When De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) student Grace Taylor wished upon a star for an exciting placement, she didn’t anticipate working with one of the world’s biggest brands.
The 22-year-old from Stoke used to dress up as Disney princesses with her nan when she was young, so when she spotted the opportunity on DMU’s MyGateway to apply for a year-long placement at Disney’s offices in Hammersmith, London, she jumped at the chance, starting her application just two weeks before the deadline.
Applying for the placement was a rigorous process, with group interviews across two teams, a presentation and a taster session – on top of a global pandemic. But, with Grace’s 21st birthday in full swing, she received the news that she had been dreaming of, but not quite expecting.
Grace, who is currently studying Business Management and whose favourite Disney movie is The Fox and the Hound, joined the team as a sales development intern for the UK and Nordic states.
“When I found out I would be working at Disney, the first person I told was my nan,” said Grace. “She would spend so much time watching me dress up as the likes of Cinderella or Aurora and now she can see me working at the company we both loved so much as I was growing up.
“It was very surreal. I was so anxious and nervous but everyone there made me feel so comfortable.”
Grace plays a vital role in supporting the sale of Disney-branded movies and series to UK broadcasters, managing the lists of available content and passing it on to the negotiating teams, whether it’s a classic Christmas film for terrestrial TV or new releases in digital stores such as Sky or iTunes.
So, when the likes of Home Alone are broadcast on Channel 4 over Christmas this year, or the BBC shows one of the many Marvel movies on a bank holiday, there’s a strong possibility that Grace has had some involvement with making that happen.
Her day-to-day role also sees the business management student work closely with the research team to create presentations and profiles on Disney’s extensive client list, which includes media powerhouses such as Marvel, Lucasfilm – the owners of the Star Wars license – and ABC.
Grace said: “Objectively, it’s a very varied, full-on role but one that feels incredibly rewarding when you see a programme that you helped the sales team pitch, broadcast on air.
“I was really nervous at first, worrying that working for such a big company would be very corporate and clinical but everyone in my team made me feel part of the Disney family right away.
“Disney have a great track record of hiring interns back after they’ve finished university. One of my sales managers was in my position eight years ago, starting as an intern and she’s worked her way up the ranks here, so that’s something I would certainly be keen to do because it’s such an incredible place to work. I would love to come back.
“And having such a big name on my CV I feel has really helped my employability prospects. After going through such a rigorous interview process against, what I imagine are thousands of other students, and being offered an internship here has boosted my confidence no end.”
While Grace’s time at Disney may be coming to an end (for now), such has been her impact on the team that she is now in the process of scouring through thousands of CVs and leading the search for her potential successor, who will take over her role after her placement year is finished.
After the summer, Grace will return to DMU for her final year of studies. Having initially looked into studying criminology at a different university, she decided to take a gap year to explore her career interests in more depth.
She eventually settled on business management and was pushed by her hometown friends’ positive experiences at DMU to visit the university on an Open Day. Having seen the campus and spoken to both students and staff, a move to Leicester was soon on the cards – a decision that appears to be justified given her experience with Disney.
For those looking to follow in her footsteps and secure a placement year at a renowned company, Grace has the following advice:
“With Disney, the biggest thing I’ve found that they look for in a student is enthusiasm. They want someone that not only has all of the skills that the job description is looking for but someone who’s eager to learn from their managers and ask a lot of questions about the role.
“Showing that enthusiasm is something everyone can do as well. The team’s so supportive at Disney that we want you to feel like you can ask a million questions, so that’s something I would recommend doing. The key though is passion and enthusiasm for the brand and product.”
Posted on Tuesday 12th April 2022