STEM Professional of the week

Teresa Szakos      
Walt Disney World Resort

Teresa Szakos’ interest in technology as well as her competitive and team spirit developed at a young age. Although she was not allowed to play video games, computer games and the use of software were encouraged. Growing up, she entertained herself using the computer for organization and enjoyed re-designing household spaces as part of her everyday activities. She loved solving problems and did very well in her math classes, participating regularly in math competitions. This combination of interests was evident to her high school teachers who began to guide her in the direction of design and engineering fields.

Growing up in the island of Puerto Rico, gave her the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time in the water participating in sports like synchronized swimming and speed swimming. While in high school, Teresa earned a spot on the Puerto Rican National Team and eventually became an adviser and coach to younger swimmers in synchronized swimming. Her passion for the water, for coaching and being part of a team is one that has never wavered.

Teresa attended the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, to pursue a major in architecture. During her sophomore year in college, her family moved to Orlando Florida where she would visit during the summers. It was there that she interviewed with a small family owned firm as an architectural intern. The firm of Ibarra Collaborative International became her first professional home where she worked throughout college and embraced the technical side of Architecture working on many commercial projects. She moved to Florida after completing her degree, returned to work at Ibarra and proceeded to compete all requirements for Architecture Licensure in the State of Florida.

Teresa began working at Walt Disney World Design & Engineering as a Contract Architect in 2012. It became apparent very quickly that she had a set of professional and technical skills to successfully manage large projects with very diverse groups and was soon hired as a full time cast member. In a very short time, she delivered time and again on a variety of projects, and proved particularly skillful at exceeding the stakeholders’ expectations and providing the Magic that guests expect whenever they visit Disney theme parks across the globe. She was soon managing more complicated projects and leveraging her talents to add significant value to both her team, and the company as a whole.

Today she leads a team of architects and designers on renovation projects at the Walt Disney World resort. She is responsible for managing the design of large multi-discipline projects as well, and she oversees the preparation of multi-discipline designs and construction documents for projects of varying size, including the hiring and management of multiple consulting firms.

Teresa continues to challenge herself as she is pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration at the University of Central Florida. She also continues to swim and has extended her aquatic capabilities to the lakes of Central Florida on the wakeboard. An avid traveler, she is trying to work her way through visiting all 50 states one road trip at a time. Teresa was honored by Great Minds in STEM with a Luminary Award during the HENAAC Conference in October 2016.

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