Behind the Podcast: The Walker - Atzemis Interview

The interview that you are about to read was for me, the funnest one since I began the “Five Questions” interview series. Over the past two+ years, I have had the opportunity to listen every Monday morning to a new episode from Jack Walker, Paul Atzemis...and the Carboline Tech Services Podcast. Now what’s special about this time meeting with Jack and Paul, was that I got to interview the both of them.

In this interview, you will get to know about Jack’s and Paul’s background and the unique characters that they are, which turns a podcast about listening about paint drying...to an interesting, technical, and at the same time...entertaining podcast.

Each Monday a New Carboline Tech Service Podcast (CTSP) Awaits You!

Jim: Jack and Paul, it’s great to finally interview you both, especially after I had the honor to be interviewed on two CTSP podcast episodes. Every week subscribers and listeners of the Carboline Tech Services Podcast (CTSP) get to listen to great interviews and important technical topics from the Protective Coatings Industry. I’d like to know more about your professional background and your involvement within the Protective Coatings community?

Paul: First Jim, I would like to thank you for being our first and biggest fan. It has been a pleasure working with you and getting to know you over the last two years. It is hard to believe we have been doing this for almost two years now, and we first met you back at the beginning of the podcast. I think when we met you, we were still in single digits or barely above that in subscribers and listens for those early podcast episodes.

I have officially been in the coatings industry since 1995 (minus a couple of short chemist stints into the food coloring and pharmaceuticals). I was involved in commercial and light industrial painting before that while in high school and college. My first introduction into protective coatings after college was as a Technical Service Lab Technician for McGean-Rohco. They are a supplier of inorganic plating and anode systems. Later that year, I moved to Sherwin-Williams, both Cleveland companies. I am from the Cleveland area and started as a Formulator for Sherwin-Williams there. My wife’s career brought us all around the country and I had several changes. With Sherwin-Williams (about twelve years), I was a Store Associate, Assistant Manager, Operations Manager, and Sales Representative. I worked in four different states and everything from retail to full Commercial Store with a blending facility and several in between. I was in Council Bluffs, IA; Omaha, NE; New Orleans, LA; and St Louis, MO. Now, not all that time was continuous with Sherwin-Williams.

In between some of those moves, I also worked for some other companies. I was a chemist for Watson Coatings in St Louis and Sigma Coatings while in New Orleans. In 2010, I found my way to Carboline in the Tech Service group and have been there since then. I have been the Director of the Technical Service Group that is based at our headquarters in St Louis, MO since 2014. I am a NACE CIP Level 3 and a “tech enthusiast.”

This was where the magic happened back in March 2018, or Episode #020 as it’s called!

Jack: Well Jim, I come from the school of “hard knocks…” (Laughs uncomfortably). Well, that’s sort of true depending on your point of view. I was not ready for traditional college when I was of traditional age for college, so very quickly I found myself at the wrong end of a paintbrush and a spray gun. I was able to use that experience to start with Carboline in the Applications lab. This lab prepares all the samples and testing panels for the entire company. After gaining insight into the application properties of Carboline’s coatings, I was able to move on to our Technical Service department. I am not quite ready to divulge the next change that is coming for me, other than to say that I'm eagerly anticipating the new challenge. I am NACE CIP Level 3 certified, and a member of both NACE and SSPC.

Jim: The Carboline Tech Services Podcast (CTSP) is an ongoing success story for the Protective Coatings Industry, with over 500 downloads weekly. What was the genesis of the CTSP and how would the story read concerning those early days starting up the CTSP?

