Charles Weiner ’80 and his tech team are The Walt Disney Company’s real-life wizards and Wall-Es. From hotel check-ins, to ticket purchases, to Mousketeer hat sales, Weiner’s group of information-technology professionals makes sure that at every step, visitors encounter a Disney theme park that’s not only magical, but also free of decidedly un-magicaltechnical glitches.
“Behind the scenes, there’s technology supporting almost everything people use as guests of Disney,” Weiner says. “My team manages a lot of that infrastructure. When we do our best work is when nobody knows we exist.”
A longtime Disney fan, Weiner moved from New Jersey to Southern California in 2005 to become the company’s senior vice president of enterprise infrastructure services. He currently oversees more than 1,500 tech professionals who support more than 65,000 end users across Disney and 5,500 servers in “a very large, complex network that supports both media and traditional IT,” he says.
Weiner’s technological impact extends well beyond the Magic Kingdom’s walls. His team ensures that the Disney-owned ABC News groups receive e-mail alerts in whatever far-flung locations they’re currently stationed. They manage the hardware and systems that support Disney stores. They keep theme park ticket sales humming along. “The requirements around ABC News may be different from the theme park business, and the requirements around our studio business are different from both of those,” he says. “They all have unique challenges, but that’s probably the best part about working here. From the time I wake up in the morning until nighttime, there’s always something going on at Disney that we need to be working on.”
As senior vice president, Weiner is also charged with setting long-range strategies and goals for Disney’s Technology Services and Solutions group. Recently, that included the decision to build a new technology center that will go live next month. He says the new center will be key in supporting next-generation technologies. (How large is it, and where? Weiner can’t share those details. It seems even Disney is not immune to cyber attacks.)
Weiner grew up before PCs and data phones governed our lives. He played outside. He watched The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights in his North Jersey home. He rooted for the Giants and the Mets. And he eventually visited The College of New Jersey, fell in love with the campus, and enrolled as a business and distributive education major.
By that time, the late 1970s, Bill Gates had founded Microsoft and Apple’s first personal computer, the Apple II, was hitting the mass market. “We used to have to wait in line at Green Hall to go do some technology,” Weiner says. “They had an IBM typewriter—the one with the eraser on it—and that was a big deal.”
He began working with the auxiliary services group in housing and student services after graduation. As personal computers continued trickling into the work world, Weiner helped automate some of the College’s housing processes, including room assignments. He also worked on automating marketing for admissions and recruitment. “The next thing I knew, one of the old provosts called me up and said, ‘Guess what? Your new office is Green Hall! You now work for me,’” Weiner recalls. “That’s how I got into the IT business.” Before leaving TCNJ, he helped establish the College’s early computer labs in Holman Hall and the former Nursing Building.
He went to work at Bristol-Myers Squibb in the mid-1980s, where he stayed until joining Disney in 2005. In those 20 years, he worked his way up to vice president of information management at the biopharmaceutical company, developing an efficient model for desktop, help desk, infrastructure, and client support services for more than 130 Bristol-Myers Squibb sites.
“I never expected the IT field to expand as much as it did and has,” he says. “I just got lucky, I guess. I had no plans to go into the technology field, [and] to this day, I’ve never taken a college computer course.” While his digital know-how has been crucial to his success, Weiner says his current job is more about coaching and motivating “passionate IT people” than it is “me being the resident expert” on all things technology.
Still, he continues to hone his skills and keep up with the trends, toting an iPad and an iPhone on his travels. “It’s just an ever-changing business,” he says of IT. “Now is probably the most profound change we’re going through. Between social media and mobile devices, employees now expect their corporate devices to be at the same level as their personal devices. It was easier in the old days, as they say.”