For more than 30 years, our cast members have been sharing magic outside our castle walls, offering guests the opportunity to get an up close and behind-the-scenes look at what makes our work so special, all while learning from the best of the best in the business world.
Disney Institute has been helping to advise and train a variety of professionals, teams and organizations worldwide – based on the business insights and best practices that we have learned, right here in our parks and resorts, used to inspire others to think about their work differently – and today we’re excited to celebrate our amazing team.
Our facilitators are celebrated for the astounding work they do every day, but last week was extra special because it was Teacher Appreciation Week! Disney Institute facilitators are the cast members who bring our practices and lessons to life beyond our parks, and we had a chance to learn from Jennifer Schirmer, senior facilitator, who has worked for the company for nearly 15 years, about what excites her most in her work, including the return of in-person courses at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, and in select cities throughout the country.
Jennifer’s role is all about enhancing professional development while guiding those who continue their path of excellence in the business world. “We help promote leadership philosophies in the context of Disney traditions and share how our connections and guidance can really drive your team with the intention to make a meaningful impact. We share the lessons that we have learned and guide participants around the world to relate our practices to their own workplaces to showcase how they can apply our practices and make them work for their teams.”
Jennifer’s role carries on Walt’s vision and introduces participants to another mode of thinking – the distinctly Disney method. “This is not business training per usual, but a unique and truly inspiring approach. We leverage our expertise to enhance an organization’s external customer experience. When our team speaks with a business professional or an organization, we can find ways to connect a story or lessons learned as it relates to guest service. From showcasing how you inspire your team to perform daily and work towards a shared mission, to leadership development and employee engagement – I learned all those things on my career path and get to bring those experiences to life every day.”
So what does it take to be a Disney Institute facilitator? “Leadership experience, especially Disney leadership experience is key. Past leadership experiences allow us as facilitators to enhance our core content by adding a personal touch to our work. We can organize our coursework to highlight specific topics clients may want to discuss, and we work with many industries.”
Jennifer added that the best piece of advice to be part of Disney Institute is to not be afraid to ask questions and step outside of your comfort zone. “I didn’t let myself get in the way. I continually asked if I could attend info sessions or learn more about a specific job or part of the company because I was curious. Everyone is so open to sharing knowledge and that is how you make connections. You don’t know who you will meet along the way or what will inspire you, but just be open to all of it.”
Jennifer said one of her most favorite parts of being a facilitator – beyond continuously learning in the workplace every day and working with the amazing team at Disney Institute – is seeing participants realize the moment of, “I’ve never thought of something that way – the way Disney does.” She shared, “Nametags continually come up. Your nametag invites people to engage, fosters an inclusive environment and makes everyone feel welcome.”
The best part about working at Disney? She’s excited to travel again and be in front of people. “Collaborating with others and sharing Disney’s Approach in-person really does make a difference. Our in-person courses are coming back both in our parks as well as in cities across America, so I’m thrilled to be able to hit the road again with the team. Sometimes maybe we don’t realize it, but to be able to help create a little bit of happiness and change is something that we all need in this world.”