Spotlighting Diversity Equity and Inclusion with Karla
“I feel like when we have something to say, our managers and other company leaders listen,” said Karla Costilla Cantu, the production well-being TN training coordinator for Iowa Select Farms. “When I first started, I just kind of trained by myself, but now we have a five-week TN training program, and I’m in this position that’s made specifically for our new TNs. It makes a difference for those employees and goes to show that your voice and your feedback matter.”
Karla moved to the United States from Mexico in 2016 to work for Iowa Select Farms on a TN visa. She started as an animal caretaker on a sow farm, broadened her skills on a GDU, was promoted to breeding department head on Yale sow farm and now helps support new TNs in her position as production well-being TN training coordinator. In her previous on-farm positions, she was often the first TN and the only Spanish translator on her farm, but that didn’t stop her from advancing in her career. She credits her rise to a leadership role within the company to her supportive managers that encouraged her every step of the way.
At Iowa Select Farms, we strive to provide our workforce with the support and opportunities they need to feel appreciated and grow, no matter their background. Karla is a perfect example of that.
Treating everyone with respect is one of our core values, and we are committed to creating and fostering a workplace that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion for all, especially when it comes to our Latino employees. Currently, 32% of our workforce is Latino, and because of leaders like Karla, we anticipate it to continue to rise as our most rapidly growing demographic.
Karla grew up in Monterrey, Mexico and from the very beginning knew she wanted to work with animals. She graduated from vet school in 2012, and after a few years of working in small animal nutrition in Mexico, a friend recommended she come to the United States to work for Iowa Select Farms. She didn’t want to leave her home in Mexico but decided to give the opportunity a chance.
“My plan was to never stay, but I fell in love with this company,” she said. “I really enjoy my job. I also met my fiancé here, and we bought a farm in Iowa. I love that I get to be with animals at work and get to come home to them, too.”
Another big part of the reason she stayed is the supportive atmosphere created by her managers.
“My managers listened to me and encouraged me to apply for advancements even if it wasn’t on their farm,” said Karla. “They wanted to see me succeed and helped me do so. For example, Bill, my manager at Yale sow farm, always looked for ways for me to keep growing. He did a great job at that.”
Karla would encourage all employees to talk to their managers about opportunities to advance.
“Your manager and supervisor will help you grow and find the best fit for you, but you must be willing to speak up,” she said. “Don’t worry if you don’t know English —that doesn’t matter. What matters is how hard you work. Managers have the mindset that there is an opportunity for everyone, and they want to see you succeed.”
By living out that growth mindset and asking for guidance from her managers, Karla has become a leader at Iowa Select Farms. In her new role as production well-being TN training coordinator, she loves helping TNs as they navigate a new country and new career.
“The job is challenging since it’s new, but that comes with anything you do,” she said. “You must become uncomfortable to grow. I am the first face TNs see at Iowa Select Farms, so I have a huge impact on their success. I have been in their shoes before, so I am good at resonating with them. They have me as a resource if it is something to do with pigs or even for things outside of work.”
Karla understands firsthand the challenges new TNs face and is thankful to be in a role where she can help them achieve the same success she has.
“It has been challenging, but I have had great success after taking on those challenges. I am excited for my current role and where it is going to take me.”