Tuesday, September 18, 2018

By Amanda Alaniz

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Sailyn Ortega always knew which career adventure she would pursue.

“The first day of college, I closed my eyes and pictured myself in five years, and if all the stars aligned in my favor, I knew I would be an engineer at Disney,” she said.

And so it is.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley alumna and Pharr native graduated in December 2017. Today, she is a project engineer with the Facility Asset Management Department for Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

“I am responsible for development, planning, execution and closeout of all aspects of the portfolio of projects throughout the project life, including project design, development, implementation, budget and maintenance of job files,” she said.

Ortega graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree and began working for Walt Disney World in February 2018.

‘‘As an engineer for Disney, it is beyond the duties of just design and construction – we are storytellers.
—Sailyn Ortega, UTRGV engineering alumna, Pharr’’

Her involvement with the company dates back to when she was an undergraduate and her participation in various student organizations, including Mexican American Engineers and Scientists.

“I was able to attend the Great Minds in STEM 2016 HENAAC Conference in Anaheim, California, where I networked with Imagineers,” Ortega said.

Her career choice in engineering springs from her family, specifically her father, whose hobby was building things for their home. It wasn’t absolutely necessary, she recalls, but it did make her mother’s life somewhat easier.

“He learned how to weld, and my curiosity would get the best of me as I watched him make something out of almost nothing. I learned that I had the same innovative imagination,” she said.

Getting to work for Disney is Ortega’s dream job. She knew early on that if she worked hard and stayed dedicated, she would achieve her goals. And the opportunities given to her at UTRGV taught her precision, efficiency and time management, she said.

“The individual attention and availability that my professors offered to my colleagues and me allowed us to be consistently invested in our assignments and projects without delays. I believe that the mutual time contribution made all of the difference,” she said.

Before landing the job at the “Most Magical Place on Earth,” Ortega already had four internships and a full-time job as an engineer with Vaughn Construction on her résumé.

Ortega said she did face a few struggles along the way, but everything she invested into her education was worth it and her experiences made her resilient. 

“Although engineering is a field mostly dominated by males, it is important for you to maintain a positive mentality and remember that you bring a unique perspective to the table as a female engineer,” she said.

“Be fiercely devoted to your dream, even if things do not go as planned, at first,” she said.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.