Ray Konopka isn’t just a Disney fan, he’s a cast member. After consulting with Disney Parks and Resorts for almost a decade, the president of Raize Software moved from consultant to part-time employee for the international leader in family entertainment.
“Most of my time involves developing software, either for Raize Software or the Walt Disney Co.,” said Konopka, 46. “I started consulting with Disney Parks and Resorts back in 2002, and over the years, I’ve worked on several software projects, most notably, the Fastpass system, which is used in all of the Disney Parks worldwide.”
Disney’s Fastpass is “the virtual queuing system” created by the Walt Disney Co. that allows guests to avoid long lines at specific attractions. The Naperville resident said he “jumped at the chance” to get involved with it, and the company.
In October 2011, his hard work paid off, and he was hired as a part-time employee, complete with the Disney cast member name badge.
“I still have to manage my time between Raize Software and Disney, but now I don’t have to worry about whether or not there will be a next consulting project,” he said. “I’ve been a Disney fan for a long time, and I’m just thrilled to be able to write software that helps guests enjoy their visit to their favorite Disney Park.”
Konopka’s path to the Magic Kingdom began at Benedictine University (formerly Illinois Benedictine College), where he graduated in 1989. He was honored in 2012 with the first ever Mathematical and Computational Sciences Alumni Achievement Award.
“This award honors distinguished alumni, and he truly deserves this award,” said Daniel Nohl, professor of computer science at Benedictine. “Ray majored in both mathematics and computer science; he saw the beauty in both areas and their various connections to each other.”
When he isn’t working, Konopka shares his expertise with other software developers, speaking at conferences in North America, Europe, and Australia. And of course, he and his wife, Elizabeth, also a Benedictine graduate, enjoy vacationing with their two boys at various Disney Parks and Resorts.
1. Were you interested in computers early on?
“I was in high school in the mid-’80s and that was when personal computers were just starting to make inroads into businesses. My first experience with computers wasn’t until my senior year. I took a class and fell in love with the idea of controlling the computer and programming, but it really hadn’t developed into a big career (option) at that point.”
2. When did you start Raize Software?
“I started Raize Software in 1995. Initially, I provided software development consulting services for a revolutionary new development tool called Delphi. Later that year, I published my first book, and the success of the book led to the development of Raize Components, our first software product.”
3. What is unique about the Disney Fastpass system?
“It is unique in the sense that it provides a virtual queuing system that is based on demand, as opposed to paying for the privilege of getting into a special line, which is what most other resorts do. Fastpass is still free and available to all guests.”
4. What is it like to vacation at Disney since you have been working with them?
“When I go on vacation, it’s really more of a focus of having a chance to show my family kind of what I do. As a guest, I still get to enjoy it as a fan, but I know more about what is going on behind-the-scenes. It’s very cool.”
5. You and Elizabeth started the Raize Software Scholarship Award at Benedictine. Why is it important to you?
“I wanted to give something back to the university. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Benedictine, from my advisers and faculty, to campus life and meeting my future wife (there). I was also fortunate to receive merit-based scholarships, which were not tied to financial need. Without the scholarships, I would not have been able to attend Benedictine University. It is my hope that this scholarship can help those students who may be in a similar situation.”
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