Relationships at Work

Relationships at Work

When I first started at Blizzard Beach, one of my fellow newcomers, a young man recently graduated from high school, asked our trainer about romantic relationships with our co-workers.  While our trainer said that it wasn’t something that would get you in trouble, it was not recommended.  If Disney Cast Members did not have the opportunity to date each other, they would be very limited on who they could date.  I personally was very lucky with online dating and have found an amazing man.  Workplace romance can easily go sour and make working regularly with that individual very unpleasant.  If you must date at work, I do not recommend dating someone you interact with regularly at work.  Many work places breed gossip and in order to grow your career, try to keep your reputation clean and reduce personality conflicts.

As a leader, relationships, even casual friendships with the individuals that work on your team can lead the other team members to believe you are showing favoritism and they may become disengaged.  While I enjoyed chatting with my team members during my previous job as a team lead in the defense industry, I made it a point not to engage with a smaller subset of the team socially.  The entire team can be invited to go out for lunches and after work socials, but to avoid generating feelings of bias do not regularly meet up a select few.  Relationships are important in business, they help lead to greater collaboration.  As a leader, I recommend you practice discipline with your relationships.

Responsible leaders practice discipline to ensure they are not showing favoritism and make an effort to value all team members.  When you want to do something well, you get your experts around you.  Your team needs to be the experts you can rely on.  Show all them that they are valued by inviting them to participate in decisions.  Get to know them and show that you value them as a person and a team member.  While you may be more comfortable with a subset of your team, by making an effort to reach out to every team member that directly reports to you, ideas and opportunities open up.

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Beyond Certification, Gaining Respect through Visibility

Beyond Certification, Gaining Respect through Visibility

Over 10 years ago when I graduated college with my shiny new electrical engineering degree, I was certain I was going to be Vice President of a large company someday.  A decade later, I have experienced many things on my career journey, but I have yet to rise beyond a front line manager at work.  I do continued to pursue expanding my leadership skills and gaining exposure to learn from and network with influential people.

When I was a manager overseeing a team of analysis professionals, I had one gentleman that was eager to leap onto the leadership track.  He recently obtained his MBA and wanted to put his hard earned knowledge to work.  He asked me what he could do to break into leadership. I recommended that he consider expanding his network and proving his leadership interests and abilities through work related clubs.  While he argued that he already knew a lot of people in the company.  He may have known many people but they were not in a position that could champion and promote him.  As his leader, I could give him assignments that would provide more exposure and leadership, but he would be limited to our particular team.  While it is important to establish roots and do a good job at your task, making an effort to go beyond your individual program opens up many more opportunities.  Advertise your goals with your team and professional network.  Our company did have many clubs, diversity groups, and a management club that are looking for leaders to work with their executive sponsors to increase engagement and support the business.

I continue to gain leadership experience and exposure that provides valuable experiences through extracurricular type activities.  I remain active in my clubs such as the Society of Women Engineers and Project Management Institute.  I also get involved in leadership roles through my family, supporting my son as a leader in the Cub Scouts and filling in as a stand in assistant coach for my daughter.  It’s amazing the people you can meet through organizations and clubs through your company and external.  With the Society of Women Engineers, I gained professional contacts that helped me get to my current position that I thoroughly enjoy.  Through my daughter’s sport leagues, I have met colleagues that work in similar lines of business within my company that I wouldn’t have otherwise known.

Recently, I attended a meeting with the executives in my organization.  This meeting was an opportunity to learn about our leadership and network.  In that meeting, the speaker discussed his journey to rise in one of his first career paths as an electrician.  Eager to earn a better paycheck and knowing he had the textbook knowledge, he voluntarily took and passed certification to make it to the next level, a journeyman electrician.  The only issue was that he was still seen as an apprentice electrician at work.  When he asked to get the journeymen related work due  to his new certification, he was turned down.  He had not proved he can do the job he was assigned to do as an apprentice.  He did not have a champion to support him making the next level.  It takes more than just a certification to grow in a company, rising above your current role also requires networking and proven work.  Through all these examples, it proves that if you want to grow, plant some roots and get involved.

