Writer, Roofer and Rugby Player
Regional Manager, South Central
Among the crowds at the APEX electronics exposition every winter, Russell Claybrook, the South-Central Regional Sales Manager, is a memorable figure. He’s quiet, slender and thoughtful. He’s well-known because he’s been working in the electronics industry for decades. In fact, his mother got him started in the industry — but his career took a few twists and turns on the way.
“It is enormously satisfying to work with a client and develop a new solution that fixes their problem.”Read More...
Early Journalism Career
Before he started selling capital equipment, Russell earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He didn’t take a job as a reporter right away because the pay was so low. Instead, he worked as a carpenter on highway projects. “But one day I got a phone call from a newspaper editor in Orange TX, about 100 miles from Houston,” he explained. “He hired me on the spot. The money didn’t match what I was making in construction, but it got me into journalism.”
“I was a hard news reporter, covering everything from city council meetings to car wrecks and explosions; blood-and-guts reporting,” Russell recalled. “That really impacted me. I literally saw the worst sides of humanity… it was pretty intense. I worked 80 hours a week, and I loved it. It was like being in a war zone.”
“But eventually, I had to get out of it. I was disillusioned,” he laughed. In the early 1980s he went back to carpentry, roofing houses. This led to his first sales job, as a construction estimator. Eventually, that experience led to electronics sales.
Working with Emerging Technologies
“My mother was an outside sales rep when we were kids, one of the top reps in the electronics industry in the Dallas area,” Russell recalled. “She kept saying, ‘you need to get into the electronics industry,’ but nobody listens to their parents. Finally, my brother took her up on it. He started a rep firm selling production equipment like Camelot and Zevatech as the industry began transitioning from through-hole to surface mount. I joined him two months later and we became the biggest rep firm in the whole country,” Russell recalled.
“We rode the curve from thru-hole to surface mount, the growth was immense,” he said. “It all ended with the dot-com bust. In my area of Texas, we lost over 200 SMT lines. But it gives me a kick to be able to use the communication skills I learned in Journalism school to work with folks (customers) today.”
Meeting Customer Challenges
Russell’s most interesting work experience has been his decades of collaboration with the Motorola Automotive Industrial Engineering Group, now Continental Automotive. For more than 25 years, he has shared his skills on soldering, process control, stencil printing, component placement and dispensing. “It is so satisfying when you solve a problem for a customer,” he explained. “A few years ago, company had a quality problem in cleaning residual flux from boards that first had been cleaned with an aqueous process. We came up with a manual system using SuprClean™. It was approved all the way to the top of the organization, a great success that prevented expensive boards going to scrap.”
It’s examples like these that made Russell the MicroCare 2017 “Meeting the Challenge Award” winner.
On a Personal Note
Russell is an avid athlete. “I was introduced to rugby in the late 1970s. I was 26 years old,” he said. “Rugby is much more elegant than American football. There’s a lot more finesse to the sport; there’s a method to the madness,” he continued. “Plus, there’s the relationships — people of all walks of life playing rugby– doctors, lawyers, plumbers, carpenters, they all play. I like the comradery of the sport.” Retiring after a 16-year playing career, Russell now is a supporter of his local rugby team, but he still runs 30-40 miles every week.
With two grown sons and two grandkids, he has been married to Jo Ellen for 25 years. He loves the outdoors. “We have a little place way out in the Texas Hill Country west of Austin. It’s in the middle of nowhere. I hunt deer there, and pig, dove, turkey and duck. Everything I hunt, we eat. But it’s fun to just go out and watch the animals… that far from the city, it’s pretty wild.”