This article was originally published in SWE Magazine.
Rosalind Fox is a 2015 Prism Award winner.
Rosalind Fox is the Factory Manager for the John Deere Turf Care factory in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. She oversees John Deere Turf Care’s manufacturing operations, driving the success of key deliverables in safety, quality, delivery and cost. The factory manufactures Commercial Mowing and Golf & Turf equipment and has over 400 salaried and production employees.
Rosalind began her career at 3M Company in their specialized Optimized Operations program. The program hired top college graduates, trained them for seven weeks, and then followed the training with two years of challenging projects and rotations at different locations. Showing early promise in her career, her second project was an international assignment where she lived in Antwerp, Belgium for close to one year. At the time she left the company, Rosalind was a Product and Process Advanced Manufacturing Engineer.
Rosalind also spent six years at Ford Motor Company as part of an internal manufacturing leadership program holding positions with increasing levels of responsibility in Product Development, Manufacturing Engineering, Business Planning, and leadership positions in Operations. During her time in this program, Rosalind spent two years working in England where she helped launch the first ever Jaguar X-Type and a new model Land Rover Range Rover. She also created the manufacturing process to build customized vehicles for feature films and the Royal Family.
Rosalind’s start and entrance into college was less than traditional, however, she quickly learned that she had to be keenly focused on success in order to obtain her degree. She attended the University of Missouri-Columbia and graduated with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering (minor in Mathematics) and an M.S. in Industrial Engineering. She is the youngest of six children and was the first in the family to obtain a university degree. It was a proud moment for the entire family.
Career Leadership Achievements
As factory manager, Rosalind oversees production operations inclusive of production, manufacturing engineering and materials. She manages staff support and processes including Human Resources, Accounting, Quality, Order Fulfillment, Product Engineering, Supply Management and Customer Support to meet strategic goals and objectives. She has seven direct reports and an extended staff of eleven who are responsible for 175 salaried and 225 production employees. She also develops and manages strategic and tactical goals to support unit and divisional goals. Rosalind’s factory is responsible for generating a portion of the $29.13B in net sales for the Agriculture & Turf Division within John Deere. She manages a significant multi-million dollar factory budget and drives continuous improvement and cost reduction through engineering, procurement and manufacturing activities.
In her current role, Rosalind has achieved significant success, including the highest profitability in the factory’s existence and improving employee engagement to the highest level ever achieved within the facility. In addition, Rosalind values the safety of each employee, as demonstrated by the world-class 10 million hours without a lost time injury at her factory.
Her career at John Deere started in November of 2005 as a Master Process Pro in the Construction and Forestry Division. During this role, Rosalind worked with a team that investigated and developed the business case to move Forestry products from a Canadian facility to two facilities in Iowa. While a difficult decision, the business case was approved enabling the division to focus on improving quality and the cost structure of those products. After this role, Rosalind accepted a role in Supply Management with responsibility for 10 direct reports managing 2,600 purchased parts totaling $35M in inventory and approximately $135M in annual spend. Following this role, Rosalind returned to Operations as a Business Unit Manager where she led and managed eight salaried production supervisors and manufacturing engineers and 82 production employees across two product lines. She was responsible for meeting daily performance objectives including safety, quality, delivery, cost, and productivity. During this time, Rosalind successfully led the manufacturing process changes to launch the new G-Series Motor Grader which is has enabled two digit level increase in market share. This is significant achievement as it was previously a heavily burdened product that now adds significant value to the division.
Prior to her current role, Rosalind served as the Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion. In this position, Rosalind worked closely with Human Resources leveraging diversity and inclusion to higher levels globally. Rosalind and her team were responsible for all Equal Employment Opportunity issues and compliance requirements covering 30 facilities across the United States. Additional responsibilities included developing processes and tools to build a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive environment, with global responsibility for the implementation and maintenance of employee resource groups, and overseeing the development of inclusive training modules which was required training for all 56,000 employees around the world. Through this role, her span of responsibility and scope extended globally, an experience she embraced, learning about unique diversity challenges outside of the U.S. During her role, Rosalind sparked candid conversations with senior leaders about how the company should tackle the different challenges that were limiting women’s advancement outside of the U.S. Rosalind had regular visibility with senior leadership and the CEO and used her influence to launch an effort to improve the representation of women and people of color throughout all levels of the organization. This program is still very active with goals being documented and measured in the top 350 leaders’ annual performance management. This was a very sensitive topic for John Deere; Rosalind had the courage to push the conversation forward with the appropriate data analysis to garner support and implementation. During her tenure, female representation increased 1%, a significant achievement in a very short time.