Using Efficiency to Make Magic

Using Efficiency to Make Magic

At Walt Disney World the top priorities include Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency.  Together these priorities are called the four keys.  Out of the four keys, efficiency is a foundation the other keys can leverage.  Efficiency can improve safety, provide more opportunities for guest interaction for increased courtesy, and enhance show.  Everyone can play a role in efficiency at work.  Disney strives to deliver high quality service.  At work, employees or cast members can think about how to be more efficient in order to deliver extraordinary service?

Disney has processes in place to support the mission of being one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.  For Disney, efficiency means process innovation and empowerment.  This means that Disney Cast Members have the opportunity to be innovators.  They have the power to propose ways to innovate processes to grow our service to be extraordinary quality service, to feel magical.  Lee Cockerell, former Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney World Resort understood the principle of magic.  He said. “It is not the magic that makes it work, it’s the way we work that makes it magic.” So whatever your job or role, leader or front line individual contributor, make magic and strive for efficiency to help deliver extra ordinary customer service.

 

Perseverance Pays Off

Perseverance Pays Off

After five months of working hard and saving lives as a lifeguard at Blizzard Beach, I have been offered an opportunity with Disney’s Safety team.  After two months of showing my dedication to the company, I sat down to share my plan and goals with the leader of the Blizzard Beach water park.  Due to her ongoing support I had nearly two dozen Meet and Greets / interviews across Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.  It was an amazing opportunity to learn about different business segments and expand my professional network.  Nearly every single free day I had during the week was dedicated to growing my professional influence through expanding my network, researching Disney business units and potential opportunities.  It was exhausting work and a little stressful hoping that I would connect with the Disney leaders that I had the privilege to meet.  My resume got tuned up, my response to tell me about yourself was refreshed to focus on what I could highlight about myself to be of interest to the audience, and my business professional wardrobe was extensively used (thanks again Ann Taylor for helping me dress professionally!).  Repeatedly, I have seen the formula for success, sometimes it was tweaked, but overall it follows the simple equation:

Success = (Leadership + Management) x Technical Skills x Relationships

I have recently achieved a huge success, starting yesterday I am a Disney Professional!  I proudly wear my Disney badge over my professional personal clothes, seek to better the company through managing a project for safety performance alignment, and am growing my knowledge of the workings of the company.  So far I have witnessed the emphasis the professional cast place on business relationships.  I look forward to helping drive the number one priority Safety through my new role!

Crafting a Response to Tell Me About Yourself

Crafting a Response to Tell Me About Yourself

In any networking event or interview, you should be prepared to respond to the request to “Tell me about yourself.”  They key to response is to tailor your summary to be relevant to the situation.  This request is not asking for your entire life story.  You should be prepared with a quick 30 second to 2 minute response.  In an interview situation, this is your opportunity to highlight why you would be a great candidate for the team.  Including a quick story of an achievement will help you make a memorable impression.  A recommended response includes the following three parts:

  1. Past overview, a top level highlight of career history
  2. Story of a relevant accomplishment and how it impacted your organization
  3. Your career goals

Great examples of the response are written down on many online profiles, such as the ones found on LinkedIn.  Take a look at your current colleagues, potential colleagues, teams, and leaders.

 

Examples of great response:

Transformational leader with a proven track record of successfully integrating intricate, high performing, and diverse teams to meet project milestones and exceed performance goals.

In addition to overseeing the development and implementation of program strategy, I have established teams to actively drive activities aligned with the vision and mission, provided technical leadership and have consulted for a variety of volunteer organizations.

Innovative, analytical and intuitive leader with a belief of seeking balance of team member strengths, business processes, and enabling technology.

–or–

Influential leader with a passion for process improvement. Confident and effective communicator with strong interpersonal and analytical skills, driven to achieve goals and enhance knowledge.

In addition to leading an analytics team to ensure continuous supportability, I have established common processes across a variety of programs while working with stakeholders across all levels of organizations.

Recognized professional development advocate, focusing on business etiquette, volunteerism, and educating the future.

