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Stacie Cordell: Spanish, Music, Travel and How to Thrive in Organized Chaos

Words and music. Lots of folks consider them two things, apart from each other, halves that make a whole. But some people see them as one—the words themselves as music, beautiful and rhythmic, almost magic in their ability to bring forward image and idea, inseparable from song. One of those people of imagination is Stacie Cordell, Northgate’s Director of Operations. 

“I remember being excited when I was four, a guy who worked with my dad walking me through the house, teaching me different words and I thought it was the neatest thing ever that you could say something in a different language. I didn’t understand it, but thought it was neat. My favorite song in elementary school was ‘Feliz Navidad’. I just thought it was the coolest thing that we could sing something in a different language and it would mean ‘Merry Christmas.’  When I was sixteen, I went to my first Mexican party, and it was, like, music, and food, and this language. I just fell in love with it and I just knew I had to have something to do with this culture.”

Then Stacie did something rare. She let her love lead her.

“When I was in college, I just kept taking Spanish classes, even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I remember leaving Spanish class one day, and it just hit me, I know that Spanish is going to be part of my life for the rest of my life. I don’t know how, I don’t know what the other part is, but I knew this. Later, I knew that I loved to travel, and I love the Latino culture. I must be able to affect change in this world and use my skills or passion in the way God created me to do that. I knew that Spanish had something to do with my life before I knew what my life was going to be.”

But Stacie is not aimless. For her, the language itself may have beauty and music, and the culture richness and excitement, but she needs something more. If she is going to invest her life into something, it needs to have a purpose. And that’s where Northgate comes in. After years spent in Latin America, Stacie finds herself in business–not at the edges, but right in the center, at the hub of the ever-turning wheel that is Northgate. As Director of Operations, she is still invested in Latin America by virtue of Northgate’s global presence, and much more. 

“We’re unique in our diversity. Of course, we want to travel, and to make money and pay the bills, but our core values are to make a difference in the world. We want to be the ones that people call on because they trust us, because we’re dependable and trustworthy, and be those people you not only want to work with, but to be friends with. Our identity is wrapped up in how we want to treat people and how we want to be recognized in an industry that’s not always a blessing.”

That’s what Stacie keeps in mind as she approaches her duties every day—organizing, scheduling, sorting out personalities and needs for both clients and team members. Her days comprise a hundred little details from literally all around the world, all dependent on one another for the smooth operation of the business. “There’s so much going on—I’m constantly being challenged. It can be overwhelming, but I thrive in organized chaos.” That’s a good thing, because to the onlooker, her job can look chaotic and if it is organized, she is the one who brings the organization. 

Stacie is one of the dream team David Tracy, Northgate’s CEO, assembled at the outset of the company. He knew he wanted her on his team thirteen years ago, based not only on her compatible personality, but on her bulletproof calm under pressure. They both vividly remember when together they raised what others thought an impossibly large amount of money toward a project in Asia that badly needed it. The mettle Stacie showed then proved she had just what he needed to help run his own operation. And he was right. She has withstood the pressure, even as Northgate’s needs increase as it grows.

 “When you get into a new role, you’re just learning it, trying to figure out the pieces so you can be useful. Initially, I didn’t have as much responsibility, but what has surprised me is how quickly we’ve grown and how that’s multiplied, which is awesome. That shook my operations/logistics side, but David’s like, go-go-go. I think it’s great.”

At the end of the day, though, after the growth and change,  the pieces have to come together not only for Northgate team and clients, but for Stacie herself. She has to know that what she is doing every day is worth the effort. “For Northgate to have the purpose behind the business is something that’s truly valuable for me.” And the purpose? She says it’s to “help change this world, first locally, then nationally and internationally. Overall, being in different countries and different cultures and being able to share, being able to show that Northgate is different than other marketing companies.”

While that purpose furthers itself, Stacie still holds a global affinity in her heart. “The thing dearest to me is my passion for Latin America. You know, things kind of ebb and flow in your life…it’s always my intention to invest in Latin America—Spanish speakers in general.” And for right now, she is invested in “figuring out the process.” Latin and American. English and Spanish. Northgate and the world. Words and music. One can only anticipate where it will all end. 

About the author

JoAnne Potter, a freelance writer for nearly 40 years, bakes bread and makes wine in Southwestern Wisconsin.

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