While pursuing his doctorate in polymer science and engineering at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst in 1983, Joon Choo went on a series of job interviews, one of which was at Shamrock Technologies. Mr. Choo met with Bill Neuberg, Shamrock Technologies’ owner, and ended up joining the company as a developmental chemist.
“In that interview, Bill asked me to describe for him the crystal structure of polyethylene, and when we were done, he hired me,” Mr. Choo said. “I liked his style of getting right to the root of things, and working for Shamrock was such a blast, that I never looked back.”
Now, 28 years later, Mr. Choo has built a tremendous career at Shamrock, rising through the ranks to vice president and earning the respect of the ink industry. As a result of his efforts, the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) presented Mr. Choo with the prestigious Technical Associate Member Service Award during the National Printing Ink Research Institute’s (NPIRI) annual Technical Conference.
Joon Choo, fourth from left, is congratulated by his colleagues from Shamrock Technologies, including, from left, Alex Radu, Ron Levitt, Steven Parker, Mr. Choo, Jack Gallagher and Craig Baudendistel.
Although the description fits Mr. Choo perfectly, he was clearly caught off guard by the award.
“I was totally shocked, even awed by the whole thing,” Mr. Choo said.
Joining Shamrock Technologies
Mr. Choo’s path to Shamrock Technologies was a unique one. Born in Malaysia, where he would attend church with his future wife, Elyse, Mr. Choo attended school with children from various ethnic backgrounds: Malays, Indians, Chinese and Eurasians. He enjoyed growing up with people from different cultures, and speaks five languages and dialects. He decided to go to college in the U.S., and attended Beloit College, where he studied chemistry and engineering science.
“Going to Beloit, being schooled in a liberal arts environment taught me to think critically and beyond the sciences,” Mr. Choo said.
After graduating from Beloit, Mr. Choo earned his master’s degree in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Once he joined Shamrock, those skills were quickly put to use by Mr. Neuberg.
“He does good work, right from when he first came in and polymerized polyethylene in ink oil,” Mr. Neuberg said.
By the end of 1984, Mr. Choo was named lab manager for Shamrock, and started to become more involved in the ink industry.
“Bill firmly believed that attending the ink club meetings was a great way to learn about the ink industry,” Mr. Choo said. “So, I started attending the New York society meetings, realized it was a good industry, and got involved in NPIRI. I joined a subcommittee in 1985 that focused on additives and rub resistance, and met a great bunch of inkies and scientists. I was later invited to join them in teaching at the advanced sessions of the summer courses at Lehigh University.”
Once Mr. Neuberg saw what Mr. Choo could do in the lab, he decided to see what he could also do in the field. Dainippon Ink & Chemicals (DIC) was developing a new series of inks requiring high rub resistance, and needed assistance. Mr. Choo got on the first plane to the Tokyo labs to solve the challenge. He quickly did, and was soon assigned to develop sales in the Asia-Pacific region for Shamrock.
“Bill sent me to Tokyo as a chemist, and after that, he figured I should learn how to sell,” Mr. Choo said. “I didn’t know much about sales, so off I went to a Dale Carnegie course for 14 weeks.”
By 1986, Mr. Choo was made responsible for sales and marketing in Asia, while still overseeing the technical group at Shamrock. Within two years, he appointed agents throughout Asia. Mr. Choo started training them, and sent Shamrock’s technical service people over to work closely with the agents.
“To Bill, it is important to invest in people first. He was all for hiring the best, and giving them the opportunity to grow,” Mr. Choo noted. “I recall the one year when we brought in three PhDs at the same time - from Britain, Hungary and China.” He also sent Mr. Choo to business school at Rutgers, where he earned his executive MBA with a major in international business.
Joon Choo receives the TAM Service Award from NPIRI president Lisa Fine.
“Jack is the finest sales guy I have ever met,” Mr. Choo said. “He taught me what it means to sell, that you have to develop relationships first, and then the product sells itself.”
“Joon is driven to excellence,” Mr. Gallagher said. “We all tell him he puts in too much time in the office. So, now he just works around the clock and the globe.
“When I came to Shamrock, with him just returning back to the U.S., we put a new structure in place,” Mr. Gallagher added. “I believe everyone he hired and trained in the U.S., Europe, and in Asia is still with us and they are all loyal to Shamrock.”
A few years after his retirement, Mr. Neuberg came back to run Shamrock again.“I know we are moving in the right direction, and Joon is a major contributor,” Mr. Neuberg said.
Even though he does not work out of the Shamrock labs, Mr. Choo is never that far from his technical roots.
“I spend a lot of time thinking about what is in the lab,” Mr. Choo said. “Shamrock has a clear focus on quality and service. Every customer is different. Even today, I make sure that every sales person we hire and train has the ability to have a meaningful technical conversation with customers. We are all technically capable and curious.”
In 2004, Shamrock revisited the idea of building a facility in Asia, and Mr. Choo naturally assumed the lead for the project. “I was privileged to be part of a great team that coordinated the set-up of our operations in Tianjin, China, which we modeled after our plant in Europe,” Mr. Choo said. “We grew our business in China first, then we built the plant.”
Outside of work, family is very important for Mr. Choo. He and Elyse have been married 26 years, and have a daughter, Chrislyn, and a son, David.
“I enjoy family and travel,” Mr. Choo said. “I have been able to take my family on many trips. Golf, cooking and photography are also great pleasures for me; I take pictures and videos around Shamrock and make an annual Christmas collage, which has become a Shamrock Christmas party tradition. It is all about bringing our people closer together. ”
All in all, Mr. Choo is thankful that he joined Shamrock Technologies.
“Shamrock has given me the opportunity to grow professionally as well as on a personal basis,” Mr. Choo concluded. “It opened the world for me. It is an amazing world. Bill showed me how to have fun while working. And so, I worked hard.”