Rosalind’s growth at Deere was built on foundational experiences at both Ford Motor Company and 3M. While at Ford Motor Company, Rosalind achieved Six Sigma certification and successfully completed several projects. Rosalind had design and release responsibility of ballistic panels for police interceptor vehicles. She worked with police officers and suppliers to refine design requirements meeting quality and reliability requirements. She led Failure Modes and Effects Analysis and Design Verification Plans to ensure the panels met customer specifications. In addition to providing a safe environment for police officers, this program met or exceeded all program targets. Rosalind utilized Six Sigma methods in Operations as well, implementing Mobile Radio Terminals onto fork lift trucks in assembly plants. This program delivered a reduced headcount of 52 fork lift drivers within three factories, produced a one-time net savings of $280K and provided on-going savings of $295K annually at each plant. At Ford, Rosalind was an active team member on three additional black belt projects with savings of over $3 million combined, reducing repairs on two different vehicle lines by 37% and 28%.
While working at 3M Company, Rosalind worked on several design engineering and manufacturing engineering projects, including development of a Dual Brightness Enhancement Film (DBEF) used on laptop monitors and flat screen televisions. The DBEF improved brightness and saved energy; she was awarded a patent in 1998 for this project. The project also resulted in a multi-million dollar profit for the company.
Also at 3M, Rosalind developed a material storage and movement concept to meet requirements of the Chemical European Business Unit. This resulted in a 95% reduction in disconnects for the order handling process, a 75% improvement in lead-time, $403,000/year in labor savings and a 64% reduction in manual paperwork handling. Rosalind focused on process improvements early in her career, including a project to decrease material handling and reduce inventory at 3M. Her project increased facility profit by $4.5 million.
From the time that Rosalind had her first part-time student engineering job at 3M Company, she knew she wanted to become a Factory Manager. Each of the above roles and project assignments enabled her to become the successful Factory Manager she is today. She embraces the title of a “Trailblazer” in this regard and understands that she serves as a role model for other female engineers who aspire to accomplish similar goals.
External Leadership Activities
While Rosalind has spent a great amount of time focusing on her career, she also recognizes the importance of giving back and helping others who may be less fortunate. In this regard, Rosalind currently serves on the Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle (BBBST), Junior Achievement of Eastern North Carolina, the Fuquay-Varina Economic Development Commission, and is a member of the Professional Women’s Leadership Association, a committee developed under the Fuquay-Varina Chamber of Commerce to support women in business and funding scholarships for young women entering college. In her roles as a board member, one of the main responsibilities is to raise money to benefit the organization. Rosalind was instrumental in helping to raise more than $100K over the last year for BBBST to assist in keeping the organization in a healthy financial position after severe reductions in allocations from the government and the national organization. These funds were raised by helping to lead and organize an annual fundraising event with more than 200 attendees which resulted in $60K being raised, the remaining balance was due to Rosalind reaching out to friends for personal donations and to challenge professional colleagues at other local companies within the area to provide matching gifts equivalent to or to exceed her personal donation (several companies which much above the request). Over the last two years, Rosalind has also been instrumental in facilitating the donation of $40K to the Fuquay-Varina Economic Development Commission from the John Deere Foundation. She was involved in working with the commision’s Director in developing the business case to successfully obtain these funds. This has been a huge benefit to the organization as there have been years where the budget consistently averaged below $10K which has made it difficult to launch new programs to benefit the city.
