On a continuous basis, IABC Nashville spotlights its diverse members through a Q&A feature. We are pleased to showcase Lysa Rigo, Director, HR & Creative Services at Ingram Barge Company. Lysa and her team recently won their first Music City Gold Pen Award of Excellence for Internal Communications.
IABC: What is your background? How did you get started in this business?
Rigo: After earning a master’s degree in English at Northern Illinois University, I taught Composition and Business Writing (that’s where I found my passion) for five years. Following that, I gained experience as a technical writer for a mathematical and engineering software firm, and used some of those years to start a small business writing for other businesses who couldn’t afford a writer on staff.
In the mid-1990s, my family moved to Brazil, so I used the opportunity to teach English as a foreign language. When we returned to the States in 2000, I found a job teaching English to students who came to the US solely to improve their English. That enriching experience gained me friends from all over the world, and that’s where I was on 9/11, helping a large group of frightened foreigners try to make sense of something none of us could wrap our minds around.
In the mid-2000s, we moved to Tennessee for my husband’s job. A series of situations led me into a career in human resources where I had to quickly learn how to hire, fire, do payroll and worker’s comp in a plant that was scheduled to shut its doors in nine months. On the last day, I stood alone with the plant manager in an empty building and was faced with the decision of accepting the HR job I was offered or the Communications Specialist role? Communications tugged at my heart, and here I am today.
IABC: What is your current position and business affiliation? How long have you been in this role?
Rigo: I came to Ingram Barge Company 10 years ago to build a Communications department. Today, I am Director, HR & Creative Services. My team does all Corporate Communications and all things creative: web, social, magazines, photos, videos, and many random projects.
IABC: What makes your business/organization stand out?
Rigo: Barging is a silent industry so it doesn’t necessarily stand out, but Ingram does all things with excellence so we’re looked to as the standard on the inland river system; we’re the ones to imitate, the company to work for.
IABC: If you could describe yourself in three (3) words, what would they be?
Rigo: Empathetic, resilient, and instinctive
IABC: Tell something about yourself people would be surprised to learn.
Rigo: Probably not surprising, but I became fluent in Portuguese while living in Brazil.
IABC: What lesson(s) have you learned along the way that you believe has made you a better communications professional? What makes an effective communications leader?
- What I’ve been working on the past year is that it’s OK not to be perfect; none of us are. Details are critical in communications, but it’s so important to let go and let the message shine more loudly than the form.
- When there are mistakes, don’t beat yourself up over them. Fix them, if needed, and walk proudly forward. So what if the whole organization sees your daily work? Most people will give you grace, so don’t listen to the few who find joy in the “got-yas.”
- You need to learn from the younger professionals in the field. They may not know all there is in the politics, strategy or big picture, but they know what they want to hear so they will have good ideas for connecting with others like them.
IABC: What do you feel is the greatest benefit of IABC? What prompted you to join IABC?
Rigo: After developing our Creative Services department, I spent a seven-year hiatus with a focus more on HR than communications, A few years ago, I got a new boss and a reshuffling of duties, and Creative Services became my major focus again. I needed to connect with communications professionals, and Google led me to IABC. I walked into my first meeting and knew I was in the right place. These people get me, and I get them. Everything else is just icing on the cake.