any case, it has become clear to me that the internet is still lacking information about the mysterious Disney Professional Internship Program.  This retrospective look at the program will be focused on Information Technology internships at Walt Disney World in Florida.  Please ask any questions you have in the comments as we go along.

The major benefit of blogging about this topic now is that I can look back at my experience as a whole.  There are a lot of ways to begin this story, and I think I'll start it like this...

15 months ago I was a college student at the University of Florida.  Today, I write this as a full time Cast Member.  Exactly how I was able to transition from UF campus to Disney office is what I'll be blogging about for what will hopefully be many, informative, and interesting posts that will explain what to expect from your own internship and how to make it a successful one.

"And remember...only you guys are going on this secret mission!  So don't tell anyone!"
                                                           -Dr. Seeker