Ingrid Christensen graduated from the Hamline School of Business in 2006 with a Master of Arts in Management. Upon graduation, Ingrid founded INGCO International, a global language services firm providing corporate on-site interpreting and document translation in over 200 languages. A certified woman-owned business, INGCO works with Fortune 500 companies like 3M, HB Fuller and Nike as well as many small and mid-sized companies and nonprofit organizations.
Ingrid serves on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce and the American Red Cross. She is also an appointed member to the Minnesota District Export Council and has been honored for her work and community commitment by the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Business Journal as a 40 Under 40, the Leader of the Pack award from the National Wolf Center, the Innovation in Service award on behalf of the National Association of Woman Owned Businesses and multiple Deubener Awards from the Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce. Ingrid resides in Minneapolis with her 11-year old son who attends a French immersion school.
Describe a typical day. What do you enjoy most about your work? What is the most challenging?
There is no typical day for a small business owner, but here’s my attempt! I signal the start of my day by switching on Minnesota Public Radio at 6 a.m. –I like knowing that I’m starting my day with some sort of global and national knowledge. INGCO is a global organization and we work on many time zones, so checking email in the early morning and right before bed is essential. Then my attention turns to getting out of the house on time. No matter how much I try, mornings are always chaotic. My routine is to join my son for breakfast, talk about the coming day, gulp down a cup of coffee and zoom out the door to get him to school on time. Our morning commute to school is an important time for us to connect.
I open the office by 9 a.m. and prioritize the three most important things I need to accomplish for the day. I write them down and put them next to my computer and try to not get distracted by anything else. My current role is leading sales and marketing, which includes numerous meetings while remaining focused on getting work done. INGCO follows the EOS Traction Method, and most of my tasks are focused on my weekly to-dos and my quarterly rocks. Tuesdays are my Level 10 day, which means I’m involved in back-to-back internal meetings. I sit on several boards, including the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Board and the American Red Cross. It’s an enriching honor to serve these organizations and they give me so much more than I give to them.
I have a plethora of evening events so I plan my fitness schedule accordingly depending on the day. I wrap up every evening with an enormous hug from my son and glorious reading time. My stack of books to read is high: fiction typically wins out and the stack of non-fiction keeps on growing, so I’ve tried to balance that by listening to non-fiction podcasts and audiobooks while in the car.
I sprinkle in moments of gratitude and love by connecting with my family and friends; it takes a village to get through this crazy thing called life and I need each and every person that I am blessed to know.
How did Hamline prepare you for this work?
I went to Hamline thinking that I would get a “real job” – I was working as a freelance Spanish interpreter and was ready for a professional change. I was using the MAM program as a stepping stone into the corporate world. My first semester at Hamline hit me like a brick in the face – I was destined to turn the semblances of my budding young company into a real-live business. Hamline gave me the courage and knowledge to take the leap. I used my Hamline coursework to put INGCO International together and on a frigid February 6th morning on 2006, I walked into the Secretary of State’s office in Saint Paul with my Articles of Incorporation. At that point I didn’t have much of a plan but I had a dream and that was enough.
How do you engage in lifelong learning? How do you stay current in your field or profession?
The last day of my last course at Hamline, the professor told us something that I have never forgotten — he said that holding a master’s degree was a gift, a privilege, and that we, as graduates, have a responsibility to keep ourselves educated. I have a long way to go but I love to learn and respect knowledge. Now more than ever we cannot allow ignorance to supersede knowledge. For me, lifelong learning is my commitment to the universe.
What advice do you have for current Hamline students?
Unapologetically open every door you encounter. Study abroad, learn other languages, get to know people of all cultures and backgrounds. Commit to learning as much in the classroom as outside of the classroom. Ask questions, get curious and open yourself up to vulnerability.
What is the most important aspect of leadership? Why?
When they go low, we go high. Life is full of challenges, twist and turns. As a leader, I try and fight the good fight and energetically leap into my work. Education, privilege, and hard work have put me in a place of leadership and it would be morally wrong to abuse that. But I’ve come to realize that an effective leader cannot do it all. My motto is to always hire people that are smarter than I am and surround myself with positivity. I’ve always come to know that there is no such thing as balance. Life is a teeter-totter, with a gazillion ups and downs. I need to ride the waves of life to keep the momentum going and be the best version of me that I can be.