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AVNation Icons: Chris Ruckle

The AV/IT Catalyst At H&R Block Who Prevents Taxing Tech Problems

02/22/2024 – Mention the word “taxes,” and most people frown. But not Chris Ruckle. He’s an audio-visual and IT infrastructure engineer at H&R Block, working in the tax preparation company’s world headquarters in Kansas City, Mo. He loves his job and is crucial to the 2,000-plus people in the building doing theirs.

“When I came here, H&R Block needed someone to build out thousands of computers and fix the numerous AV problems they had,” Ruckle says. “They built the whole AV department around me. Basically, they opened the door for me, and it’s an amazing company to work for. They really gave me a career with longevity.”

“I love it. I can build everything in AV around my ideas and knowledge, laying down an infrastructure that can be built upon.”

Ruckle’s AV and IT responsibilities cover a ton of ground at H&R Block’s world headquarters. The headquarters houses 140 AV-accessible rooms, including eight large meeting spaces and a 320-seat, Broadway-like theater – a legacy of H&R Block co-founder Henry W. Bloch, who was fond of the arts. The theater hosts the Kansas City Repertory Theatre; Ruckle oversees the equipment, lighting, and sound for those shows. He has a picture in his office of him and Henry Bloch; Ruckle did sit-down interviews discussing awards Bloch had received before he passed in 2019.

“COVID had a major impact on us at the headquarters in terms of remote work,” Ruckle says. “We needed to flip a lot of rooms, and had to upgrade our technology because we were going to go into this no-touch or limited touch capability.” He adds, “CTI led us in a great direction of learning new technology and we really grew our environment a lot. Prior to COVID we had about 20 rooms in the building that needed AV support, and now we’re at 140 AV rooms that are fully built around the Microsoft Teams system.”

Self-taught, Constantly Learning!

There was no AV department when Ruckle started at H&R Block 12 years ago, but he was well-prepared to take on the demanding role despite having no formal education in AV. Although Ruckle was raised mainly in Illinois, his father’s Air Force career necessitated several moves. Ruckle’s interest in computer systems and technology was sparked by his father when he worked for Radio Shack. Ruckle also got involved in radio broadcasting and production with Clear Channel (renamed iHeart Radio in 2014) and enjoyed working as a disc jockey in clubs.

He continued to work in various capacities for clubs across the U.S., in New York City, St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, Miami, and Las Vegas. Those collective club and radio experiences helped shape the creative and problem-solving skills he uses today in AV.

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“I was in the club scene from 1988 to 2010, working in clubs, owning and designing them, so I learned from hands-on experience how to troubleshoot a lot of things,” Ruckle says. “I learned lighting and sound production. That and the radio experience really got me into both the audio and visual sides of AV.”

Before he came to H&R Block, Ruckle worked for 4Wall Entertainment in Las Vegas, which provides lighting and video systems for events. He handled AV installations and performed support services.

Keep Ahead Of The Curve

“Vegas is always ahead of the curve, and I started doing installations and consulting to expand my skill set,” Ruckle says. “I’ve got a hunger for knowledge in my field and take deep dives into understanding it. You’ve got to follow the trends because technology moves so fast. That’s the biggest part of understanding the AV world.”

“Just in the last five years, it’s dramatically changed, like at our company, with people working from home and some in the office.”

Ruckle also has a YouTube podcast about cars, Craving Cars Live. He’s one of those people who embraces change and helps implement it. That’s par for the course in his line of work.

“H&R Block is always expanding, and a lot of people work from home across several platforms, and my job is to make it as seamless as possible,” he says. “I’ve always found myself being at the beginning edge when things start to happen because I’m always looking for what’s new, what’s creative, especially in the audio-visual world, and how that ties into what we do today in our company.”


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