Edition 1 - Meredith Brown

posted Dec 9, 2016, 6:02 AM by Sierra Stevens   [ updated Dec 9, 2016, 6:02 AM ]

By Sierra Stevens

When Meredith walked through the gates of Walt Disney World for the first time in the fourth grade, she was mesmerized by the magic she saw around her. Of course, there isn’t a 10 year old little girl who wouldn’t be. However, even after returning from her family vacation, Meredith’s love for Disney continued. As the years passed, her admiration for the company grew. It was only after returning to Disney for a second time and witnessing a Make-A-Wish child meet Belle and the Beast, that Meredith absolutely knew she wanted to work for Disney.

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Meredith pictured with the Fairy Godmother during her first trip to Disney in 2004.

“It was just seeing the look on her face. As corny and stereotypical as it sounds, it was magical. You could tell she was buying into it. To her they were real. The Cast Members were doing such a great job interacting with her, and it really just hit me! For a little girl like that, A: it’s real and B: it’s something that her parents either saved for or the foundation funded for them to go. Unfortunately, it could have been one of the last things that she got to do.

That moment was really when I shifted from the mindset of ‘I’m a consumer and I like Disney,’ (probably like most do), to ‘What is this company about? What is their purpose?”

So when the time came for Meredith’s “freshman one-on-one” meeting with Mrs. Caler, a high school guidance counselor at the time, Meredith said, “I want to work for Disney. What do I have to do?”

This meeting sparked four years of hard work for the teenage girl with a dream. She set her sights on attending college in Florida (because selling her parents on Florida was hard enough, California was out of the question) and worked tirelessly to get what Meredith calls, “the trifecta”, of a good GPA, involvement, and an internship or work experience.

Meredith graduated from Hanover High School in 2011, applied to four colleges in Florida, and wished for the best. However, her wishes didn’t exactly come true.

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Meredith pictured with Mrs. Caler at her graduation from HHS.

“Unfortunately, with my horrible SAT score of 990, I wasn’t getting into any schools. Very many tears were shed.”

After visiting and getting waitlisted by all four schools in Florida, Meredith’s dad suggested visiting The University of Tampa.

“I had never considered the school. To be honest, when I went on The University of Tampa’s website, I thought the main building, Plant Hall, was ugly. (Although I now know the building to be one of the most beautiful I have ever had the chance to see and work in).”

Despite the ugly building, Meredith and her dad visited The University of Tampa.

“My admissions counselor greeted me that day. She could tell I was really upset, and of course she came up to me and said, ‘Hi! Nice to meet you! Where are you from?”

Meredith’s dad explained what had happened with the other schools and that she had not yet applied to Tampa, but that he had insisted she consider it an option. Meredith quietly chimed in about her stellar high school GPA and resume, and overall confusion as to why she “wasn’t good enough” to get into a Florida school, just because of that glaring standardized test score.

“I remember the counselor saying (in the most comforting, understanding tone), Everything is going to be fine, email me your resume and in two weeks it’ll be solved.

And I did.

I went back to Pennsylvania, did what she said, and in two weeks I had my acceptance letter to The University of Tampa.”

In August 2011, Meredith packed up and traveled to Tampa to attend college. However, it wasn’t as great as she thought it would be.

“My first year I was extremely homesick. I threatened my parents with dropping out and coming home many times. I hated it. But I stuck it out and I got really involved.”

Meredith joined a business fraternity (which initiates both men and women), Delta Sigma Pi, started dancing again, and got to work on achieving her dream.

Meredith would tell you, she gave up the typical college experience of going to sports games and parties in order to get grades high enough to achieve her goal. Friday nights were for the library.

By senior year, she was applying for Disney internships.

“I applied to nine internships with Disney. That’s the thing about Disney, it’s very challenging to jump straight to an entry level role.  Internships are mostly the way to break through the door.”

Suddenly it was one month until her college graduation and Meredith still hadn’t gotten a Disney internship. This caused some major panic.

“I’m very close with the Garmans (a well-known, Hanover Public School District, husband and wife duo). So I called Mrs. Garman (April 7th to be exact), because I wanted to talk to their daughter Ava for her birthday. But I started crying when she asked about the job search.

‘It’s April 7th, I’ve got no offer from Disney.’ I had pretty much given up. I told her, ‘I guess I need to start applying elsewhere.’

“I was going to apply to other places in Tampa, but I was not going to come back to Hanover! That would have been defeat for me. That scared me more than anything. Having to be that college student who had to pack up and move back home. I was willing to do anything to prevent that from happening, even if it meant taking a job that I wasn’t so thrilled about. So Mrs. Garman said, (in Mrs. Garman fashion), the “Everything happens for a reason, don’t give up speech.”

