Global IT Employee Spotlight: People supporting people

Rodolfo Corral on a balcony

Featured Employee: Rodolfo Corral

For some, being at the right place at the right time is a coincidence. For Rodolfo Corral, its magical.

Corral, software engineer, Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) at the Torreon, Mexico facility is on an incredible journey; one inspired by personal relationships, filled with passionate people, is making an impact across Mexico, has been recognized by a Deere division president, and was awarded by an international organization.

Quite the ride for one person, but Corral claims he's not on the journey alone. That's the magical part.

The journey begins with one

When Corral first joined Deere as a full-time employee in 2017, he had concerns about bringing his full self to Deere, where he was a contingent employee from 2009-2011. His previous experience with the company offered little to be desired for an openly gay man. He was concerned about moving to a new city and starting a new job. He was unsure of the new environment. He was doubting his safety.

However, he was assured that Deere was embracing new diversity and inclusion (D&I) policies that provided a safe place for him, where he could participate in the workplace as a holistic person. His full self.

"I was very much looking forward to becoming a full-time employee, and I felt confident they would accept me for who I really was," he said.

His first week on the job, Corral received an email about joining the Rainbow Employee Resource Group (ERG), which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) inclusion at John Deere by breaking isolation and encouraging employee networking. That is how he met Nancy Rocha.

Although the Rainbow ERG was initially focused on employees in the US at that time, Corral and Rocha wanted to develop a program and activities specifically for employees at the Torreon location.

"Working with Nancy, who had more time in the company and was more familiar with what Rainbow was doing in the US, we developed a Torreon chapter and began inviting people to join," said Corral. "That is where the magical journey began."

Building the future

Corral describes the culture of Latin people as very passionate, and that is just what he experienced when he began recruiting employees to be a part of Rainbow.

"That passion makes me feel warm, more accepted, and has inspired me to make it grow and share it with all the people. That passion is something that has been key to my determination to plan activities for Rainbow," he said. "The allies' passion makes me want to make Rainbow bigger and it makes me believe there is hope in people. I feel the passion in them, and I embrace it and use it to empower more people."

Rocha asked Corral to be the leader of the Torreon chapter and he began planning activities for group members. He designed a plan that included an expansion of Pride Week to Pride Month, where he planned activities focused on storytelling.

"I started telling my story first so others would see me sharing my vulnerabilities and that would encourage them to raise their voice and tell their stories and share their experiences. It became a very positive activity," he said. "When people hear me, they feel empathy and they feel what I am saying, feel what I am expressing, which is very motivating for me. I love when I can make an impact."

To build out the Rainbow network, Corral specifically reached out to employees who work on the production line to start sharing their stories and ask questions.

"Initially, I felt like I was the only person but then I started to learn more about others and encouraged them to share how they live, their thoughts and feelings, and how we can create a more secure environment for us," said Corral. "If we don't let others know how we feel, they can be disrespectful, but we have to let them know when we are uncomfortable. We have the same life they have."

Corral explained that encouragement was very impactful for production workers who had never had that kind of interaction before. No one ever talked about being LGBTQ on the line, and that sharing became very important for them.

"It is very exciting for me that I could move something inside of them. When I started telling my story, people started asking me questions to clear up their doubts and they saw in me someone they could trust," he said. "I took that as an opportunity to help them understand that they can show others who they are, and people can stand up for the LGBTQ community."

The movement grows

The Rainbow allies became a large part of the membership of the ERG, showing their support of the LGBTQ community and sharing their stories and experiences from the ERG with other colleagues in Mexico, and quickly, Corral's model for the Torreon ERG became a movement for chapters at the Monterrey, Ramos, and Saltillo factories.

"It starts with one person," Corral said. "That one person can share with a group, and before you know it, a movement has been created."

In 2020, a difficult year for organizations that rely on face-to-face interaction, Corral was determined to not let the Mexico Rainbow ERG fall apart. The difficulties that the group faced due to the pandemic only challenged Corral to increase the group's interaction.

To increase the collaboration, Corral organized podcasts, lunch and learns over Teams, a book club, shared media produced by the US Rainbow group, organized a donation drive for personal hygiene items for the LGBTQ community, and highlighted places in the media where people in the LGBTQ community were being highlighted for their successes.

"The image of the LGBTQ community was changing in the media. Before, we were totally hidden in the media, then we became a joke for society, and everyone was laughing. Now LGBTQ people are executives and company owners," he said. "People who were not part of Rainbow started going to those sessions and began to join Rainbow. It is not about being gay - it is about supporting LGBTQ people. We are people supporting people, and you don't have to be a part of the LGBTQ community to be a part of Rainbow."

The number of allies who joined the Mexico Rainbow group grew by 30% during 2020. Quite an impact for a year that presented so many challenges.

The word spread and Deere's Rainbow group was nominated for two Outie Awards from Out & Equal Workplace Advocates at their 2021 Annual Conference. The ERG did win the "Belonging During Covid" award, which highlights organizations that have created a sense of belonging and engagement during the challenging time. The Mexico chapter made a significant impact on Deere winning that award.

And in November of this year, Corral was recognized by Mark von Pentz, president, Worldwide Ag & Turf Division, Small Ag & Turf, Region 1 & 2.

"ERG leaders like Rodolfo not only further their own development, but they also help others develop their cross-cultural sensitivity and inclusion skills. These efforts foster a culture in which we recognize and value our differences and empower employees to contribute fully as themselves," said von Pentz in a letter of recognition.

Personal growth made the difference

Corral wasn't always this open. In fact, before joining Deere, for years he struggled with his own place in society.

"I was trying to fit into society as someone that looks likes others and not authentic. I was afraid of not being accepted for what I was," he said. "I was trying to change who I was."

It wasn't until he met his current boyfriend that things started to change for Corral.

"He was a successful gay person and was fitting in because of who he was and that motivated me to be that kind of person. He was always supporting me and that made me change my view of the way I was acting," said Corral. "He taught me to be self-confident, have my objectives very clear, be as honest as I can, do not try to meet everyone's expectations of me, enjoy everything I do, and love everything I do."

Once Corral began to believe in himself and who he truly was, Deere became a safe space for him.

"I was able to be myself and it helped me a lot to focus on my work. I didn't have to worry about showing myself as being "too gay" or about sharing my life as a gay adult. Everyone here was so respectful and they also were very interested in knowing more about me, so I was very happy doing my work. I totally felt like I always belonged here," he said.

"Now I know I can be myself and fit in; if not here, then somewhere else. There is a place for everyone, and you need to be yourself so you can find that place."

And the magic continues.

Ready to Make a Difference?

See Our Job Openings