An Inside Look at Heroes Work Here with Disney’s Director of Veteran Initiatives

Last year, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced a company-wide initiative to hire, train and support at least 1,000 U.S. veterans over a three-year period. The Heroes Work Here initiative has paved the way for veteran career expos around the country, special courses specifically designed for 150 Disney recruiters and 500 hiring managers so that they had a better understanding of military vernacular, and career-coaching sessions for hundreds of veterans during which they learned resume writing and interview skills.

At the heart of the program is director of veteran initiatives for The Walt Disney Company – retired Army Colonel Kevin Preston. He has 27 years of military experience with an emphasis in human resources. I recently sat down with Kevin to hear about his current role at Disney.

Why is Heroes Work Here important to Disney?
We are a veteran-friendly company and the program is about telling veterans that we are interested in them – if that means they find a job at Disney, great; if it means sharing knowledge that will help them find employment elsewhere, that’s great too. We just want to help this diverse group of people find jobs after they have valiantly served their country.

How has your background helped you in your role?
Before coming to Disney, I was a mid-level officer in the Army and had been a Disney fan my entire life. About 10 years ago, while still in the military, I decided I wanted to work for the company, but I didn’t know how to get a job. I found a colleague who had been through the Disney Internship Program. I got a name and contacted Disney’s HR department, not to ask for a job but to learn about how to get a job. Over the course of six years, my Disney network grew – I learned about the culture while answering their questions about the military. I pursued a Masters in Business Administration to compliment my Masters in Education and I built my resume, all to establish a brand for myself so I’d be ready to find a job after leaving the military. That’s when my current role emerged – something I’m thankful for every day.

What assistance does Disney offer to veterans during the hiring process?
We offer personal coaching for veterans, much of it built from my experience. We start by sending them to the Heroes Work Here website, where we provide online workshops. Once a resume is built, we talk through it. When someone leaves a company to work for another, 80 percent of the language might translate. But when someone leaves the military to work for a company, maybe 20 percent translates. For example, a Battalion Commander translates to someone who may have led 600 people; or, veterans will often list awards that a recruiter doesn’t understand. I encourage them to use language such as, “recognized for exceptional performance X number of times.” It’s also common for veterans to see a military mission as just doing their duty, but I help pull themes, like leadership, out of those experiences. I know both languages. So I’ll help veterans shape their resumes, find roles and prepare for them.

What do you look forward to as this initiative continues to grow?
At Disney, we’ve built this program with involvement from our senior leadership, including Bob Iger – it’s hard to beat that. Looking ahead, I’m excited to start working with veterans even before they leave the military. I will also continue to encourage people across Disney to lend ideas. I’m proud to be part of Heroes Work Here. It’s not a personal pride, it’s that I’m proud to stand with an organization I’ve loved since I was a kid. It’s a dream come true to bring together my passion for Disney and the military, and to help people succeed along the way.