Like many kids, Dean Kennedy ’14, ’16 grew up on Disney. The Norton native gobbled up the movies and music and counted down the days until the next family vacation to Disney World. The only difference is that Kennedy turned his love of Disney into a career.
“I’ve wanted to work there forever,” says Kennedy, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the Francis College of Engineering. “I geared my career goals toward that all through high school and college.”
Kennedy’s dream came true when he was hired as a planner with Facility Asset Management at Walt Disney World in Orlando. He assists project managers with the planning and budgeting of construction projects big and small – both “onstage” (the ones visible to guests in the theme parks and resorts) and “backstage” (the offices and infrastructure seen only by employees).
Despite already having two engineering internships under his belt at Walt Disney World – the first in 2015 after earning his bachelor’s degree and the second in 2016 after earning his master’s – Kennedy still faced an intense interview process for the full-time position.
“The more interviews I had, the more unsure I was that I’d get it,” says Kennedy, who braced himself for a move back home to Massachusetts before getting the big news. “It was a big relief.”
As a student, Kennedy literally shined at UMass Lowell, receiving a “29 Who Shine” honor from the Massachusetts Department of Education in 2015. The Honors College student worked for 13 months as a mechanical engineering co-op at Pfizer and was a product engineering intern at HVAC company Taco Inc. Kennedy was also project manager for the UMass Lowell team that took third place at the first-ever National Collegiate Wind Competition in 2014, an experience that he says was a “prelude” to his Disney career.
“It’s definitely been an amazing experience at UMass Lowell,” says Kennedy, who could sense a change in himself as a student after his Pfizer co-op following his sophomore year. “I started to get more involved. I saw classes in a different way and began growing as a person.”
Being more involved is how Kennedy got his foot in the door at Disney World. He networked with a Disney employee while attending a conference for the Pi Tau Sigma Mechanical Engineering Honor Society. She forwarded his résumé to some contacts, and before long, Kennedy was on the phone for an interview.
“The internships were great because everything we did touched upon different branches of engineering, and I found out I liked the project management side more than the technical side,” he says. “I learned how important it is to interact with people effectively and create relationships.”
While he’s still getting settled into his new job, Kennedy is already thinking about his future with the company (he is a planner, after all). He hopes to stay at Walt Disney World at least through 2021, when the park celebrates its 50th anniversary. After that, he’d like to explore a move to Walt Disney Imagineering of Disneyland in California.
“People work at Disney for so long because it’s a great company with a great culture,” he says. “Everyone is very passionate about their job and willing to help you succeed.”
But now that Kennedy goes to work every day at “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” has any of that magic he felt as a kid worn off?
“That hasn’t faded at all,” says Kennedy, who visits the parks as often as he can (his favorite ride is “Expedition Everest” in the Animal Kingdom). “I still get that emotional feeling when I walk into the park and see the castle or watch the fireworks. It doesn’t get lost on me.”