ISE alumnus Brian Betts (Class of 96) shares his wisdom and experience from decades of working at The Happiest Place on Earth, Disney World
Once up a time ….. isn’t that how all Disney stories begin?!? My Disney career began in college where I worked as an intern with the Walt Disney World Industrial Engineering department the summer of my junior and senior years at NC State. Upon graduation, I joined the department full time and began an adventure I could have never imagined. Through the years, I’ve had the chance to support the development of multiple theme parks (from Disney’s Animal Kingdom to Shanghai Disneyland Resort), launch Disney Cruise Line, invent Disney FASTPASS and create Disney MagicBands. Today, I serve as the Vice President of Operations Planning & Insights for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts worldwide. I lead a team of analytics professionals, including over 200 Industrial Engineers, who serve as internal consultants to our resorts in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
What’s the single most important experience or understanding you gained in the ISE department?
I gained a greater understanding and appreciation for problem solving – not only as an individual, but as part of a team. Finding the best solution requires us to approach a problem from many angles. I learned to find value in the unique perspectives provided by each member of the team. Diversity drives innovation.
What is the biggest opportunity facing the industrial engineering field and profession today?
We live in a digital world and are in the midst of a data revolution. Devices and sensors are generating mountains of data that can be turned into valuable information and insights. Industrial Engineers must champion new technology and stay proficient on the latest analytical tools. Traditional time and motion studies are rapidly evolving. We need to keep pace with Computer Science and other disciplines on application of machine learning, artificial intelligence and advanced analytics.
Among all the people you’ve met in the engineering field, who has impressed and taught you the most?
Industrial Engineering has a great reputation and heritage at Disney. I was fortunate to work with many who helped build this legacy. Early in my career Bruce Laval, father of “guestology”, taught me about the science and art of developing theme parks and attractions. I’ve also been fortunate to have many leadership mentors and I speak with them on a routine basis in an effort to broaden and shape my thinking.
What is the best book you ever read?
A book I enjoyed and refer to often is “The Experience Economy” by Pine & Gilmore. The authors articulated that we are now in an economy where experiences are the “product” and companies maximize value by staging experiences to create memories. This approach is a reflection of Disney’s philosophy from the beginning; we immerse guests in adventures that allow them to enter a world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.
What advice do you have for current ISE students?
Be confident. Be courageous. Get out of your comfort zone. You have the talent to make the world a better place, but it takes passion, persistence and hard work to go from dream to reality. Walt Disney famously said, “if you can dream it, you can do it!”. I believe NCSU ISE students present and past are prepared and inspired to accomplish whatever their hearts and minds dream.