Paul: Well Jim, the idea started years ago. Jack and I share a lot of similar interests in entertainment, and clearly also in coatings. We both are tech junkies and listen to a lot of podcasts. We found that a lot of them sounded the same. We had talked a lot in Tech Service about how we could better communicate our ideas; we get 3,000-4,000 phone calls per month in Tech Service and thousands of emails. A lot of the same information gets repeated. We are after all, the Carboline Tech Service Global support team. We had mentioned a couple of times that “…we should do a podcast, I mean, heck, we talk on the phone all day… can’t be much different.” The timing was right one month, and we decided to give it a shot. The main thing that made this idea work was that Jack had a background in music, both in bands and in college. He knew how to operate a mixing board and set up studio microphones. In episode #01, my boss, Dwayne Meyer, loved the idea and took it to the President of Carboline, Chris Tiernay. Chris comes from a musical family as well and loved the idea. They both gave the blessing, and we ran with it. It took a little experimenting, but I think that by episode #04 or #05 we had it dialed in and by the time we episode #010 or #011 we hit our stride. Jack and I have a lot in common and similar tastes in podcasts, so our ideas were in sync. Not to mention that working together all day, we had a good feel for each person’s discussion style. We can bounce off each other well. We can tell when the other person is finishing an idea or has something to add.

At the time of this interview, we are prepping episode #093. We have released a new episode, every Monday for the last 92 weeks. I am amazed and proud of that accomplishment. We are currently sitting at well over 500 weekly downloads and just shy of 32,000 total listens.

I think the key to the success of the podcast is that we try to keep it generic enough for anyone involved in the industry to get something out of the podcast. Whether you make application equipment, perform surface prep, supply or use safety equipment, write specs, or even are a competing paint manufacturer, there is something in the podcast for you. It is not just about Carboline products. We encourage people to be involved and informed. I would love for there to be more industrial coatings podcasts. More people doing it will bring more attention and listeners to the market. You can never be too informed.

Jack: Paul’s explanation was spot on, I would just like to add how surreal the whole process was early in the life of the podcast, and to a certain extent it still is surreal. I had sound editing in my “bag of tricks,” however this knowledge was not something I ever thought that I would use in a technical role for an industrial paint company. Carboline has been incredibly supportive, even early when we hadn’t hit our stride. Executive Vice President Dwayne Meyer and President Chris Tiernay, along with the entire Carboline executive team, have been so vital to the success of the show

Meeting of the “Three Beards” @ Carboline HQ, St. Louis-MO

Jim: Many of the CTSP subscribers tell me that the unique compelling aspect of the CTSP is how you both, first have interesting technical material that you cover, and second is the humor that you both overlay during the podcast. How do you both determine which topics and interviews would be interesting to your listeners?

Paul: Really Jim, it comes from the listeners and customers. Usually without them even realizing they were the inspiration. Sometimes the ideas are easy. When SSPC or NACE releases a new or update to a commonly used or misunderstood standard, we talk about it on the podcast. We need to understand the topic for our job anyway, this lets us give a summary to everyone else as well. Creating a lesson plan and teaching someone is the best way to know that you understand it yourself. Sometimes it comes from common or repeat questions or topics during the week. The change of seasons is always ripe with new ideas. Whether it is low or high temperatures, rain or snow or dry season… they all come with needed modification to the painting process. Sometimes you need to look at different coatings, sometimes it is additives, sometimes you just need to change or control the environment. They all lead to topics to discuss on the podcast. Our favorite means of topic generation is from listener recommendations. When someone emails or calls or Tweets a question or idea, we try to discuss it as soon as possible. We have had some good ones, some that made us research before we could record an episode about it. Those are my favorite, the ones that make me think about something that hadn’t been in my normal scope. And then there is always the “geeky” things. I will always talk to someone about robots, automation, mechanical… anything that you don’t normally get to see every day. When we were at NACE and SSPC, we just walked around the exhibit hall floor and looked for things that we thought were interesting. Then we asked that company to talk to us on the podcast. We usually had a good response once we described what we were doing. It helped us to be doing the interviews in the Carboline booth. That gave more credibility to the request.

