1. My STEP Signature Project consisted of a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim California. Me and two close friends structured our experience around a trip called the “Southern California Short Escape” through Disney’s travel company, Adventures by Disney.
The trip was a 5 day, 4-night experience that gave us and our tour group the opportunity to learn about how Disney creates that magic that is their parks and films. We had the opportunity to tour the parks themselves behind the scenes, several popular attractions, as well as Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering in Burbank. These incredibly exclusive backstage opportunities also gave me the opportunity to meet several Disney professionals, including Imagineers and Disney Parks professionals. I was able to gain incredibly valuable advice and insight into what led them down their path and had the unique opportunity to learn about how Disney operates its studios and parks. As an Operations Management major, this was a truly eye-opening project.
2. I think the most transformative component of my experience was the day that I toured Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering. What was so transformative about this tour was the conversations I had with some of our guides. To provide a bit of background, being a professional for Walt Disney in some way or another (but especially Walt Disney Imagineering) is a longtime personal dream of mine. Before the experience, I had a good amount of doubt that i could turn a business degree into a job with Disney Imagineering. What I quickly learned, however, is that Imagineering is not a company that only hires those with engineering degrees. Our guide for the Imagineering portion, Jonathan, explained that there are over 100 job titles in Imagineering, many of which include titles like “Artistic Director,” “Project Manager,” “Constraint Management Analyst,” and of course, “Operations Manager.” It became clear to me that the career path I am headed down is absolutely compatible with my dream of a career with Disney, and this realization is something I would not have had if it weren’t for the unique opportunity this trip gave me — to talk face to face with real Imagineers and soak in their stories and advice.
3. I already touched on one of the main interactions I had that led to the transformation I described in the previous paragraph, but this was one of many. Another powerful interaction I had during my experience was in the cafeteria at Walt Disney Studios (where Disney’s global corporate headquarters is as well as where they make their films and TV shows).
Our tour group was eating lunch on a Wednesday morning in the middle of the work week, so we were surrounded by busy Disney professionals. A gentleman noticed my Browns jersey (the OBJ trade had been completed the previous evening so I was celebrating) and used the recent OBJ trade news to start a conversation with me. He asked where I was from, and the usual banter, but he then was kind enough to share his own story with me. He began his career as a janitor at Walt Disney Studios but honed his talents in art to over his 24-year career at Walt Disney Studios become a creative art director. His story inspired me to have more confidence in myself and my background to fulfill my dream.
The other impactful interactions I had applies to literally every single Disney employee I encountered. Every single one was fiercely passionate about their career. Their passion was contagious and ignited a newfound passion to continue in pursuit of my dream within me. It was a privilege to hear how each employee, even our tour guides, had their own stories and backgrounds that fueled their passion. It helped me realize that passion and drive come from within, and my drive to one day join their team has never been stronger.
4. This transformation is valuable to me because it comes at a critical point in my academic and early professional career. I have finally committed myself to a major here at Ohio State after a difficult and turbulent first two years, and I occasionally become filled with self-doubt and regret. The “What if?” question seemed to compulsively appear in my head. For the numerous reasons outlined in this post, I finally have a newfound confidence that through my experiences as a student here at Ohio State, I can, through my own drive and passion, open doors to fulfilling my dream of joining the team at the Walt Disney Company.
I want to sincerely thank STEP for making this experience and dream a reality for me!
Please enjoy some of the amazing photos I captured! Also, if you are interested in more detail about my experience, please head over to u.osu.edu/michaelmaxwellsstepproject the site where I created daily updates during the experience itself. There you will also find a link to a YouTube video vlog that I created about my experience.