Preparing for a Successful Interview

Preparing for a Successful Interview

I have been both the interviewer and the interviewee in many job placement meetings.  As an interviewer, I try to set up the candidate to be comfortable to answer my questions to help me determine if they will be a valuable asset to my team.  I look for potential fit with the team and myself, do they bring in any skills that is needed or adds value, do they match the passion level I am looking for with this role.  I prefer to have a conversation over standard questions.  Although if the conversation does not seem to flow or I have a set of skills that I need to make sure are covered, I do keep a list of questions such as:

  • Tell me about yourself.  Note that this should be like a 30 second elevator speech on what makes you a great candidate for this team and role.  Include an actual example story of something you have done for bonus points!
  • Tell me about a time you were in an (insert type of situation) situation.
  • How many golf balls fit in a school bus?

As an interviewee, I do my best to prepare to impress.  For the preparation:

  • Research the job applied for, do you have stories of your experience for each of the job requirements?
  • Learn what you can about the organization and the team members
  • Know your own resume
  • Make sure you wear highly professional clothes, I prefer the business formal clothes from Ann Taylor
  • Research the current team members or the people interviewing you on LinkedIn if known
  • Review standard interview questions and think of the most appropriate way for you to answer them (what is your greatest strength, weakness, why should I hire you?)
  • Prepare questions to determine the goals, priorities, problems, challenges, expectations, team vision, and what to expect during the interview process.

Taking the time to prepare for an interview is evidence of your desire to do well and provides insight to your dedication to the job you are applying for.  Prepare for the jump into a new position and set yourself up for success!

 

BONUS: More potential questions that I have used in interviews:

  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • What value would you add to the company?
  • What is your work background?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What is your greatest accomplishment?
  • What is the best idea you ever came up with to improve your business?
  • How do you plan your day?
  • Describe your organizational skills
  • How have you dealt with conflicts, what would you change?
  • How do you handle working on multiple projects/tasks?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to be creative.
  • Name one challenge you were faced with in a previous position.
  • Describe the qualities that you have that would make you a good candidate for this position?
Team Members Value Regular Recognition

Team Members Value Regular Recognition

Every day at Disney’s Blizzard Beach the lifeguards and slide operators gather together for two quick stand up meetings also known as Break Outs, one in the morning before the park opens and one in the evening after the park closes.  This is very similar to what is formally done with Software related Agile development to discuss the plan for the day as well as provide recognition, notices, and reminders.  The Blizzard Beach Coordinators are similar to the Agile Scrum Masters with the task of leading these stand up meetings and provide support throughout the day.  These roles are very effective in helping to maximize the potential of the day by setting focus items and consistently rewarding the team efforts.  The coordinators leading Break Out rotate between about a dozen individuals that have established themselves over time, generally about a year, as front line leaders.

The Break Out at the end of the day at Blizzard Beach reviews prominent happenings during the day such as reminders over the importance of hydration in the intense Florida heat.  One of the Coordinators has promoted the phrase, “Hydration Starts at Home”.  The team also gets an overview of what went well and what needs improvement during this time.  Last night during break out when the Lifeguard of the Day was announced, my name came up.  It made me feel really great that my efforts were recognized after the long day in the heat while maintaining a positive attitude.  The Lifeguard of the Day becomes eligible for Lifeguard of the Week.  As Lifeguard of the Week, you can sign the official Lifeguard Tube that hangs over the Base Operations center and choose your favorite area to work on for the week.  It’s simple awards such as this that provide motivation and make team members feel appreciated.  I am proud to work for a company that finds ways to show it values it’s team.

Networking with the Disney Leaders

Networking with the Disney Leaders

Disney is a company that is built on relationships.  I have been informed by multiple people that a key to grow your career in Disney is to network.  Disney has an informal policy on meeting other cast members around the company for current cast members.  If you are a cast member you can schedule a Meet and Greet through cast members or their admins.  While it is allowed to randomly schedule meetings, it is more appropriate to get someone to introduce you and be your champion.  With a champion it is having someone recommend you and helps the people you want to meet realize that you are someone worth meeting.

Through my management chain, I have been able to meet with the proprietor of my location.  She was very excited about my skills and interests.  During that meeting, we talked about approaching meet and greets like an interview.  Dress professional, bring your resume, and be prepared to answer with your 2 minute elevator speech, “Tell me about yourself.”  It is also recommended to be prepared with questions.  Great questions to ask can reveal critical competencies of potential team members and the priorities of the team.  Don’t attempt to solve a problem during the meet and greet, but if faced with the question discuss the process of resolving the problem.  Due to the great conversation we had, she helped steer me in the direction of the engineering leaders.  She sent off emails of introduction to a couple people and I followed up with requests to meet.  These meetings have helped to consider focusing on the organizations that oversee engineering design as well as facility asset management.

