Like All Things Disney, My Internship Too Was Truly Magical! – Internship Experience At The Walt Disney Company 

Interning with the Human Resources team in one of the world’s most admired companies was both exciting and challenging. The Walt Disney Company could well be called a media conglomerate with technology at the core of everything they do.

As an aspiring Human Resources professional, I was extremely keen on interning at Disney India as it would give me an opportunity to learn what it takes to cater to a diverse set of employee population – sales, marketing, technology, media programming, licensing, movie production and distribution all rolled into one. One can only imagine how robust the Human resource systems should be and how comprehensive the Human Resource policies shall be to cater to the varying needs of an Ad Sales team that’s preparing for its next client meeting on one hand and the Studios team which is probably brainstorming on the marketing plan for the next Marvel, Star Wars or Pixar movie.

Ever since I received my internship offer, I was eagerly looking forward to the two months of being at Disney India. I along with four other b-school interns were to be interning this summer. When I finally walked into their Mumbai office, I couldn’t help but notice the numerous awards that their movies had received which were on display and how their walls were adorned with posters of some of their memorable movies like Lion King, Finding Dory, Frozen etc. The on-boarding and induction program at Disney India is called Disney Beginnings and on Day 1 all of us interns were taken through how The Walt Disney Company began, its history, legacy, lines of business, all the brands that it had acquired and how the company has been evolving both globally and in India. When you’re at Disney, you do things differently and this was amply clear to me when we were informed that a movie screening was scheduled as a part of our induction process. After the movie, we were introduced to our project guides and teams that we would be working with.

In my 2 months at Disney India, I worked with the Learning and Development team on two very exciting projects. While my first project revolved around designing a comprehensive framework for women’s resource groups (also known as women’s network) within the company, the second project was a study on how employees are learning and about improving the usage of the internal learning management system. Both the projects required a different approach – while the first project involved data analysis, benchmarking and brainstorming on a comprehensive framework, the second project required me to conduct focus group discussions with employees and then present the observations, inferences and recommendations to improve the usage and penetration of their learning management system. Towards the end of my internship, I had the opportunity to present to the entire HR leadership team at Disney India. Another interesting challenge that was thrown at all interns was to present just one slide to the MD with the ‘one big insight’ or idea that we would like to see implemented.

In these two months, there are many aspects about interning at Disney India that stood out for me and I think have played a huge role in making my experience extremely enriching. First, is the autonomy and freedom that is entrusted upon an intern. I was given all liberty to design the course and scope of my project. I could go beyond the defined project charter and add to the project scope. Second, is the way an intern is valued. I’ve not, for a day, felt any different from a full-time employee. I very much felt as a part of the team and not just an intern. My ideas were valued and genuinely evaluated for their potential to be executed. Third, is the effort that goes into delivering an enriching internship experience to students. Despite their busy schedules, my project mentor and everybody else on the team was willing to invest their time and energy to help me out whenever needed. The campus team regularly connects with the interns to keep a check on their progress and help resolve any specific challenges. There were various engagement activities – screening of Disney classics, photo shoots and selfie contests which were arranged for us. We also had the opportunity to be a part of an informal interaction with the Managing Director as part of their ‘Coffee Conversations’ series.

Apart from a great professional learning experience, the entire journey for me proved to be a wonderful personal learning experience as well. I was reporting to the Associate Director, L&D, who went on to become a mentor and friend that I much needed.  I still remember her telling me how she wants me to have an experience that is both enriching and memorable. I was at absolute liberty to walk into the Head HR’s cabin at any point and have a quick chat. I was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to be surrounded by brilliant people who had a wealth of experience across sectors. The learnings that I’ve had from my conversations ranging from the need for L&D professionals to suggest practical interventions to discussing gender and discrimination at the workplace and the career advice that I’ve received are something that I shall always hold very close to my heart!

I vividly remember the Head of HR asking me about one big change that my internship has helped me do and if I were, to sum up the entire experience in probably one sentence I would repeat what my reply then was – “Interning at Disney India was both professionally and personally enriching. I’m going back as a much more confident person, with reinforced belief in my strengths, willingness to work on my weaknesses and promise to not let go of my learnings here!”

Like they say about all things associated with Disney, my internship too was truly magical!

Nandini Gajendrum

Nandini is pursuing M.A (HRM&LR) from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She is passionate about the potential that Human Resources holds as both a field of study and a profession ahead. She is a Reader, Dreamer and a Doer!