Skip to main content
5 answers
5
Asked 637 views Translate

Is it possible to be a desirable applicant for a world renowned company without having gone to an Ivy League school?

Over the course of my childhood, I’ve developed a deep adoration for Disney, alongside a fascination with the technology behind the attractions, the engineering that creates the magic. My dream job would be to work as a part of the Walt Disney Imagineering Team. I plan on studying computer science in college and want to find a job in Imagineering where I would use these skills. I've maintained an A average through my 4 years in a private high school, but that's not high enough to make me a competitive candidate for Ivy League schools. I worry that not attending a top schools will stop me from ever landing my dream job. Is this rational? Is there something I can do, other than attending an Ivy League school, to make myself competitive when the time comes to apply for the job? #technology #disney #computer-science

+25 Karma if successful
From: You
To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you

5

5 answers


1
Updated Translate

Alan’s Answer

Best of the Village

Hi Mallory,


Yes, I think it's definitely possible. Though not an engineer myself, I work at a tech company that is very engineering focused (engineers making products for other engineers and scientists). It's definitely a world-renowned company in it's area (our software just helped control the SpaceX Heavy launch), but few of our engineers went to Ivy league schools. They went to schools known for their engineering programs. I don't think it's as much the reputation of the overall school as it is the specific program one studied in. We often have recruiting programs for those schools run by alumni.

I'd recommend looking into what appropriate programs Disney regulaly recruits tech staff from.


Good luck

1
2
Updated Translate

Keith’s Answer

Mallory,

First, congratulations on your stellar efforts in high school. If it is your desire to attend an Ivy, I will simply tell you to don't write yourself off so quickly. While grades are vital to entrance, it is certainly not all that they look at when you are evaluated for entry.


That said, only 9% of applicants get accepted to those schools. So there are lots of smart people everywhere. I have a friend who has been an Imagineer at Disney for over a decade (he has even been a project manager for their newest cruise liner). We attended college together and it certainly wasn't Ivy League (not that we didn't get great educations, we did). Even if you can't get experience at Disney prior to graduation, you should seek companies that will allow you to be exposed to the types of skills that Disney's engineers utilize. Your college counselor should be able to help you with this process. The path in which you get to your dream might look different, but the end result is the most important thing. Good luck!

2
1
Updated Translate

Whitney’s Answer

Hi Mallory!

I think it is absolutely amazing that you have these dreams and sounds like it would be a terrific job! I love Disney and my sister actually worked as an engineer there for a short while. I would advise you not to worry that you are not attending an Ivy League school. While studying computer science, work hard in your classes and get involved in various clubs at your university that will get you as much exposure and experience possible in your field of study. Disney offers Professional Internships for college students and recent graduates. When you are a junior or senior, I would start looking at the Disney Professional Internships program. Getting an internship there would give you the experience you would need to secure a full-time position.

Good luck! I hope the best for you!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much Whitney! This is great advice and really comforting to hear! Mallory
1
1
Updated Translate

Chris’s Answer

Hello Mallory,

My previous job was at Walt Disney Imagineering, and I can tell you that folks there come from all places and backgrounds. Some come from state schools like me, others come from art schools, trade schools, private schools, etc. I can't think of a single former colleague with Ivy League credentials, although there were probably some. Either way, school almost never came up, so please don't let that stop you. I'm often asked what is the best way to get a job at WDI, and while there is no single answer, the most common I saw in my time there was internships turning into longer-term employment. I'd suggest looking into various college programs including internships and the Disney Imaginations challenge.

Incidentally, my way in was from another Disney business unit where I started at the entry-level position of Production Assistant. I moved up to a programmer position there, and eventually moved over to Walt Disney Imagineering after a few years. It was a wonderful place to work, and I only left because I moved out of the state.

Good luck!
1
1
Updated Translate

Hagen’s Answer

Hello Mallory,


It’s true a degree from a marquee university can help you land your first job out of college but thereafter your reputation and your work are your best qualifications. In addition, an Ivy League pedigree does necessarily mean you’re the best candidate for a creative career (or any other career frankly). It merely means you’ve learned some important foundational skills, you can work under pressure and succeed and, typically, you’re well read.


I went to Berkeley and, if anything, that has made more confident because I didn’t feel I needed to worry that I missed out on some critical component of education . That said, Malcolm Gladwell has an interesting chapter on education in his book David & Goliath which you should read. He suggests that the intense competition at Ivy League universities can undermine your confidence so it’s not the best option for everyone.


What’s way more important is to start learning and working now. It’s not uncommon to conclude that learning, discovery and creativity are passive processes you enter in school and therefore, you are dependent on those institutions to advance your career. In reality, schools are terrific opportunities to gain knowledge but ultimately you have to teach yourself how to learn and mature outside academics. It’s not like you get to quit learning and honing your skills when you graduate. Therefore, college should be part of your education strategy, not all of it.


So ask yourself, ‘What am I waiting for?’ ‘What can I do today to move down my career path?’ There are literally thousands of online courses and videos that can teach you some of technical and creative skills you hope to learn in college. If you’ve chosen the right career, you’ll soak those courses up and crave more. If that doesn’t happen, it’s possible you’ll need to pivot and adjust your vision to something similar (e.g. a different role at Disney- there many non-technical and non-artistic roles at Disney).


I hope that helps.


Best,


Hagen

Hagen recommends the following next steps:

Start producing work. It may not be great in the beginning but eventually your future employer is going to want to see what you’ve done. If you start now you have much better chance of expressing them.
Start researching universities that focus on creative careers
Start enrolling in online courses and watching videos that align with your career aspirations
1