2017 30 Under 35 Profile: Max Gabin


Max Gabin, 27

Max Gabin
Branch Manager; Rexel

Since he graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in supply chain management, it’s easy to think that Max Gabin had his eyes on the electrical distribution industry.

But that wasn’t the case. He was keeping his options open.

“I wasn’t necessarily looking toward the electrical industry. I wanted to do something in the field out of college, something that would give me a good opportunity to grow,” Max said.

Rexel came to his campus for recruiting. Max did his research and applied for an interview.

“What I learned about their program was that it was a two-year management trainee program,” he said. “They had you do different roles in the company: counter sales, warehouse, outside sales, energy solutions. So I really liked that in the program I was going to learn about different things.”

There was another reason Max found himself attracted to Rexel.

“There was the question of where I wanted to live. Rexel is a big national company and I could do that training pretty much anywhere. San Diego was available and that was a no-brainer for me!” he laughed.

In his first days at Rexel, Max came to realize just how vast the industry was.

“It was more complicated than you think,” he said. “You come into this world and realize that there are so many pieces. You realize that there is a lot going on here.”

He admits now that there was also a bit of an old-fashioned approach to things that also surprised him.

“Some people still used a fax machine or customers still come in and scribble orders on a piece of paper,” Max explained. “They didn’t do it online yet. That was different.”

That last example seems to be changing, though, as the learning necessary for electrical industry success is a constant at Rexel—and now for many of its customers too.

“It’s ever-changing. E-commerce is pretty much being pushed all the time now,” he said. “Our CEO has basically come in and said, ‘Go digital or die.’ That is the mentality we have to have. You have to be able to adapt and try new things.”

It’s a mantra Max preaches to his people at the San Diego location which he currently manages.

“We have about 25 employees here. Inside sales, counter sales, warehouse drivers,” he said. “My day-to-day is basically empowering them to have success and make sure that they are servicing their customers the best they can. As much as they work for me, I work for them.”

Although living in Southern California, Max still enjoys playing hockey as he did back in Michigan.

“There are quite a few rinks for people like me, who lived in Michigan or Canada and have moved down to San Diego,” he said. “The hockey is actually pretty good. I play that and I play some golf as well.”

Max lives a mile from the water and is still a fan of his beloved Detroit Red Wings.

“They’ve been down of late. But they have a brand-new arena opening this year so I want to go back there and check that out when I have a chance.”

Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?

A. My biggest advice is to always try to get out of your comfort zone. There are a lot of different things going on in our company whether it is billing, a project team or your typical outside sales or energy solutions. There is a lot going on so the more you know about each part of our business then the more powerful you can be and the bigger impact you’ll be able to have on the company. When you bring in a project, you will understand how it affects the different parts of the company.

Get out of your comfort zone. Ask your boss if you can spend three days in a different department and understand how they work. I think that is the mentality that will make you a stronger professional in our industry. It will help you join forces with new people to help conquer common goals. You’ll have a lot more success.

Q. You’re one of the youngest people to be recognized this year. Do you ever run into difficulty commanding respect in the company? If so, how do you manage that?

A.Thankfully, not here. The group of people in San Diego has been pretty warm to me. The management trainee program is really what helped. I worked side by side with warehouse, counter, inside and many other employees for two years. There are people that have been here 30 years and really know their stuff. There’s no way I’ll ever catch up to them. And I recognize that. So I always try to help them.

When the branch manager here left to go to Denver, I already knew everyone and had been here for two or three years. So rarely has that age thing come into play because I think they understand me and they understand that I am here to help them. I’m not here to say, ‘You have to do it my way because I’m a young whippersnapper that knows everything.’ That is not the approach I have. I’m here to empower them to do it better.

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Joe Nowlan  is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at

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