Alumni Spotlight: Michael Falkenstein, Walt Disney Animation Studios

The USMC veteran discusses FourBlock’s impact on his bright career. 

Michael Falkenstein

Service: United States Marine Corps, 2007-2011
FourBlock Cohort: New York City, Spring 2015
Education: Columbia University, Class of 2018
Area of Study: Computer Science – Vision and Graphics Track with a concentration in Mathematics
Current Employer: Walt Disney Animation Studios
Position: Technical Director Trainee in the Talent Development Program
Hobbies: Photography, ping pong, salsa and swing dancing


USMC veteran Michael Falkenstein is a Columbia University graduate who completed the FourBlock New York City Career Readiness Program in 2015. We recently spoke with him to discuss his time with FourBlock and how the foundation played a role in his current success with Walt Disney Animation Studios.

FourBlock:  What drove you to join our Career Readiness Program?

Falkenstein: While I was in school, I still didn’t know much about what people did in the different industries and what it was like to work in them. I mainly joined to get more exposure to them.

What were your key takeaways from the course?

My key takeaway from the course was how vital it was to present yourself well. FourBlock gave me those tools and the necessary foundation. Also, the idea of not only building a good resume, but making sure it is targeted to the role you’re applying for is incredibly important and helped me get the interview. Interview prep was also very important, especially considering how the majority of your academic courses are set up. There aren’t many instances where you practice speaking about what you learn in class, or projects you work on. They’re normally written exams, essays, or writing code. During my interview, I was able to articulately speak about a project I had worked on due to proper preparations.

Since completing FourBlock’s Career Readiness Program, Falkenstein has gone on to earn an internship at Goldman Sachs and spend a summer as an undergraduate researcher with the Columbia Computer Graphics Group. He also completed the Veterans Immersion Program Externship at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, which led to his interest in production.

These experiences, coupled with Falkenstein’s technical prowess, led to his current position as a Technical Director Trainee in the Talent Development Program at Walt Disney Animation Studios. After completing the development program, which Falkenstein is on track to accomplish within the month, he’ll begin work on the sequel to Disney’s hit animated film Frozen as an Assistant Technical Director.

What do you love about your current company?

Getting the chance to work both with world-class artists and cutting-edge software engineers. A collaborative atmosphere is highly encouraged and fostered [at Walt Disney Animation Studios]. While they never use the term, the company is very mission-oriented, except the mission now is to make beautiful movies.

What specifically did you learn during your time with FourBlock that has contributed to your current success?

The best lesson given was that nobody owed me a job just because I was a veteran. Two years ago I decided I wanted the job I have, and so I immersed myself in relevant courses, learning as much as I could, and began seeking opportunities to gain more exposure.

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