Christine M. Castellano, SVP, GC, CCO and corporate secretary of Ingredion Inc.
Christine M. Castellano, SVP, GC, CCO and corporate secretary of Ingredion Inc.

Christine Castellano has always loved public speaking and thought she might end her career as she began it, as a litigator. But she found herself drawn to the role of counselor and advisor. After going in-house, her career expanded as her company grew and she has risen to head the legal department at Ingredion Inc.

Along with her work there, she is a member of the American Bar Association, the Conference Board Council of Senior International Attorneys and the Corporate Counsel Association. In 2011, Castellano received the Outstanding International Corporate Counsel Award from the International Law Section of the American Bar Association.

WIPL recently spoke with Castellano about being part of a company truly dedicated to diversity, keeping up with laws around the world and learning Spanish for work and fun.

What first drew you to a career in the law?

I always loved public speaking in school. Then in college, I took an intro into constitutional law class and it piqued my interest. By my junior year, I knew I was law school bund, so I took economics and intro to law classes. I began my career as a litigator and thought I would spend my career as a litigator. But I began working with clients and became more intrigued with the role of lawyer as counselor, being proactive and acting as part of a team.

What has been most interesting about your current role?

I love being part of this company. It’s a Global Fortune 500 company, and I have a great boss [Ilene Gordon, chairman, president and chief executive officer] who is one of only 23 female CEOs in the Fortune 500.

One great thing about Ingredion is our diversity. Our board is one of the most diverse in the Fortune 500. Our executive leadership is 27% female, including the CEO. It’s great to be part of a company that’s diverse in terms of gender and race.

What is the most important issue facing your company now?

As a global company, the laws that impact us are far reaching and complex. In some countries, they are not even particularly well defined. It can be a challenge to keep up with changes, including compliance. As attorneys, we do a lot of professional development, CLE, diligent reading. But as GC, I call a lot on the judgment that I’ve gained in my career, to know when to call outside counsel to give me detailed expertise on local issues.

What professional accomplishment has made you most proud?

Becoming GC of a Fortune 500 company is something I aspired to for many years. There are not a lot of seats at that level. I was honored to be recommended by my predecessor Mary Ann Hynes and picked by our CEO.

Another accomplishment I’m proud of is learning Spanish and becoming a functional speaker. In 2004, the company created an international position to manage outside legal affairs outside of North America. I was put in that role. Learning Spanish was really beneficial for work, but it was a personal accomplishment as well.

What advice would you give to women looking to advance in their legal departments?

I give the same advice to women and men. You have to do a good job, but you also have to make sure others are aware you are doing a good job. It’s easy to sit in your office and no one realizes you do great job. You also have to people know of your career goals and what you are doing to develop.

It’s important to have mentors, though not necessarily in formal mentor programs. You also have to learn to network. It’s more than just throwing business cards around. You have share with others, just as you have them share with you.

Do you see a difference in how women network with and mentor other women, compared to working with men?

I think it depends more on the person than the gender. Everyone has a personal style. Mentoring is a question of style, and I couldn’t mentor or be mentored in way that wasn’t natural to me. I’ve had various mentors, men and women, and I’ve learned different things from them. I’ve always try to take something away from each person.