From Military Duty to Disney Magic: Cast Member Transforms Army Service to Career Success

While the missions of the U.S. Army and The Walt Disney Company are different, cast member Dan, manager of supplier diversity, has found striking similarities in their values and culture. For Dan, these include teamwork, a “can do” mindset and leaders who dig in and pursue common goals alongside their teams.

“My philosophy in starting this second career was to find an employer I was as proud to represent as when I put on the Army uniform, with values and ethics that aligned with my 30 years of military service,” Dan said. “I was also searching for a role that enabled me to be more present for my family in the years to come. Disney offered all of that.”

After serving in the Army for 30 years, Dan became the first participant in the Disney Military Fellowship Program when it began in 2017. Following his fellowship in strategic sourcing, he accepted a role with the company supporting its global sourcing strategy.

“Right away, I was able to jump in and get a sense of this company and the wide variety of roles needed to make it work,” he said. “And as far as benefits, it was like peeling back layers of an onion when you began adding up all that’s available. Disney takes care of its cast the way the military does.”

Today, Dan plays a key role in helping Disney achieve its goal of increasing its spending with diverse suppliers to $1 billion annually by 2024, including building relationships with vendors that promote sustainability. He also leads Disney’s Heroes Supply Here program, which began in 2015 to promote the company’s spending with veteran-owned businesses, including enterprises run by service-disabled veterans.

Dan has served in leadership roles with SALUTE, a Business Employee Resource Group (BERG) at Walt Disney World dedicated to networking, fellowship, community service and professional development for cast members who are veterans.

“SALUTE gives veteran cast members an instant connection to building friendships, networking and navigating the resources available,” Dan said. “We’re here to help each other, as teammates and team builders. Veterans fit in easily and succeed here because we’ve risen through the ranks of military service with that mentality that we’re all in it together.”

Many veterans become cast members through Heroes Work Here, Disney’s company-wide initiative to hire, train and support veterans. Reflecting Disney’s longstanding respect and appreciation for the U.S. Armed Services, the program recognizes the leadership and sense of purpose service members bring to Disney roles.

This strategy provides a wellspring of talent for critical, hard-to-fill roles such as cyber security and contributes to the company’s diversity and strength.

“A lot of the qualities that draw people to the military, and that service members hone through their service, can be found at Disney,” Dan said. “It might sound cliché, but veterans are looking for a new family and they can find it in fellow cast members.”