She has participated in several Susan G. Komen 5K walks and a Susan G. Komen 3 day walk covering 60 miles over 3 days. She also completed Avon’s 2 day walk covering 40 miles over 2 days in honor and memory of her mother, Juanita Peebles. She has volunteered her time to speak to students about working in engineering at several events she hosts at her facility through the “Students @ Work” program in partnership with the state of North Carolina and “Bring Your Child to Work” event for children of John Deere employees during this year’s Engineer’s Week, and later this year will host “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” event for the first time at her factory. She has also sponsored and was guest speaker at Imhotep Academy whose objectives are to teach students about the contributions of scientists and inventors from under-represented groups, strengthen academic abilities and prepare students for matriculation to college and universities. She was also recognized by a local church in Fuquay-Varina during last year’s Black History Month as the first female African American Factory Manager within John Deere’s 175 year history and other accomplishments within the community and her lifetime. Rosalind’s commitment to helping others also extends beyond her local community. On a recent 2 week vacation to South Africa, Rosalind and a group of girlfriends spent half a day at the “Little Eden Children’s Home” near Johannesburg which cares for handicapped children and adults from ages 2 through 60 years old. Her group packed and carried much needed donations (toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, etc) and provided them to the facility upon arrival. The work they did while there has prompted them to want to do more. As a result, Rosalind and her friends are currently collecting more donations to help meet additional needs (clothes, cloth diapers, socks, blankets, etc) with plans to send the package over the next month.
Contribution to the Mission of SWE
While in her role as Global Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Rosalind was instrumental in creating the structure and support for John Deere’s growing partnership with the Society of Women Engineers. She was inspired to heighten the visibility and participation in SWE through an employee and SWE member that was looking for help. She immediately became deeply involved knowing the subsequent benefit to employees, SWE members and the company. Since this time, John Deere has increased funding which has enabled Deere to sponsor high-profile activities at the annual conference, increase booth size, and participate in the SWE dues pilot. Participation in the SWE dues pilot (which we had a part in creating) has opened up SWE membership to all John Deere employees resulting in an increase in membership from 41 in 2008 to 380 in 2013. John Deere employee conference attendance has increased from the recruiting team of seven in 2006 to 137 in 2013 (the largest contingent from any single company). John Deere is also leading the effort for globalization of SWE, has the only international senator, the most international members, and for the past two years conference attendees have represented eight different countries. The number of conference speakers has grown from two in 2008 to seven in 2013, with plenary panel speakers from John Deere chosen for the past five years. Rosalind’s support enabled the creation of a “John Deere SWE” team, which includes an awards committee to facilitate nominations, a communications committee and a membership committee to continue growing the partnership. Providing this structure and foundation for sustainable commitment to grow the partnership with SWE has been instrumental in starting two local sections in the US and three international groups and has led Deere to grow well beyond the original scope of recruiting to now include leadership development, K-12 outreach, and mentoring in our activities. This partnership structure has been the model for other Deere professional partnerships and organizations and enabled the company to expand its reach and impact to employees.
Rosalind facilitated the launch of a company-wide “Women in Operations” Employee Resource Group to encourage women to consider the operations function as a career choice. She was inspired to help “level the playing field” as many company leaders have spent time in an Operations/Manufacturing leadership role before achieving senior leadership positions. This is a critical function for all manufacturing companies yet has minimal female representation. Stimulating women’s interest in this function enables them to become well-rounded leaders, which will allow them to successfully compete for senior level leadership positions. Since Rosalind launched this employee resource group in late 2011, there are over 260 members. The group conducted 10 different events including panel discussions, community outreach activities, speed mentoring and social gatherings. In her current role as Factory Manager, Rosalind launched a local chapter aimed at professional development, mentoring, and sharing knowledge. Since the local launch in 2013, Rosalind continues to develop and support the group, including serving as a guest speaker and focusing on networking. She also organized golf lessons so that women can be involved in meetings on the golf course and is currently launching a mentoring program.
