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Alumni Spotlight: Ioana and Rich Engstrom

December 11, 2017 - Leslie Venzuela

Ioana and Rich EngstromOur alumni spotlight highlights a husband and wife who are both Anderson School graduates. The Anderson spotlight gives an in-depth look into the lives of our graduates after they leave school through a series of set questions. This month we are pleased to introduce you to Ioana and Rich Engstrom.

Ioana Engstrom immigrated to the United States from Romania at 21. She has built her career on entrepreneurship, service and building long term trusting relationships no matter the industry in the global marketplace. Ioana earned her MBA in Marketing and International Management in 1986 and is the current head of investor relations at Skipti, an online company that allows people to rent out their personal items. 

Rich Engstrom earned his MBA in Finance in 1995. He is the COO at Skipti and the CEO at RIEtech Global, an Albuquerque company that provides electro-mechanical motion control engineering and manufacturing for military and commercial customers.

What three words best describe you?

(Ioana) Persevering. Ambitious. Generous.

(Rich)    Driven. Analytical. Risk-taker.

Best professional advice ever received

(Ioana) Don’t ever compromise your ethics no matter what “benefits” you are offered or promised.

(Rich)    When I was running satellite R&D programs in the military, I had a chance to work with a Vice President at a major defense company.  After one contentious day of meetings where we couldn't come to agreement on an approach to a program, he took me aside and said, "Don't take it personally. When we meet we close the conference room door and beat each other up with our ideas.  At the end of the day, we open the door and I'll buy you a beer, and we can do it again tomorrow until we come to agreement."  I always thought that was a good approach to focusing on getting the right idea in play as opposed to just my idea.

My guiding philosophy is:

(Rich)    I’ve always believed that doing the right thing is the best path to success. Sometimes it is difficult and means sacrificing your personal position or gain for the good of an organization or group success. I believe in the end that path will always create the best outcome.

(Ioana) Do not be afraid to listen to your intuition.

What is your favorite or fondest memory of the Anderson School?

(Ioana) My fondest memory is spending many hours talking to Dr. Sul Kassicieh about entrepreneurship but also about the world and its problems and opportunities. I will never forget Sul's generosity as a human being and his wonderful advice at that time in my life.

(Rich)    I had a chance to work with Alistair Preston on a couple financial analysis projects for Sandia Labs and Lovelace Medical Center.  I enjoyed our discussions and assembling and working with a team of students to apply many of the concepts we were learning in classes.

Who is your childhood hero?

(Rich)    I always looked up to my father.  He was very optimistic even when times got tough and he always had a plan to deal with whatever was happening in his life.  He had a saying that I took into adulthood, “everyone has dreams, but the only way to achieve them is to know how to plan and set realistic goals”.

(Ioana) Without hesitation, my childhood hero is my Father.  60 years old when I was born in Romania, my Dad fought in both World Wars and led one of the most critical battles in 1943 against the Germans. He had a Doctorate in Law and became a two star General in the Romanian Army as well as the head of the Supreme Court where he judged most of the Nazi (the Iron Cross) trials both in the 30's and after the war. He was asked by the Communist Government to be the new government's Minister of Justice but he turned them down, as he did not believe a judge should belong to a political party. He survived a "purge" in 1959. I grew up in his retirement and learned everything from my Dad - how to be fair, how to be courageous, how to give others credit and be humble, how to trust in my abilities and go for the sky without any hesitation. I still hear his voice telling my sister and I how what really matters is the family you have and the trees you are planting. He is definitely my Hero!

What advice do you have for the next generation of business leaders?

(Ioana) Do what you really believe in and makes you happy to do when you wake up; it is the only way to be successful at what you do.

(Rich)    Do the work.  Instant success that is just handed to you is very rare.  Most things of real value take more time than you think and have a lot of hard work behind them.