Walt Disney World is a place where dreams come true. Such is true for Aidan Reilly, ’18, whose dreams came true in January 2017 when Reilly started his career with the Walt Disney Company.
“It is everything I dreamed of and more,” said to Reilly, a Professional Communications major and Farmingdale native who now lives in Florida. “I knew since I was 10 years old I wanted to be a part of this wonderful company.”
Over the past six years, Reilly has moved steadily through the ranks at Walt Disney World. He was selected to be a Traditions Facilitator in October 2022 and attended his first class on February 1. This is a temporary assignment; his full-time position is as Disney Vacation Club Sales and Marketing Operations Support Coordinator.
Traditions is the official orientation program and inaugural day for newly-hired cast members--as Disney employees are called--and they don’t have jobs, they have roles. “As a Facilitator, I am the first face and impression of Disney for them,” Reilly said. “We teach them the heritage, history, and reasons why we are so successful, while getting them excited for their journey as a cast member.”
Whether working behind the scenes or in public, the ability to interact with people is critical at Disney, and Reilly credits his experience as a Farmingdale State College Rambassador for boosting his career. “It made a big difference in my application (for Disney College) and consideration for jobs,” he said. “(As a Rambassador) met with new students, potential students, visitors, and company representatives."
“Being the face of the campus through the Rambassador program guided me into learning how to represent a brand, enhanced my marketing skills, as well as my ability to work with and lead a team,” Reilly added. “That has only made my success at Disney continue.”
Reilly’s love for Disney began at age 6 when his family took their first vacation there. From then on, it was a regular destination and he reveled in all things Disney. “I watched all the movies and visited at least twice a year,” Reilly explained. He also has seen the musical “The Lion King” more than 40 times on Broadway.
“When I hear the word Disney, most people think of it as a happy place,” he continued. “My goal is to make people happy. I admire the Walt Disney Company because of its history, specifically with the founder and how the company’s reputation is continuously known for making others happy.”
The journey to his dream job began when Reilly saw an ad on social media for the Disney College Program while attending FSC and was accepted. He took a leave of absence from school and began working as a Resort Transportation Greeter in winter 2017. During the next few months, he learned more about park operations and being a cast member, eventually becoming an Attraction Host at Disney hotels.
Unfortunately, following his dream meant Reilly fell 1.5 semesters behind in his studies and his parents wanted him to finish school before officially launching a Disney career. Reilly was able to submit his schoolwork from Florida and wrap up his classes online in April 2018 to complete his degree.
He continued exploring various roles at Disney, including spending time as a VIP Tour Guide, working as a Guest Services Specialist for nine months, and in a backstage role in Orlando, helping to roll out a project. Reilly also worked with the Disney Vacation Club, helping guests make reservations and manage their points.
The 2020 COVID pandemic shut Disney down and stalled Reilly’s career progress, but by June the park began to reopen, and Reilly started looking to put down roots. He bought a condo in Celebration, Florida, a planned community built by Disney. “It’s like living on a movie set,” he joked. “It’s Southern charm with a hint of American-turn-of-the-century.”
What has surprised Reilly most about working with The Walt Disney Company is learning how much goes on out of sight. “You, of course, have your cast members who are at the frontlines of the show, but what goes on behind the scenes and at our administrative side is even just as impressive. It truly takes people to make the magic a reality.”
Reilly is also drawing on content from many of his classes, including those from the business and psychology departments. “My classes taught me a lot about business acumen,” he said. “They opened my eyes to different perspectives and how I could relate to people, and anticipate the needs of others.”
Knowing that others had a good day is how Reilly measures his day. “What makes a good day for me is knowing I was able to contribute to ensuring someone is happy and that our business is prospering,” he said. “Whether it’s working on projects with my team, taking time to talk to a guest or visitor, and make them smile when they leave.”
With many people still in need of smiles, Reilly expects to remain at Disney. “I still have faith in the brand; I know I will have a bright future.”
Roles at Disney are constantly shifting, and Reilly is ready for whatever comes along. “A career goal with Disney is always up in the air, as Disney offers employees so many different and unique opportunities,” he added. “But I also learned it’s always beneficial to blossom where I am planted.”