By Jackie Daubert
Ricky Haldis, a Holy Family University alumnus and owner of Wise Owl Multimedia, has received a position on the PHLDiversity Board. Haldis, who graduated from Holy Family in 2016 with a degree in Communications, sat down with Tri-Lite to discuss this new position and his responsibilities on the board.
What is the Philadelphia Diversity Board?
“The actual name of the organization is PHLDiversity, which is a division of the Philadelphia Conventions and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB). That’s just a fancy name for a part of the City’s Department of Tourism. Here’s the interesting part—the Department of Tourism is basically split into two halves: one that attracts individuals and families to come to Philly as a travel destination, branded as Visit Philly, and the other targets meetings, groups, and conventions to promote the city as a destination, which is the Convention and Visitors Bureau.”
“PHLDiversity, as a part of PHLCVB, markets Philadelphia as a diverse, culturally welcoming destination for these groups and conventions, with a lot of reverence to different nationalities, heritages, and beliefs, including everyone from African, Hispanic, and Asian Americans to the city’s growing LGBT population.”
What is your role on the PHLDiversity Board?
“The story of how I wound up on the Advisory Board for PHLDiversity is a little goofy. My photography/videography company, Wise Owl Multimedia, was shooting photos at a conference last April that focused on women as active players in business and different industries. The Director for PHLDiversity, Greg DeShields, coincidentally happened to be speaking at this conference, and at the time, I had no idea who he was, other than the fact that he had some ties to Philly, and that he was a speaker.”
“Here’s the weird part. Since I was about 18, I’ve been wearing these beaded bracelets around my wrist, and over the years, I have been collecting different ones that relate to specific moments in my life; some from places that I’ve traveled, some that friends have made for me, and in particular, this one that this Chinese woman, who spoke very broken English, gave me, or sold me, while I was shooting wedding photos near City Hall. Basically, she came up and said “peace,” and handed it to me, then said ‘five dollars’. She got me, because I pulled out about $8 in ones, which she happily welcomed herself to, but I’ve been wearing that bracelet ever since.”
“As I walked past Greg at this conference, I noticed that he had the exact same bracelet on his wrist, so I had to stop him, and show him my wrist: ‘I guess she got you too, huh?’ We both kind of laughed at it, and got to talking about what we do, and what brought us to this conference. His interest piqued when I told him about my business, and we went to lunch a week later to chat more. As a result, I wound up shooting photos at a PHLDiversity event, and one of their Board Meetings. In return for those photos, Greg brought me on to PHLDiversity’s Advisory Board, and made Wise Owl a member of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.”
“As a board member, my job is basically to attend meetings (in really cool places around the city), and discuss ways that my business and specific skill sets can serve the city, and the mission of promoting diversity. It’s really humbling to sit in a room with people from businesses like Comcast, the Phillies, the Art Museum, and basically countless other big players in the Philadelphia Tourism industry.”
How did your experiences at Holy Family prepare you for this opportunity?
“I hold my experiences at HFU very dear to me, and I think they exist on two different levels. The first is obviously the academic experience and preparation from within the Comm. Department. I took classes at Holy Family that planted the seeds for me to want to start a business in multimedia and production. I met a professor in my TV and Electronic Media class that changed my perspective on video production, and a year after I graduated, we started a business together. The first time I touched a “real” camera was in the Mac Lab in Holy Family Hall, and that was simply an experience that wouldn’t have happened without HFU.”
“The second level of experience, however, taught me two incredible, critical things, that I think Holy Family paved the way for me to discover:
- No one in this world is going to make you succeed except yourself. You are the only person that can achieve what you want, and you are absolutely the only person whose motivation and drive will allow you to get there. If you can whittle that down to a situation like mine, there’s really not much you cannot shoot for – it just requires a very specific level of focus. If you have faith and heart in something, for the right reason, and have the means to focus on it to a microscopic level, you can do anything in the world. One minute, I was in grad-school, with a Master’s degree about an inch away, and the next minute I was a drop-out with a business that he wouldn’t trade for the world.
- You’re going to have to break rules to get where you want to go. If you ask ANYONE in HFU that knew me while I was there, I was, without fail, late for 75% of the classes that I ever took, if I even went at all. Most assignments and papers were usually turned in a day or five late, because ‘Whoa, my email must not have sent that again’. From the late assignments and poor attendance to the sleepless nights ducking the HFH security guards as I locked myself in Room 113 until the sun came up (sorry), I was spending every possible second obsessing over what would become the infancy stages of my dream job. I wake up every day with an energy that I don’t think I would ever experience if I had a job that wasn’t what I do.”
What was most useful in preparing you for your new position as a board member?
“We spend a lot of time in college preparing for the ‘real world’— how to interact with professionals, how to act during a job interview, how to network with your peers, etc. While there is certainly a formula to it, and a very important set of skills that go along with it, I have found that no dollar amount in the world is comparable to building a relationship with someone and getting to know them for who they are, and ditching the ‘Good Morning, Sir’ for the ‘What’s Shakin’?’
“I learned this most during my time as editor of Tri-Lite. Every single person in the room is important, and has a story. You never know how someone can play a role in your life, and I strive to get to know as many people as possible. I’m incredibly fortunate to have bent that mold of formal interaction, and really built some most valuable relationships with great people because I took a second to look beyond the suit, tie, and title, to find the person who really just digs talking about movies and eating Vietnamese food.”
What would your advice be to seniors preparing for a career out of college?
“Don’t be afraid to bend the rules. Talk to the most popular person in the room and talk to the guy standing in the corner. You are the only person in the world whose life will stink if you don’t push yourself to be your best. Most importantly, do what you love, because you love it, do it for the right reason, and do it well.”