Yvonne Chang has worked in various capacities for The Walt Disney Company for a quarter-century and in the timeshare space since 2006. She has spent the past 3½ years as director of business operations for Disney Vacation Development and was director of club management and regulatory affairs for seven years before that. Chang talked about what has kept her so loyal to the company, what’s changed there and in the timeshare industry overall since the late 1990s, and what value she and Disney find in being members of ARDA.
What has kept you working for Disney in one capacity or another for 25 years? What has changed most notably at the company, and what has stayed mostly the same?
I have admired Disney my entire life. I was about four years old when I immigrated to the United States from Cuba with my parents and little sister, and going to Disney was the dream even then. When I eventually made it to Disney as a “guest” many, many years later, I remember being in awe while walking down Mainstreet, USA at the Magic Kingdom and seeing the castle for the first time; many decades later, it’s still magical for me!
What I love about working at Disney is that everything we do is consistently true to our brand, and in alignment with our core values. Every one of us, as “cast members,” has a role in the show, and we each understand our roles well and the value we bring to the overall guest experience. In every Disney organization I have served as a leader—including Walt Disney World internal communications, parks and resorts multicultural business development, diversity and inclusion, and now Disney Vacation Club — I have always had a sense of belonging, and a strong feeling of fulfillment. The “constant” at Disney is always warmly welcoming guests and members from around the world, delivering legendary guest service, and creating magic. However, what continually changes is the way in which we deliver these magical experiences, through innovative technology.
You have been involved with Disney Vacation Club (and thus timeshare) since 2006. How has the industry changed, and how has it stayed the same?
I was completely new to the timeshare industry when I first joined DVC as director, operations integration in 2006, and I had a lot to learn, quickly, while hitting the ground running! In this first role, I led our member services call center operations, business intelligence, Member Getaways exchange programs, and business development, focusing on expanding our marketing and sales presence into various domestic markets and also Japan, as we opened our Aulani Resort in Hawaii. While it was a bit intimidating at first, I also loved the challenge of learning about this industry and especially, our DVC product.
My undergraduate degree is in electrical engineering, and as an engineer by training, I have always loved intricate systems, solving complex problems, and more importantly seeing the seemingly impossible become possible. What I love about the industry and DVC is that timeshare has a unique business model, with intricate pieces and parts that work together beautifully, like a perfect three-dimensional puzzle, to deliver great vacations to guests and families from around the world. Delivering magical experiences is at the forefront of everything we do at Disney and Disney Vacation Club. And, what I love about the evolution of the industry is that most companies are now focused not only on selling vacation ownership interests in great resorts and offering vacations in beautiful destinations, but also on delivering unique experiences to their members.
What are the key issues related to business operations that occupy most of your time?
As with any business, we are constantly focused on understanding current trends and the evolution of member and employee needs and demands. We are very data-driven and are constantly measuring the sentiments and expectations of our members, cast members and prospective members, while making sure that we continue to stay relevant and prepare for the future, particularly as it relates to technology. If we didn’t plan far ahead from a technology perspective, it would be difficult to be nimble. To continue to meet lofty goals and always stay ahead of the rapidly changing marketplace, innovative technology is paramount. It is also critical that we continue to recruit, develop, and retain talented cast members who deliver on our value proposition. One of the areas I also lead at Disney Vacation Club is training and development, and cast member development is critically important to us!
What do you enjoy most, personally, and what do you gain the most, substantively, from being part of ARDA? How have you been most involved?
In other industries that I have participated in throughout my career, competitors are usually not very collaborative. I think our industry is different, and in large part because of the role ARDA has played. ARDA does a great job of keeping us well-connected as an industry and working collaboratively towards common industry goals, for the good of all. Because of ARDA, I have learned so much about the industry; I particularly appreciate the excellent benchmarking data and industry trends research the AIF group provides. Through ARDA conferences, committees, and ARDA WIN, I have developed a sense of community with others in the industry. Among the departmental areas I lead for Disney Vacation Club are regulatory affairs and compliance, so it has been great being a part of the ARDA Legislative Policy Council. The ARDA legislative staff members do an outstanding job of keeping us abreast of legislative trends, and pending legislation that impacts our business and operations.
What’s your favorite place to travel, and why?
As a Disney cast member, my family and I are very blessed to have the opportunity to frequently enjoy so many of our Disney offerings here in Orlando and around the world. We also love traveling to unique destinations and exotic new places we have never visited before around the world, often through Adventures by Disney. These trips have included going on safari in South Africa, exploring the temples of Angkor Wats in Cambodia, kayaking through the fjords in Norway, and, last year, seeing penguins in their natural habitat in Antarctica. With that last trip, I can now say that I have traveled across all seven continents! Of course, I still have many favorites that I enjoy visiting again and again, like Hawaii, and our lovely Aulani Resort in Ko’ Olina, Oahu; and countries in Europe, like Italy and France, where I love to eat the food and enjoy the awesome shopping!