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RIT Works!

The tigers and the Mouse

Walt Disney threw open the gates to Disneyland 50 years ago this year, introducing the world to a new experience in family entertainment. Today, 10 Disney theme parks on three continents (the 11th is scheduled to open in Hong Kong in September) rank among the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

It’s no surprise that many RIT grads have found fulfilling careers at “the happiest place on earth.” While it was not possible to determine exactly how many work for Disney worldwide, The University Magazine caught up with three among the 55,000 employees of the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida: Rainer Janetzki ’82 (food service administration), regional manager of HR Services, Resorts and Transportation; Rich McCaffrey ’98 (hospitality and resort management), administrative recruiter for Human Resources; and Brian Lynch ’90 (MBA), former vice president of strategy and concept development for Merchandising, Food and Beverage, and Imaging.

A happy home
Rainer Janetzki began his Disney career while he was an RIT undergrad. “I did an internship, and was lucky enough to be offered a job after college.”

Walt Disney World proved to be a good match for his skills and interests: He has been with the company for 22 years.

In a world where customers are called “guests” and employees are called “cast members,” Janetzki started out in the “on-stage areas” – the places where guests and cast interact. Janetzki spent several years managing Walt Disney World Resort restaurants. After gaining a solid background in the operations side of the business, he moved behind the scenes to the human resources area where he has stayed, holding positions in recruiting, organizational development, employment and human resources services.

In his current job, “I’m involved in people-management issues,” Janetzki explains. “Staffing, performance, recognition, continuous improvement to name a few. We help ensure alignment of business, organizational and people strategies.”

In many ways, the work is very similar to human resource operations in any large corporation. “My client group includes the Walt Disney World Resort hotels and transportation system encompassing 14,000 employees and 950 leaders. The appeal, for me, is being involved in developing high-level strategy with a global impact on the company.”

Brian Lynch
Brian Lynch '90 dances with Mickey Mouse at Cinderella Castle.

He adds, “There’s a truly collaborative atmosphere here. Everyone is focused on the guest experience. We all have a role, we all have a purpose. It’s a very team oriented culture.”

Although Jantezki’s job is removed from the front lines of guest interaction, his three young children keep the experience fresh for him.

“Now that I’m a Disney dad, I come to the park even more. Just to see it through their eyes is so rewarding.”

Sharing his experience
Like Rainer Janetzki, Rich McCaffrey started working for Disney as an intern. After that experience, “There really wasn’t another choice for me,” he says. “Disney offers so many opportunities.” After graduating in 1998, he went to work as one of eight managers in the Magic Kingdom Park’s Cosmic Rays Starlight Café, “the largest quick-service food operation in the world.”

His next position was in human resources, where he becam a recruiter for Disney’s College Program – the “living, learning, working” program where he had interned. His territory encompassed 18 colleges in Western New York, including RIT, which had not participated in the College Program recruiting in
several years.

“I had a goal to reintroduce it. I thought RIT had a lot to offer, and vice versa,” says McCaffrey. “It has worked out very well.”

He notes that students from any discipline are welcome to apply for the program, which always has about 1,500 students in 5- and 7-month internships.

“Our internship is experience-based,” says McCaffrey. “It starts out as entry-level but it can lead to many exciting and rewarding career choices. You truly have a ‘World’ of opportunity here.”

Last year, McCaffrey returned to Florida to work as a recruiter for Disney reservation centers. He enjoys the work very much.

“This is where it starts,” McCaffrey says. “Finding and motivating the people who work here. The people are our greatest asset.”

Magic moments
“Disney wants to give people the most fabulous time of their lives,” says Brian Lynch. “That’s the mission.”

After nine years at Walt Disney World, Lynch recently accepted a new role as vice president of merchandising with the Carter’s kids apparel company in Atlanta. Lynch had more than a decade of experience in finance, merchandising and sales when he joined Walt Disney World in 1996, accepting a position in brand management. He previously had worked for Champion Athletics in Rochester and Winston-Salem, N.C. While at Champion, he earned his graduate degree at RIT.

At Disney, he was involved with several huge business areas: merchandise (“tangible memories”), food and beverage (dining experiences), and imaging (photography).

“The Disney cast members constantly think of what they can do to enhance the offer for the guest,” he explains. While visitors expect to see the many classic attractions, Disney is continually adding new aspects to the experience.

“Disney is in the fun business. When you wake up in the morning and you go to work for a company whose goal is to make sure people have a fabulous vacation, that’s pretty neat,” Lynch says.

“It’s most definitely a business,” he adds, “but it’s the coolest place I’ve ever been. That’s why it is rewarding to be a leader at Disney.”