A few hours after this chat, Meredith received a restricted call.

“Disney always calls you restricted because obviously they don’t want you to call back and bug the recruiters forever. So I knew it was Disney calling and I had already received two rejection calls before that. I thought, ‘Here we go!’ I had made it to the last round for three internships at that point. So my last call, I was thinking, ‘This is it! This is my final call. This recruiter is going to tell me I didn’t get it.

“I picked up the phone, and Dani, my internship recruiter said, ‘The Recruitment Marketing team wants to offer you the role in Florida!’

“I had wanted to work for Disney for over a decade at that point. I don’t even remember how I felt. I felt numb. I didn’t feel anything. I think it was a combination of shock and relief.”

“So, I got the internship with the Recruitment Marketing team and looking back, all the “no’s” just meant it wasn’t the right fit.

That is probably the biggest lesson I learned the last 6 months of college. When you want someone for a job or anything (…even for boys, Sierra!) you want somebody who wants you, as much as you want them. The other two internships I got rejected from, they didn’t want ME as much as I wanted them, because I wasn’t a good fit. I wasn’t ‘the one.’ So the fact that I finally got a hiring leader that said ‘I want her! I want Meredith Brown.’ Looking back, made the tears and frustration over getting rejected, bittersweet.

I was the right fit, the hiring manager wanted me for exactly who I was. I now find myself applying this ‘A-Ha’ moment & journey to landing my internship, to a lot of scenarios I find myself personally challenged with today.”

Meredith continued on to graduate college as valedictorian of her class (tying with coincidentally one of her best friends), (Take that - 990 SAT score stereotype!), and moved to Orlando where she spent a year interning with the Recruitment Marketing team.

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Meredith pictured with her graduation cap at her college graduation.

“I like to describe Recruitment Marketing as the sweet spot between marketing and recruitment. So instead of selling an item, you’re trying to sell a job. I went for marketing in school but marketing an item versus marketing a job or a function is very different. As I learned by comparing the experience with Disney with my time as a consumer products intern at UTZ Quality Foods, Inc., in Hanover.”

While in her internship Meredith worked with recruiters across the Disney enterprise.

“I fell in love with recruitment, interviewing, the strategy of how to get a job, the job descriptions, how you offer someone a job, promotions, just the whole thing. In my eyes, being a recruiter is such a special job because you’re changing someone’s life. Just like it happened to me. I’ll never forget my recruiters. They changed the trajectory of my life. My destiny.”

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Meredith pictured with her Mouse-Car after finishing her internship with Recruitment Marketing.

With her internship ending, Meredith was working hard to transition in the company to a full-time role. She ended up getting her dream job with the Corporate Center of Excellence team at Disney on the exact same day one year earlier she got offered her internship…Ava Garman’s Birthday (April 7th).

“I support any professional role that works for the Parks and Resorts segment. In my day to day, I schedule interviews, post jobs on Disney Careers, and then once you get hired, I help you start your first day.”


Meredith pictured outside the Casting Door at Magic Kingdom.

Meredith Brown started out like all of us, high school students in a small town in Pennsylvania. She had a dream, pushed herself to achieve it, and all of her hard work paid off. She continues to set goals for herself and aspires to be a VP at Disney one day, although she knows she still has a lot of growing and learning to do. She is hungry for another lofty, long term goal to work towards.

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Meredith’s official company photo.

At the end of our interview, I asked Meredith a question and her response really summed up the message of her story.

S:         If you could go back in time and tell your teenage self-one thing, what would it be?

M:       “You can’t go back in time. You can’t. I had a really good friend in college tell me that.

I was frustrated with Disney at the time. I wasn’t getting any traction. He called me in the middle of the night, and he said, “As your friend, I have to tell you… You can’t have regrets.”

I know it’s so corny and your mom probably says it a thousand times, but everything does happen for a reason. If you go back and change some of those things, (you know, it’s like all of those movies where the character plays with the past) it messes up everything else. I look at it that way.

So I would never encourage anyone to regret anything they’ve done in the past, because it’s always about what you are going to do with the moment that you have right now.

You can’t change the past (as Rafiki would say), so don’t dwell on it. Just work hard now. So that’s how I would answer that question. Don’t go back.

Another great lesson I was taught by a great mentor is: “In order to receive, your hand has to be open to give.”

Talking with Meredith and learning about her journey to follow a dream she’s had since fourth grade was incredibly inspiring. She has given me amazing advice for not only high school or college, but life in general. Meredith is, without a doubt, one of the most inspirational people I have ever met and I’m so thankful to have been able to talk to her and share her story. If you are interested in speaking to Meredith about her journey, or would like her advice on how to follow your own dreams, feel free to contact her at brownmeredith11@gmail.com.