A Conversation with Joe O’Neil, the New Chairman of the IPC Board of Directors


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Joe O’Neil, formerly of Hunter Technology, recently stepped into the position of chairman of the IPC Board of Directors. I met with Joe at IPC APEX EXPO 2016 to discuss his new position, the industry, and the arc of his 20-year involvement with IPC.

Barry Matties: Joe, there have been some changes at IPC lately, including your becoming the chairman of the board of IPC. Tell me about that and what you are doing now.

Joe O’Neil: I'm beginning my two-year stint as chairman of IPC, taking over from Mark Peo. We've completed yet another peaceful transition—a testament to the industry.

I believe this is my 10th year on the board and I probably have 20–25 years of activity within the IPC. IPC's done a lot for me personally, for my companies, and obviously for the industry. This is kind of my chance to give some of that time back. I come in at an interesting time. I think Mark Peo did a great job as chairman over the last few years.

Matties: What is the role of a chairman there? What can we expect?

O’Neil: Our challenge is to do no harm. We set the tone for the board and work with staff. John Mitchell and his staff are doing a tremendous job. The board assists in setting some of the strategic direction, and then the staff executes. The chairman's role is to keep that process moving and to not let it go in too many directions at once.

Matties: What sort of time commitment do you have to put into a role like this?

O’Neil: It's not bad. Mark put in a lot of time. Mark had the additional challenge of going through a transition. John Mitchell was relatively new in that role coming in, and Mark took a lot of time, as did Steve Pudles prior to him, to make sure that the continuity was there because IPC does a lot of things right. You don't want to mess with a formula that works. You've got to be careful not to bring your commercial practices into a non-profit, standards-driven organization.

Matties: That could be the most challenging part I think.

O’Neil: Yeah, to realize that some things do take time and there is a benefit to letting stuff stew for a little while. That standards development proves faster isn't always better, and just because there's a new technology out there doesn't mean you need to run and embrace it. There are a lot of best practices that are being put in place. The office is decentralized. The talent level in each of the staff are unbeatable and they're doing great stuff. Our challenge continues to be to proliferate the electronics industry globally. We just opened an office in Brussels. Europe's an important region for us, and we've been thinking about Asia for decades, but we've been acting on it for less than a decade. Hiring Phil Carmichael was a major difference maker for us there.

Matties: Yeah, just looking at the membership numbers in Asia, I think it's gone up from 200 to 700 in the last 2–3 years, which speaks volumes to the leadership that's going on there.

O’Neil: Phil's done a tremendous job and he's put the infrastructure in place so that can continue.

Matties: As far as your background, for some of our readers who don't know you, you started in circuit board fabrication in what year?

O’Neil: I started in 1993.

Matties: Could you just give us a quick overview of that?

O’Neil: I actually started in accounting, not knowing what a circuit board was. I was in the same building as the PCB fabrication, so purely through osmosis I picked up some of it. We started with Twin Industries being an assembly operation. We were getting our boards fabricated by Hunter Technology, which was the same ownership. I got more and more involved in the assembly operation because I couldn't get my products out in time. Eventually, in 2000, we sold that company after acquiring CAD Technical, a circuit board design operation, to Ambitech out of Southern California. I learned a lot through that process about consolidations and integrations and all sorts of wonderful -ations.

I bought the company back in 2005 with the original owner and founder of Twin Industries. We were one of the Silicon Valley 50/50 partnerships that actually worked out. We both play nicely together, but I'll give him all the credit. In 2010, our management team bought him out, and then early last year sold the company to Sparton andgave our team a global footprint and a much larger U.S. landscape as well. Some of that team is here today, so it was nice to see them.

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