Richard Pels, a professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and the father of 23-year-old boy-girl twins, is our Lead Dad of the Week.
A long-time advertising executive, Rich said getting laid off when his wife was pregnant with their twins turned out to be fortuitous. He then built a career as a freelance creative director, which paid well and gave him freedom rare in the Madison Avenue advertising world.
“I would work on-site during the day and bring work home because I always wanted to be home for story time,” he said. “I tell my students at SVA that when you’re interviewing for a job, the creative director wants to know that you’re competent enough so he or she can go home and put their kids to bed.”
He describes his working career as a “a Covid experience – but just the good parts.” “I had that flexibility to work my job around my family,” he said. “After doing it for 10 years, it was just natural. I always worked with good people.”
That has been one of the themes he teaches his students – the importance of working for good people, particularly in the advertising business which prided itself on working long into the night.
If anything, he said creative fields like advertising should be the most conducive for working in different ways. “What we do is a lot of nonlinear thinking,” he said. “I think too many people work too long into the night. It’s the mystique of advertising. Good ideas just come to you, and you need to be prepared.”
His family has recently taken a non-traditional turn, which has him thinking more about his role as a Lead Dad. His wife moved to Salt Lake City to work as an occupational therapist. His daughter is in graduate school in Colorado. And he lives with his son, who is looking to get into the gaming industry, in Brooklyn.
Welcome, Rich, to The Company of Dads!