My Story: Humberto Rios Lara
I graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from a university in the state of Michoacán in Mexico. When I was looking for job after college, I was very lucky to be hired at a subsidiary plant of DuPont, close to Mexico City. The plant’s project engineer was leaving for a more convenient job for him, so there was an opening. It was 1979 when I started as a project engineer – my first job as a mechanical engineer – working for the best international company in Mexico, recognized worldwide as No. 1 in safety.
After a year, there were some organizational changes at the plant, and I was called by the plant manager to present myself at his office. I was 23 years old, had completed several projects and was enjoying what I was doing. Suddenly, I was getting an offer to be the safety supervisor! The former safety supervisor was the most hated person in the plant; not because of him, but because many people did not like to follow safety rules and procedures by the book. So I said, “No thanks.” I didn’t want to be in that position.
He then said two things to convince me. First: Humberto, what do you want to be in life, the tail of a lion or the head of a mouse? Because if you choose to be the “head of a mouse,” that’s all you are going to be – no more development, no more growth. Otherwise, if you decide to be the “tail of a lion,” then you can be a rear leg, the fur, the stomach, the chest, a front leg, the lion’s neck up to its head. Can you see all the options you have ahead?
Second: If you choose not to accept the safety supervisor position, I will put you “in the freezer” and it will be very difficult to offer you another promotion.
To be honest, I don’t know which one of the two statements made me accept the position, but since August 1980, I have worked in the safety, health, process safety management and fire protection area.
I have 40 years in this never-ending learning process, providing seminars, meeting great people, developing processes and enjoying what, at the beginning, I didn’t want to do.
Humberto Rios Lara
Director, Passion for Safety S.C.
Córdoba, Veracruz, Mexico