I think the main thing is to keep it light and interesting. At the heart of it, we are talking about watching paint dry… we aren’t even getting to watch it. Yes, I have done that lab test; it is not that exciting either. We don’t want anyone to fall asleep while listening, so we try to keep a little fun in the episodes. Jack and I both enjoy a lot of the same movies, and we like movie quotes. There are a lot of them in the episodes. You have done a great job Jim of catching most of them. I love waiting to see who will make a comment about a quote or call into Tech Service and when one of us answers the phone, they continue with the quote or scene. It really does make me smile.

Jack: As Paul said, the topic selection comes organically throughout our normal routine of being Technical Service Engineers for Carboline. I am amazed at how we’ve been able to maintain a constant release schedule for 90+ straight weeks.

SSPC Executive Director Bill Worms Interview During Coatings+ 2019, Orlando-FL

Jim: At the time of this interview the CTSP has just released “Episode #090” and before you know it, you’ll be celebrating 100 episodes. What do you both see as the evolutionary next step of the CTSP?

Paul: Jim, part of the fun for us is the surprise. We can’t let out all the plans. But we have played around with some YouTube videos. We have consulted on several that the Marketing group has made, and Jack and I had the idea and plan for the Carboline Sanitile 755FR (coating) video that we released earlier this year. It takes a bigger team than just Jack and me for video and we have some talented people in the marketing group that have helped a lot with some of these follow up experiments...Thanks, Jane. We did record about thirty “live” recorded episodes while at the national NACE and SSPC conferences this year. They were well received and we will likely do it again next year. We are also working on a “live”, video call in. We are working to get more people involved to see what other ideas we can come up with. We are also working on some new instructional videos for paint mixing and application. There is a lot of open space for videos on the proper use of coatings.

Jack: I have lots of ideas floating around in my head for the next step. It's just a matter of what I can convince management is a good idea. I do believe that Paul and I have the perfect face for podcasting, and we might not find the same success on something like YouTube. I mean...I wouldn't want to look at us!

Jim: Jack and Paul, I appreciated this opportunity to interview you both. Over the last few years, I have worked with you both on other industry activities and tasks outside of the CTSP. I know that you both are not just the CTSP or “those guys who do that podcast”, that being said, for those who associate you with the CTSP, what one important professional aspect of Jack Walker and Paul Atzemis should the Protective Coatings Industry know?

Paul: Well Jim, both Jack and I came to Tech Service after doing several other jobs. It was a choice to be part of this side of the industry. We enjoy teaching and education and I think we have a communication style that makes it easy for people to understand. I think we do a good job of simplifying things for the newcomer and we can get deep with an industry veteran. We are both very eager to learn, especially if it is about a new tool or gadget or piece of tech. The geek really comes out then.

We do work hard to stay on top of all the industry trends and possibilities, and we are “outside the box” thinkers. It is obvious since we have the first and longest-running podcast about the industrial coatings industry. I am involved in both NACE and SSPC in committees, task groups, councils, and discussion groups. I have found it the best way to know what is going on. It is also important to keep in touch with people in the field. Both on the phone and the job site, real-world interactions are a huge help in keeping topics relevant.

Jack: Paul and I both use that expertise and experience to help identify the best solutions for our customers. There are always multiple ways to accomplish corrosion protection through coatings for any given job, and we both take the extra time to ensure that we are truly helping our customers.

Revisiting Greatness on Episode #084 “SSPC International Growth”

Thank You for taking time out of your day to read this interview. I would like to thank both Jack Walker and Paul Atzemis and the entire team at Carboline, especially everyone who make the CTSP a success in the Protective Coatings Industry.

This intervew and any opinions expressed during the course of this interview, does not reflect the position, opinions or endorsement by my employer, SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings. To become a member of SSPC, please visit: www.sspc.org

If you have a recommendation of a professional in the global Protective Coatings Industry that I should interview, please email me at: jim@jimkunkle.com

Five Questions: “Behind the Podcast: The Walker - Atzemis Interview October 2019

Created By
Jim Kunkle


Special Thanks to Jack Walker, Paul Atzemis, Carboline, SSPC