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Feb. 28, 2024

Q&A: What it's like to be a Disney World engineering intern

AES student Laila Jackson eager to improve Magic Kingdom

MSU College of Engineering student Laila Jackson, a Disney World intern
MSU College of Engineering student Laila Jackson is currently an industrial engineering intern at Disney World in Florida. She is from Canton, Mich., about 30 miles west of Detroit. 

Michigan State University College of Engineering student Laila Jackson remembers her first Disney World experience.

Well, sort of.

It was the Fourth of July. Jackson was 4 years old. She fell asleep during the fireworks show.

“My parents get on me all the time about that,” Jackson said laughing. “They’re like, ‘We paid all that money and you only remember three things?’”

This winter Jackson, an Applied Engineering Sciences student, is making countless memories in the Magic Kingdom.

Jackson is a Disney Planning & Industrial Engineering intern who supports the Facilities and Operational Services Team. She's using the problem-solving skills learned in the College of Engineering to improve the amusement park experience.

Jackson’s work often involves analytics, a systematic study of data and statistics.

Disney colleagues made her feel part of the team immediately after she joined in January. They empowered her to study and improve during a four-month internship everything from the availability of trash cans in the park to customer wait times for rides.

“I drive through the 'Welcome to Walt Disney World' gates every morning,” Jackson said. “And I think to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, I work at the most magical place on earth!’”

Jackson hails from Canton, Mich., about 30 miles west of Detroit, and is taking MSU classes during her internship.

She’s a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and would like to eventually work in an engineering or analytics role for a professional sports league or team.

Jackson hopes sharing her experience at Disney as a Spartan will inspire other students to think outside the box when seeking engineering internships and full-time jobs.

How did you get this Disney World internship?

I have a friend who was doing the Disney College Program and I wanted to know what it was. I was on the Disney Careers website and was looking for business internships. While I was looking, I clicked on an engineering tab, saw the internship and applied. I just applied to apply. I eventually got an email from Disney, did the interview, then it turned into another interview, and then I got the offer letter. I had the option of going to either Disneyland or Disney World. I chose Florida because California doesn’t have the provided housing, and Disney World does. I also thought driving to Florida was more feasible than driving to Cali.

How would you describe your role?

We do consulting for all of Disney’s departments. The Planning & Industrial Engineering Department supports Facilities and Operational Services, Park Operations, Resorts, Transportations, Project Development & Disney Cruise Line. Most of my work is project-based consisting of multiple projects at once.

MSU College of Engineering student Laila Jackson's Disney World badge
MSU College of Engineering student Laila Jackson's Disney World badge. She is currently an industrial engineering intern.

What do you do on a daily basis?

A typical day includes meetings with clients, project work time (whether that’s pulling together a presentation or pulling data & performing various analyzations). Some days require study performances where I go to collect qualitative and quantitative data on-site. My favorite project so far has been looking at one of our warehouses and how to better configure the space and optimize current systems and processes within. A project I’m looking forward to is observing the Build-A-Droid experience we have for guests and figuring out ways to optimize that experience.

What are some other projects you can share?

An example I like to give is trash fill-up. It’s something the guests doesn’t typically think about. But if you’re walking around the park holding your trash for too long or a trash can is full, that’s going to speak to your experience. What we do, for example, is take that problem, do observations and studies. It could really be anything like studying how many people are going to the bathroom in an hour to determine if we have the best infrastructure for our parks and guests. We may also look at something like how many guests we are getting for an attraction per hour. I’m part of a very fluid department.

What advice would you give Engineering students about finding a fun internship or career based on your Disney experience?

I would recommend writing down everything that you’re interested in and what you like to do. Look at that list and then do an internet search. For example, type in ‘engineering and sports’ or ‘engineering and games.’ A Google search blew me away. I didn’t know there were so many engineering jobs. We play video games like NBA 2K or Madden and don’t realize there’s someone in a suit who actually has to mimic characters in those games. Someone has to make the sensors that go on that suit. Students should realize that practically everything involves engineering. You don’t have to necessarily feel you must fit in a box. You can make your own box. You can truly go anywhere with engineering, but you have to lay the foundation.

Written by Eric Lacy, See more at the Engineering Media and Public Relations page.