Feb. 13 2020
Love Harry Potter World? Thank Anisha Vyas (and her team). A senior safety engineer for Universal Creative, Anisha has likely had a hand in building your favorite attraction in the park. (If you weren’t impressed enough already, she’s also part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s #LightaSpark campaign empowering young girls to pursue careers in STEM.) So what exactly does someone who builds roller coasters do every day? We asked her…
P.S. — She’s in Ravenclaw, obviously.
How did you end up at Universal?
I always had an affinity toward math and science. I knew I liked using that part of my brain but I also knew I didn’t want a boring desk job…. I wanted something more creative. When I went to college, I was lucky to make some connections and meet the right people at the right time and be offered a role at Universal. It blows my mind every day how incredible this job is.
So you’ve been at Universal since you graduated?
I did a brief stint at one of our competitors down the street but quickly moved over to Universal Creative. It really was my first job after graduating from Carnegie Mellon.
What’s a typical day in the office like for you?
Every day is so totally different. But normally I have a lot of meetings. We have a very cool engineering project we’re working on, so there’s a special team I work with in the morning. Then I work with my internal team, which is a whole host of engineers. My main goal is to make sure they’re successful so we work through challenges. And my day ends in integration meetings.
What does your role in building a roller coaster look like?
It changes for every project. For Skull Island: Reign of Kong, my job used every single kind of engineering rolled into one. I was a manager for rock work, which is heavy on civil engineering. I worked on our animated figures, which is mechanical engineering, and finally I worked on our ride vehicle, helping to ensure there was a safe system in place. Our creative team is really responsible for coming up with what the guest experience should be and how they should feel. The technical team says, “Here’s how we can bring it to life.”
What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
All of my projects. It’s really fun to be able to point to something and say “I had a hand in doing that.” My first project out of school was working on Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley… working on all the animated figures and wand magic. There are things to point to in every attraction where I really feel like I had a hand in it.
What was it like to see the Harry Potter attraction come to life?
One of the most gratifying experiences is when we open a new attraction and you get to see the first people come off the ride. That first ride is genuinely a true reaction, because there are no spoilers on the Internet just yet. I remember when we opened Diagon Alley, people walked in and literally were just crying.
Who gets to ride the new attractions first?
Our entire team does. We all ride the rides hundreds of times before guests ever do. At the end of the day, we aren’t building a ride, we’re building an attraction. So everything has to work together.
Are you an adrenaline junkie?
I am, but there are people who work for us who are on a different level. We have a lot of people who will do extreme sports.
What’s one piece of advice you have for someone who wants to do what you do?
One is: be really good at what you do and sell that. I always want to hire the best, so tell me what you’re the best at. What makes you special? What makes you stand out? Really focus on that. Focus on what makes you different. Don’t be afraid of failure. It’s so cheesy but I’m still learning that every day. Try something new, do something that pushes you outside of your comfort zone.