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John N. Hoekstra

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"We add a lot of value as safety professionals. We’re watching out for people. Our jobs are critical, not just for the organization, but for the people who we're protecting.”

John N. Hoekstra - Senior Manager, Corporate Safety | Ingredion Incorporated

John Hoekstra

What does it mean to you to be a safety professional?

We add a lot of value. We're watching out for people. I could have gone into many different careers, and added value for an employer. But this is different, because I'm protecting people. I see myself as a life saver, because if I don't take action, somebody could die from it. So it's very important. I think our jobs are critical, not just for the organization, but for the people that we're protecting.


What led you to a career in safety?

I always knew I wanted to go into healthcare. And if you think about safety you're really caring about people's health. I was going to go into physical therapy, and so I was in that major. But then a defining moment was, my mom was working at a plastics manufacturing company, and she was exposed to chemicals, and she was getting irritation on her forearms. She asked for gloves, and they gave her gloves that just fit over her hands and not her forearms.

And then she was still getting chemical burns and irritation from it. I remember my dad and I said, "Okay, can you just bring some dish gloves to protect you? It's better than the gloves they were providing." And it was still going through those gloves. She ended up quitting, because she was tired of coming home with chemical burns.

But I just remember thinking, okay, there has to be something more that could be done to protect people because they might not know what the rules that the employer has to follow in terms of personal protective equipment. I ended up changing majors, went into occupational safety, and learned a lot more about safety.

What has been your experience with your ASSP chapter community?

I really like the involvement that we have at our meetings. We have such a diverse age range and experience range. We have retirees who come into our meetings to see old friends and enjoy a good meal and a good presentation on safety. We have students from Northern Illinois University who come into the meetings, and they're starting to network, show their resume around. And then, we have the existing safety professionals, who want to hear good presentations and they enjoy networking as well. We do some things other than meetings. We have development conferences. We have a job fair. We go to colleges and try to give advice to students on resume writing. We also have job shadowing opportunities, so they can learn more about the field. And then we also do things like we go to a local food shelter and help and just bond with each other. And there's some fun things like a golf outing as well.

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