Thursday, April 7, 2016
A Conversation with a Walt Disney Imagineer
A Conversation with Walt Disney Imagineer Jonathan Chew
Jonathan Chew, Blue Sky Program Manager at Walt Disney Imagineering, presented at this year’s ECE Day, hosted by the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department for its 50th anniversary. Chew detailing the relationship between imagination and engineering. Chew’s job as the Blue Sky Program Manager is to come up with the next big idea that then get incorporated into the Disney amusement parks. Check out this Q&A:
What is imagineering?
Imagineering is the blend of creative imagination and technical know-how. We work on all of the amazing theme parks and resorts around the world that are done by Disney.
Do you see a unifying trait in all Imagineers?
They’ve gotten to explore the world and have seen how things work, why things work, what makes things work. They ask the hard questions, such as “How can I improve this experience? What is fun for the guests who come to our parks everyday? How can I make that even better? How can I make that magical? How do I hide the technology so that the story shines through?” I tell people that they should be ‘T’-shaped. The big vertical bar of the ‘T’ is like your field of expertise. I am an electrical engineer, and that’s how I approach the world. The horizontal bar is sort of what makes imagineering imagineering - experience. Imagineers bring their experiences to the table during a brainstorm, during a design, during the project.
Do you have any advice for current engineering students?
Be more open-minded. It’s okay if you don’t find the solution right away. Talk to your teammates or be willing to listen to another person’s opinion. We all get into the zone where we’re like, “I’m just going to do this myself because I know how it’s done, I know the exact answer.”
Be open to accepting the thoughts and paradigms of all of those people around you, and also know what your strengths are. I am seeing it from a technical standpoint, and this is what’s important to keep in mind. But when you’re working on a team, you shouldn’t be stuck in your viewpoint.
Finally, think of yourself as creative. Sometimes, engineers don’t think they’re creative because they can’t draw or because they can’t sing or because they can’t dance, but creativity - I think the very definition of engineering is to build and to create - Arduino, Maker projects and just plain inventing. Create, create, create.