For Ramon Portilla, service is the cornerstone he has built his life on. It resides in everything he does from his career, to his home life, to serving his community in order to create a better tomorrow for them.
This cornerstone of service is evident in Ramon’s career and everything he has been able to accomplish. Growing up in Mexico City, Ramon came to Northwest Arkansas in March of 2006 when he joined Walmart. His career has since focused on leading roles in Marketing functions such as Customer Experience, Insights, Analytics, Shopper Marketing and Associate Brand Marketing, among others, both supporting the Walmart and the Sam’s Club divisions. Early on, Ramon became extremely involved in Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) efforts joining the Latinx ERG or formerly known HLARG. It was during this time that Ramon learned the importance of what it meant to have a seat at the table. From childhood, it was ingrained in his and most of our values to uphold chivalrous behavior for women and elderly groups by holding doors open and giving up his seat at times. He realized that this value quickly entered into the workplace and began to work against him. By giving up his seat at the table, he was not only giving up his physical seat, but his thoughts, new ideas, and most importantly his voice, a voice that could create change and advocate for others. Ramon had to come to the realization that by staying in his seat he was not being rude or ungentlemanly, but rather sitting in a place he had earned where he could create change. It was during this revelation that Ramon knew he was called to help his fellow Hispanic and minority community understand what it means to have a seat at the table.
In 2009, Ramon began to work on his D&I aspirations professionally. He became the first chair of HLARG (Hispanic Latino Associate Resource Group), appointed directly by the executive leadership of Hispanic officers at Walmart and led by former COO of Walmart and Sam’s Club, Gisel Ruiz. He was instrumental in the launch and success of multiple CDEI initiatives such as, Mi futuro Mentoring program for 8th graders which escalated nationwide mentoring over 6,000 kids across the US, by store and DC leaders. As well as Café y Carreras mentoring circles, a program that delivers quarterly mentoring round tables of 10 associates with a Walmart officer. Due to his passion for associate development in 2015, he sponsored the launch of Gateways, a program focused exclusively on Director and Sr. Director levels with the main objective of developing leadership skills in areas identified as priority for high potential talent. This program caught the attention of the Walmart Office of Diversity and is now a program offered across the organization regardless of heritage background. But his work did not stop there, Ramon saw the exact same need for his passion in the community.
From a community angle, Ramon became instrumental in a formerly Latino initiative in Northwest Arkansas, founded in 2001 by Paul Higham, former CMO of Walmart. It was called, Heroes de Corazon Awards. For over 10 years, this program delivered awards to young, academics, professionals and long-term achieving Hispanics in our community for making a difference in the lives of our thriving community. Most recently, Ramon was behind the launch of a social media group LatinX Professionals in Retail. This group was founded with the intention to create a social media forum for both young and expert Retail professionals to exchange professional advice and coaching. The group, with nearly 700 members, has been able to identify potential talent for companies such as Walmart.
In addition, Ramon formerly served on the board of CASA of NWA. He and his wife have both fostered and adopted children through this organization. Also, Ramon, a father of a kid with Autism, was actively involved with other Walmart associates, to raise awareness of kids with this condition, and served as a support and advisor to help Walmart improve the coverage of medical benefits with kids with Autism. He also formerly served on the board of OCA (Ozark Catholic Academy), where he had the privilege to collaborate in the opening of the school, and bring awareness and strategy to make the school very inclusive of Hispanic/Latino kids in the community. Ramon actively serves on the board of the St. Stephen Catholic Church in Bentonville.
As you can see, Ramon’s accomplishments all source from his passion of inclusivity and seeking to understand the community around him. Ramon shared such a profound insight with us that holds so true. He shared, “the key to understanding Diversity and Inclusion is empathy. As humans, we have more in common than we do different. Empathy is a skill that can be learned that allows you to be open minded and listen to another’s point of view.” Oftentimes, empathy can be paired with a negative connotation of feeling bad for someone. But the ability to seek to understand those around you and choose to empathize with their intention is something we should all strive to model.