Sharleen Sy’s Insightful Journey: Lessons on Timing, Audience Engagement, and Global Aspirations

CIIT is often recognized as an art school, yet its ambitions and capabilities extend far beyond. Inspired by Silicon Valley’s innovation, we aim to seamlessly blend technology in all that we do. In expanding our program offerings we always keep in mind to include a relevant tech element.

Honing the Future CIITzen

This vision for the future was strikingly exemplified by our recent session with Sharleen Sy, the CEO, CTO, and Co-Founder of Filipino tech startup Halo Halo Media. Ms. Sharleen embodies the essence of the “future CIITzen” we strive to cultivate: a creative technologist with an artistic perspective and a deep understanding of the tech industry.

An engineer by profession, she isn’t just passionate about building or problem-solving; she’s also a storyteller at heart. She believes that stories have the power to ignite a spark of ingenuity, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. This belief fuels her dream to create a platform–for Filipino creatives, one that pushes impactful narratives. As she aptly noted during her talk, a cornerstone event of our Arts Week, “You cannot innovate without creativity.”

Sharleen Sy’s Journey to Pioneering Digital Worlds

Ms. Sharleen Sy’s fascination with technological innovation began at a young age, highlighting her natural curiosity for the latest trends and her passion to delve deeper into the digital world.

Her active involvement in numerous tech projects set the stage for her remarkable career path. She was also instrumental in pioneering virtual worlds through the development of cutting-edge 3D technology designed for web use. This initiative allowed her to collaborate with industry giants such as Stan Lee, Warner Bros, Universal Studios, and more. Aside from that, she played a key role in producing games for renowned franchises, such as Pokemon 3000, Cartoon Network, and DC Comics.

Timing is everything

In her lecture, Ms. Sharlene imparted several key insights from her experiences. She discussed a previous venture she had named “Carddit,” an innovative app designed for users to share and collect photos and memes easily on their mobile devices. Despite its potential, Carddit struggled to connect with its intended audience due to poor timing. This experience taught Ms. Sharleen the importance of launching projects opportunely to ensure they effectively reach their target demographic.

Understand your demographic and what intrinsically drives them

Ms. Sharleen also shared her experiences working with Wattpad, a platform uniting a vast community of readers and writers. Through her efforts, she contributed to refining and enhancing Wattpad’s strategy to attract and engage the right audience. Her work paid off as Wattpad soared in popularity, amassing 95 million active users, with the Philippines emerging as one of its largest markets.

A crucial takeaway from her time with Wattpad was the significance of understanding the demographics and core motivations of the target audience to build a successful platform.

Turning Challenges Into Inspiration

Following her string of achievements, Ms. Sharleen opened up about a more personal challenge: she faced health issues that temporarily impeded her ability to work. However, her resilience shone through as she faced these obstacles with strength and determination.

Witnessing the success of Asian storytelling forms like manga, anime, and manhwa in Western markets, she questioned why Filipino stories couldn’t achieve the same global recognition.

Fueled by a new ambition, Ms. Sharleen set her sights on bringing Filipino talent to a global audience. This led to the creation of the “Halo Halo” app, a project designed to showcase the rich narrative of Filipino culture.

With the vision of elevating the Filipino brand on the world stage, the Halo Halo team introduced unique elements from our mythology and astrology. The app aims not just to develop a distinct Filipino identity but also to foster connections with and serve an international audience. A key mission of Halo Halo is to invest in and highlight Filipino talent, especially in storytelling.

Ms. Sharleen is convinced that the time is ripe for Filipino stories to shine globally, with the Halo Halo app serving as a vital platform for this endeavor. However, she emphasized that the success of this initiative depends on collective effort. The app serves as a foundation, but the contributions of its community will amplify its impact. Additionally, she encouraged students to contribute their ideas through the app’s Discord channel, where her team will offer valuable insights and constructive feedback.


Drawing inspiration from Ms. Sharleen’s journey, we motivate our students to embrace the dynamic fields of art and technology.

As CIIT ventures further, we aim to nurture fearless creators and innovators. Our programs do more than produce graduates; they spark a passion for pushing boundaries and creating with purpose. We want them to produce work that not only makes them proud but also leaves a positive impact on society.


Are you ready to blend the arts, technology, and business to create something groundbreaking? At CIIT, we champion the fusion of these dynamic fields to shape the innovators of tomorrow! Click here to learn more about our programs.

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