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Imagine Engineering the Magic
Julieta Moradei is a fourth year civil engineering student born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and raised in Montreal, Canada. She is completing her final co-op at Walt Disney World and Resorts as a structural engineering intern. She shares her story of her unique experience working for The Walt Disney Company and her advice on how to take advantage of every second of an experiential learning opportunity!
My Disney Story
I remember that moment very vividly: it was my first week of classes during my middler year, and I received a “407” call in the middle of an economics lecture. It caught me completely by surprise, but I knew only one place could be calling me from a Florida area code. I left class and within seconds was given news that would very quickly veer my academic career’s path: I was offered an engineering internship at Walt Disney World. Little did I know at the time all the adventures that lay ahead, the breadth of knowledge I would acquire and the exposure I’d receive to the way a multi-billion dollar company engineers its magic on a daily basis. A full year and a half later, I am back in Orlando, FL reflecting on my two internships in different departments within the firm and want to share my story with you.
About the Engineering Internship
My first co-op was in the Facility Asset Management (FAM) department, which essentially focuses on the project management of all rehabilitation and safety projects of property wide facilities (four theme parks, water parks, resorts, ESPN, etc.). Being a civil engineering student with a concentration in structural engineering, I was never fully exposed to the idea of project management prior to this internship. My technical background in civil engineering topics from courses I’ve taken and from everything I learned during my first co-op at Simpson Gumpertz and Heger (SGH) greatly guided me to understand the design behind construction projects. However, in the world of construction management, I had to learn about other types of engineering and specialty areas that encompass the scope of any given project. It was a huge learning curve and I quickly realized I love dissecting large projects to divide them into manageable tasks by focusing on their scope, schedule and budget. The expression “you learn something new every day” took a completely new meaning for me. One day, I was learning about how themed rockwork is designed and built, and the next, I would need to understand roller coaster mechanics. Being in FAM opened my eyes up to the importance of teamwork, efficient communication and strategic planning: engineering isn’t just about crunching numbers, it is about finding the most efficient way to transition a design to its construction phase.
This past month, I moved back to Florida and started my final co-op in the Architecture and Facilities Engineering (A&FE) department at Disney World. This group contains architects and all types of engineers who do the design of all rehabilitation and safety projects of property wide facilities. I chose to apply for this internship position because it encompassed both project management and structural design. In three short weeks, I already love my current role and I am continuously learning new concepts within my field and other disciplines. Not only do I have a team of members who are constantly challenging my technical capabilities, but I am also seeing concepts I learned in class last semester in the field in the most unique ways. Just today, my manager assigned me a project relating to concrete design in Magic Kingdom. Those cheat sheets I made for my finals at Northeastern last month were being used in one of the world’s favorite theme parks. I love the idea of being able to apply the knowledge I acquire in academia into design projects I am passionate for. I also feel very lucky to work for a company in which you can easily seek mentorship from your managers, directors and VPs. Every day, I am learning best practices of new engineering concepts, and I am receiving advice on how to constantly push yourself to become a future leader.
Advice on Setting Yourself to be More Than a Regular Co-op
Years ago when I would visit the parks as a guest, I could never imagine the amount of smart minds and energy that goes behind the maintenance of our favorite attractions. Now, I am able to pick their brains on a daily basis and expand my goal of continuous knowledge whether in engineering or in advice for advancing my career. This applies to any internship: we are all setting ourselves up for success by partaking in co-ops and we are all surrounded by intelligent minds who can guide us beyond the internship. If you show dedication to perform excellent work and learn as much as you can during your short six months, you will succeed. Here are a few of my suggestions to raise the co-op bar for yourself:
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable (i.e. Ask to lead a meeting, put yourself in situations where you can talk to executives, volunteer to work on projects that you don’t understand yet, etc.)
- Seek out a mentor who will constantly push you to do better
- Set up technical and professional development goals for yourself periodically
- Review your strengths and areas of improvement with your leader/mentor periodically
- Make a list of people you’d like to meet in your company and ask them how they got to where they are today; everyone has an interesting road map
- Seek out learning opportunities outside your scope of work (i.e. intern capstone, “lunch and learns”, conferences, webinars, etc.)
- Go to networking events, you’ll always meet someone interesting if you put yourself out there
- Take initiative by interacting with other colleagues so you can get a diverse breadth of project opportunities and have a general understanding of different areas within your field
- Keep an organized folder of contacts and technical knowledge you’ve acquired during your co-op
- Remember you’ve only got six months: take advantage of every day and raise your own bar constantly.
This is my last co-op as an undergraduate student (time flies, so make sure you use it up well!), and I am very excited to make the most out of this final experiential learning opportunity. I will write a final blog during my last few weeks as an intern to reflect on how soon-to-be seniors can excel in their last co-op to set themselves up for success before their job/grad school searching begins.
If you have any questions regarding my internship at Disney or about co-ops in general, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org