Disney Construction Internship: ‘Opportunity to be Part of the Magic’

matterhornIs the Happiest Place on Earth a good place to complete your construction management internship? According to project managers from Walt Disney Co.’s Facility Asset Management division, interns have extensive opportunities to learn, take initiative, and hold responsibility.

A half-dozen project managers from the division were at CSULB Thursday as part of the College of Engineering’s Professional Development workshop series. Students were also given an opportunity to submit their resumes for paid summer internships.

The project managers shared what it’s like to work in an amusement park like Disneyland. They handle scheduling, estimating, project controls, soliciting bids, qualifying bidders, awarding bids, and working with numerous other departments and organizations, including ride engineers and show-control engineers.

“We keep everyone on the same page,” said project manager Joelle Medina, a Cal Poly Pomona alumni who joined Disney as an intern seven years ago. “We handle everything from cradle to grave. Projects may go on a few weeks or for months or years.”

One thing the company is firm on is keeping to the schedule. Safety is also of paramount concern. “Our schedule does not slip,” Medina said.

Project Manager Jason Laurence recalled working on the Mark Twain, a half-century-old working riverboat. The project included repair of the middeck and railings. Five days before the project’s deadline, the generator had to be replaced. “You find a way to make it happen,” Laurence said.

Because of the amount of water in the park, corrosion mitigation is an ongoing activity. In addition to small jobs are rehabilitation projects of major attractions.

Dan Torres, a University of California Irvine mechanical engineering graduate who’s been with Disney for 12 years, shared his experience working on the Matterhorn and Big Thunder Mountain.

When the Matterhorn, the world’s first steel-tube roller coaster, had to be repainted in 2012, it was covered with scaffolding.  For rehab of Big Thunder Mountain, the first roller coaster built on a computer, a crane had to be brought in to lift out sections of the 2,000-foot track.

“We found a lot of stuff in the mountain,” said Torres. “You can plan all you want, but things don’t always go according to plan.”

Sandra Labib, a 2014 CSULB Civil Engineering grad, parlayed a Disney internship into a full-time job. “I was that hungry student. I attend every internship workshop I could find,” she said.

Disney requires interns to be eligible to work in the U.S. and have a 3.0 GPA. Confidence, assertiveness, and initiative are valued even more than relevant experience.

“A big chunk of what we have to do is be assertive,” said project manager Nadeem Sheikh.

Facility Asset Management is currently evaluating resumes submitted for this year’s three internship openings. More openings may come up.

“We bring magic to people,” said CSULB alumni David Lopez. “This is an opportunity to be part of the magic.”