I have had several meet and greets and look forward to continuing to network around the company.  Hopefully it won’t be long before I get to move forward with my dream career!

Worlds Largest Swimming Lesson

Worlds Largest Swimming Lesson

On July 24th, I was awarded the opportunity to be one of the representatives of Disney’s Recreation team as a swim instructor for the Worlds Largest Swimming Lesson event at Mickey’s Retreat.  This global event attempted to give people the opportunity to get an introduction to swimming.  I worked with guests of all ages from infants to adults.  During the swim lesson, we discussed the importance of water safety and basics of swimming in 45 minute sessions.  The lesson consisted of going over safe methods of getting in and out of the water, blowing bubbles when your face is submerged, floating, and performing the basic crawl or freestyle stroke.

It was a great opportunity to be a part of something that can set the tone for water safety in the community.  This event intends on being in the Guinness Book of Records for having the most people participate in a swim lesson.  Disney participated for the first time in forever to once again be a part of this program.  The Walt Disney Company offered complimentary registration to all cast members and their families to participate in this event.  It was an exciting event to meet cast members across the company and help support their basic swimming goals.

In the infamous words of Dory, “Just keep swimming…”

Where were you on 6/11?

Where were you on 6/11?

June 11th, 2016 started out as a beautiful Saturday night.  I was out on a staycation at Waldorf Astoria Bonnet Creek, located on Disney property.  I got out of work early and my boyfriend and I started our date at Epcot’s France pavilion.  We went to Monsieur Paul’s to have a nice dinner and then walked over to Disney’s Boardwalk resort to try the new ice cream shop.  Fireworks exploded around us, a gentle breeze was blowing on a hot night, and everything seemed pretty good.  Sunday morning we woke up to alerts from Facebook that my boyfriend’s youngest daughter was safe from an incident in Orlando, which was interesting to know especially since she was visiting her mom in Maryland.  Looking more into it, we found out about a shooting that happened at a night club in Orlando, Pulse.  Friends started asking if we were alright.  The club was a known safe place for the LGBT community, but was the target of a terrorist.  Bullet shots were muffled by the pounding music resulting in one of the bloodiest massacres in US history.  There are many unknowns:

  • Was it just one narcissistic person involved?
  • What was the intent, did it start based on an unrealized homosexual desire or maybe overall unhappiness with their life?
  • ISIS claimed they were involved, but could it be that they just enjoy taking the blame for these types of situations to expand their influence?
  • Is this act of terrorism right in the middle of an election year going to help launch a consequence ignorant war machine?

Comparing it to the September 11, 2001 another act of terrorism, it brings up the questions of motives and concerns of how much of a devastation a small group can make.  After 9/11 tourism was crippled.  Orlando is a tourist destination with all the theme parks and proximity to beaches.  Tourism is huge part of Florida’s economy which was impacted by 9/11 and could be impacted again.  Reports are saying even Disney Springs was considered a potential target.

During 9/11, I remember wearing a light blue sleeveless turtleneck and a corduroy skirt seeing what I thought was a movie playing in Florida State University’s student union.  I watched as a plane hit the first of the twin towers and headed off to Physics class where I finally understood what happened.  Cell phone lines were jammed, the telecommunications companies couldn’t take all the traffic.  The campus was quickly closed and I found a ride back to my apartment.

This time I was in a black and white romper and I climbed onto the hotel elevator, there was a guy crying on the phone.  He was telling the person on the other line that he made it out, but some of his friends did not.  A kid in the elevator was screaming, the anxiety was all around and I knew it was something terrible.  The names of the deceased have been released, ranging from young adults to middle aged victims.  So many people have been hurt and impacted.  The community has been quick to launch vigils and show support.  Pray for the people involved, their families and friends, pray for Orlando.  History is important so we don’t make the same mistakes, people quickly banded together during both acts of terrorism.  Reach out to the people you care about and love and talk about these issues and how you feel about it.  Don’t forget where you were.