Once upon a time, Disney’s magic lived in animations. Then, it came to life in its theme parks. Now, it’s everywhere: the Fortune 100 company’s digital entertainment properties include ESPN, Marvel, Hulu and its eponymous streaming service, Disney+.
It’s a lot to keep track of, but that’s why the company hired Ciara Murphy, FOX ’16.
As technical program manager for Disney’s streaming services, Murphy provides a crucial link in the middle of the company’s digital infrastructure. On one side are the corporate leaders who make the big decisions, such as what content to produce, where to distribute it, what’s working and what isn’t.
In order to to decide properly, they need quality data. That’s where frontline engineers come in—to build analytical tools that can properly track the performance of hundreds of thousands of pieces of content in scores of countries. Murphy’s job is that of interlocutor: fluent in both corporate and programming languages, she makes sure nothing is lost in translation.
“For any Disney asset, whether it’s Kim Possible or The Handmaid’s Tale, our teams collect and transform the data so that the business folks can get meaningful insight,” Murphy said. “That’s what really enables the business to make decisions.”
Murphy says it’s rewarding to be part of a company that prides itself on delivering smiles across the globe. “Working for a company that provides so much entertainment to so many people is exciting,” Murphy said. “Everybody is so passionate about what they do.”
“Don’t just fly. Soar.”—Dumbo
Dumbo, a hard-luck elephant who finds his way to greatness when he learns his unusually large ears allow him to fly, is a prototypical Disney tale of perseverance.
Murphy has one of her own.
Growing up in Boston’s diverse Dorchester neighborhood, Murphy was the oldest of four children. Her father immigrated from Ireland to work as a self-employed carpenter—a trade where work ebbs and flows. Her mother taught gym in public schools. Murphy’s story isn’t rags-to-riches, but her upbringing still colored her decisions.
“We didn’t have a lot growing up,” Murphy said. “I just wanted to be a person that if my siblings were stressed about buying textbooks or something, that they didn’t need to be, that I could help them.”
Spreading her wings
Murphy found her chance to fly as a Temple Owl. Philadelphia was far enough from her hometown to provide a sense of striking out on her own, and close enough to get back when needed.
After trying out different majors, the management information systems program at Fox landed on her radar and a light bulb went off. The work was challenging and the career prospects promising.
Looking back, Murphy says, it was the program’s focus on teaching fluency in both corporate speak and programming languages that best prepared her for the working world.
“The department, faculty and what they taught me play a big role in where I am today,” Murphy said.
Her time on North Broad also opened the door for Murphy’s other great passion of philanthropy. She participated as a mentor in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, spending time once a week with local public school students.
After obtaining a job at the insurance and healthcare giant Cigna post-graduation, Murphy volunteered to help lead the company’s philanthropic efforts and returned to Philadelphia. There, she established a program to bring local students to Temple’s campus to learn about robotics and participate in career days.
Although her Disney duties now demand much of her time, Murphy plans to prioritize giving back throughout her career. She has a particular interest in providing mental health services to the economically disadvantaged.
“In five years, I’d like to be in a place where I’m able to help people in really meaningful ways,” Murphy said. “When you’re living below the poverty line, you’re statistically more likely to experience trauma. It impacts people in so many ways.”