Wickham was an infantryman in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2013 and was promoted to sergeant. Then he embarked on a nine-year journey as a technician, working at 11 dealerships and independent shops: six dealerships in Tennessee, two in Arkansas and one in Texas, plus one independent shop in Tennessee and another in Texas.
There are several reasons for the job-hopping, he notes.
"After I left the Army, I told myself I'd never again work for a toxic leader," Wickham says. "So I got in a bad habit of leaving jobs to search for the kind of job and employer that I have now."
Wickham also says he quickly learned that jumping from one store to another was a good way to get pay raises.
"I also had no clue about things like how to pick a department that was a good cultural fit, what big corporate stores operated like, what big-city shops operated like or how to identify a good shop from a bad shop," he adds.
"When you're struggling to make hours because you've proven you can solve the hard problems, it's always burning in the back of your mind that you're just a job change away from better income and more balanced jobs — until the new place learns your capabilities," Wickham says. "A negative attitude and that knowledge are not a good combination."
Wickham's first job at a Tennessee dealership was a great gig overall. But he says he let one constant complainer in an adjacent bay get to him. So he left, which he admits was a mistake. And then the journey began.
It was a long and frustrating trek, he says. But things changed when he was approached by Steve Gustafson, service manager at Country II. Gustafson found Wickham via WrenchWay, a recruiting service for both technicians and dealerships.
Wickham figured his blogging would scare off people.
"But they said they were very interested and asked me to come out and meet with them," he says. "I blogged about that visit. And after visiting the store, meeting with Steve and [group Fixed Ops Director] Rich Bebout and seeing their operation, I knew I was going to go."
Bebout says the blogs didn't raise any red flags.
"I can relate to Russell's frustrations because I used to be a technician myself," he says. "Everyone is entitled to their opinions … and I understand what techs go through, so we try to be very tech-friendly here."