Student LifeHow to get into Disney’s Hospitality Leadership Programme with a Biology degree

In a little over a year, Calvin went from graduating with a Bachelor in Biology to landing a place in Disney’s prestigious Hospitality Leadership Program. He shares with us how he did it.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you decided to study at SHMS

I was born in China but grew up in Canada. My background is actually in science. I studied Biology for my Bachelor degree as I wanted to be a doctor when I was in high school. In the last year of university however, I realised it wasn’t what I wanted in life. There was so much repetition in doing research and not a lot of human interaction, so it became very boring!

So I decided that studying hospitality could be right for me and since everyone knows that Switzerland is famous for its hospitality, a Swiss school was an obvious choice.

I met with a Swiss Education Group representative in Canada during an education fair. As soon as I had all of the information I started the application process! A year later, I was doing my PGD in International Hotel Operations in Leysin, Switzerland.

How did you manage to get into Disney’s Hospitality Leadership Program?

I feel like it was about being in the right place at the right time! The Walt Disney Company had a booth at the International Recruitment Forum and I interviewed for their newly launched Hospitality Leadership Program. I was in the second batch to get accepted.

To be honest, Disney wasn’t even on my wish list! However, I needed to practice my elevator pitch so I went to their booth basically just ‘for fun’. I got an interview with one of the directors and I must have done something right since a couple of weeks later I received an email of acceptance and an offer.

Swiss Hotel Management School with a Post Graduate Diploma in Hotel Management

Tell us more about this Hospitality Leadership Program

It is a one-year internship that I started back in February this year, so I am coming to the end of it in a couple of months.

You start off as an hourly worker or a ‘cast member’ as they are called at Disney. You are mentored to develop your leadership skills, learn how to lead a team and progress into a management position after a few months.

What’s more, you also have a side project that you develop with a small team that can impact Disney’s own hospitality methods and processes. This is what is so unique about this programme, we can leave a legacy once we finish our internship.

What qualities do you think Disney is looking for in their interns?

I don’t know exactly why they chose me, but looking around at my fellow interns, I can see some patterns.

I think Disney is looking for people with ambition who want to make a change in the world and willing to take a risk. They are clearly looking for someone with an entrepreneurial mindset, someone who wants to stand out in the industry.

What are your responsibilities?

I am a Guest Experience Manager and I am there to solve guest situations that arise in the resort and also to focus on team growth and development.

I deal with over a hundred employees between college programme students, part- and full-time employees and employees picking up extra shifts. They don’t all report to me but I do work with them to foster their competencies in enhancing guest experience. I also manage a small team of college programme students more closely and we have one-on-one meetings with them to help with their personal development.

Disney Internship

What skills or knowledge from your studies at SHMS are you using now?

The PGD programme is intense, it feels like they squeeze 2 years’ worth of material in the 5-month semester so you stay very focused and learn loads!

HR classes were definitely the most useful, learning how to work with people of different backgrounds and cultures. Even simply being in a multicultural environment at SHMS and working in groups helps me greatly in dealing with guests and employees. It’s all about communication, building connections with people and building credibility to lead a team.


Graduated from Swiss Hotel Management School with a Postgraduate Diploma in Hotel Management

Calvin Zeng graduated from Swiss Hotel Management School with a Post Graduate Diploma in Hotel Management in 2018.

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