Within the last year, Rosalind has worked closely with a friend and colleague who is the Engineering Director for her product platform. They have identified the need to proactively attract, develop, and retain female engineering talent within the company. As a result, they have created a local “Women in Engineering” group and have facilitated several “talks” with female engineers to understand their challenges and concerns of working within the function. As a result of these conversations, Rosalind and her colleague have identified activities to retain women in the function. Some of these activities include: speed mentoring events (which have been benchmarked at other Deere locations), matching female engineers with other leaders to serve as mentors and advocates, scheduled “career story” meetings with visiting female leaders in engineering and invited female engineers to attend, learn and seek tips on being successful in the function, and supported attendance at SWE conferences and key recruiting activities to continue to seek and hire female engineering talent.
In 2010, while Rosalind was serving as the Global Director for Diversity & Inclusion, she wanted to bring more visibility to students about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers. While she successfully completed her degrees, she regretted not having more exposure early on in life. With over 40% of John Deere’s salaried workforce consisting of technical employees (mainly engineers and IT professionals), Rosalind knew there was significant potential to influence future generations. A reduction of students entering STEM fields and the potential shortage of talent is a risk to John Deere that would challenge Deere’s ability to be competitive and innovative. Rosalind led a team that investigated and developed a business case for a group called “John Deere Inspire” whose focus is to encourage children to consider a STEM career (with special focus on Engineering and underrepresented students – people of color and young ladies). The group was approved and JD Inspire Site Coordinators were identified and selected at each John Deere facility in North America and several units globally. John Deere Inspire expands Deere’s reach to young students which enables successful interaction between students and John Deere engineers by raising awareness and excitement for students to consider a STEM career. It also fulfills Rosalind’s desire for future engineers – better preparation for college. As a result of Rosalind’s focus with John Deere Inspire, Deere now has strategic partnerships with FIRST and Project Lead The Way organizations, which includes significant funding from the John Deere Foundation. Since the implementation, John Deere Inspire has achieved over 25,000 volunteer hours by over 500 employees. In addition, 152 John Deere mentors have supported 225 First Robotic Teams impacting approximately 1,600 students. John Deere Inspire supported over 100 school teachers with “real world” work experiences at multiple John Deere locations to become better teachers in the classroom related to STEM curriculum. Additionally, the John Deere Foundation provided $100,000 in grant funding for teacher “Externships” in Iowa, provided grants for 13 new Project Lead The Way implementations in six communities reaching over 5,000 students. John Deere supported ten “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” Day events with 565 girls and 135 volunteers across four states and in India. With these early successes, the John Deere Chairman and CEO, Sam Allen was recognized by the STEMConnector organization as one of the top 100 CEO leaders in STEM for the work the company is doing in this space. All of these activities directly and indirectly enable women to achieve full potential within their careers, stimulate interest for young ladies to enter into the profession, which will lead to having a greater gender and ethnic diverse workforce that will ultimately lead to innovative ideas that will improve the quality of life for many people around the world.
Rosalind is extremely humbled and honored to be considered for this very prestigious award. She is proud that her colleagues selected her to be considered worthy of this esteemed nomination. Rosalind is an ideal candidate to be nominated for this award. She has a number of outstanding achievements in engineering and operations both of which are considered to be challenging functions for women to work. She successfully stepped up to challenges as she gained increasing levels of responsibility and achieved goals above and beyond expectations. She has done of all this while remaining authentic and being true to who she is as an African American woman with few cohorts at her side. She is committed to growing talent and helping others through mentoring and coaching and encouraging them to be their best self in everything they do, as it relates to work performance, mentoring others and volunteering in the community. She feels fortunate to have had great mentors and supporters throughout her career and recognizes that without these relationships, her journey could have been much different. Upward mobility is never about a single person, it’s about having great assignments, producing results, and a support network that enables all of those components to come together. Rosalind’s achievements are not her own, they are the achievements of everyone that has been associated with Rosalind over the past 20 years. All of those individuals and leaders that saw something unique in her, who were willing to take a risk, willing to advocate, have the difficult conversations when needed, and lift her up in times of need. For all those before her, she stands on their shoulders, and upholds and guides all those to come. She is grateful for having a close knit family of supporters and husband who calls himself her biggest fan. Rosalind greatly appreciates the opportunity to be considered for the Prism Award.