"When I was in high school, I was known as the 'Disney Kid' among my friends and teachers. Everyone who knew me knew how badly I wanted to become a mechanical engineer working on roller coasters and amusement rides, especially for Disney if possible. The benefit I had going into college was that I had a very broad idea on how to achieve that goal. However, I definitely had no idea how the journey there could just as or even more important than the actual goal.
I found out about TPEG through probably the happiest accident of my life. I found out about it from my engineering orientation tour guide on the day before my first day of classes. She had been a member for the group's first semester and was encouraging all of us to attend the first meeting of the semester. She didn't have to ask me twice.
I realized that I found my new home when I found out how many people in this group wanted to work in the industry, and some even with Disney. I learned about so much of what the industry had to offer from them, including the many options out there beyond just designing new rides. During my time with the group, I attended numerous behind-the-scene tours, went to two ASTM conferences, worked on a number of projects, and made many great friends with whom I could talk about all the latest in the theme park industry.
While I was in college, I participated in the Disney College Program for a spring semester. Although I was working at a quick service restaurant most of my days, I made connections with some Disney engineers to learn more about what mechanical engineers could do the industry. I couldn't be more thankful for meeting those engineers, because they were the ones who helped me find my first internship with Walt Disney World Facility Asset Management, Disney's project management group.
After graduation, I returned to Walt Disney World to intern with Quality Engineering. I went on to intern with the Simulation and Analysis group for two months, before I received the call for a position to return to Quality Engineering. Today, I work on ensuring Walt Disney World's rides, shows, and parades are operated and maintained safely and ready for guests everyday.
The two biggest pieces of advice I can give are to keep every every option open and to choose your own path. As someone who had wanted to design roller coasters since childhood, keeping all options open was a difficult pill to swallow. However, I can say that listening and learning about what's being done in the industry all across the globe has opened some doors that I never would have expected. While in the group, new students to the group would ask me how I got to where I was. I would tell them my career history, but I always told them that they do not have to copy my career path to get where they want. There is no right way to achieve the things you want in life. Take the path you feel comfortable with. The planned path you have yourself will probably not happen the way you expect to, but that's okay. Go with the flow and roll with it. Imagineer Randy Pausch said it best when he said that "it's not about the hand that you are dealt. It's how you play the hand."