Among the nearly 430 dual-certified CTS® holders worldwide, Jim Ferris, CTS-D, CTS-I, and Chris Ferris, CTS-D, CTS-I, are in an even more exclusive group of dual-certified blood relatives. The father and son duo have been working together on and off since Chris was just 14, including for the last seven years at North Carolina-based systems integrator Strategic Connections.
Jim Ferris (L) and Chris Ferris (R)
“I had a summer job as a copy boy for the company my dad worked for when I was in high school in Connecticut, and that’s when I got lured into AV,” remembers Chris.
Jim’s path to AV wasn’t as straightforward. He originally trained as a mechanical engineer but after a layoff and with a young family to support and his engineering studies to cover, he took what he first thought would be a temporary job at an AV company where his sister worked. He eventually moved his way up to VP position at that company, and later moved to a much larger AV integrator, HB Communications, where he was director of engineering for 20 years.
“That’s when I came on the scene,” says Chris. “My dad used to bring me into the shop when I was little, and I was exposed to AV at a really young age. After I worked in the paper room that first summer, every time I tried to work somewhere else, it wasn’t nearly as fun.”
Chris struggled to find a college course that would support his growing interest in AV, but pursued college nonetheless, winding up with an English degree. His dad, by this time, was in North Carolina at Strategic Connections and with no suitable openings, Chris took a job at a competitor as his first job out of college. It was around this time that the pair began studying together one night a week, which led to Chris attaining his CTS certification, just like his dad had 20 years earlier.
“We set aside one evening a week to study; Chris got his CTS and then some time later we worked on the CTS-D and then the CTS-I together,” says Jim. The regular study sessions also led to Biamp, Dante, Extron, and other certifications. “Once we started, it just kept going. I look at it more as time together than anything else,” says Jim.
Even when they’re not working toward a specific certification, the pair still get together every week to study.
“I love being a perpetual student in AV,” says Chris. “There is always something new to learn.”
“There are always aspects of the technology that are challenging, and we try to keep up with everything and what’s going on in the field. I really like that about our weekly get-togethers,” adds Jim.
At Strategic Connections, both have been working in the main AV office in Winston-Salem, where the bulk of the company’s AV design and programming is undertaken — Jim as Integration Manager and son Chris as Design Engineer/Programmer. As part of a larger team, they sometimes, but not always work on the same projects.
“One thing I am very conscious of, is not giving him any special treatment. If anything, he gets it worse than anybody else. There’s quite a shift in dynamic between being here and being home,” Jim shares.
“Overfamiliarity sometimes can be a thing, where we might snipe at each other if we’re working a lot. But on the whole, we try very hard to be neutral,” says Chris. “I make it a point to almost never call him ‘Dad’ when we’re at work. At home, sometimes it can be hard not to talk about work, because we spend 10 to 12 hours a day doing it. And I don’t think I could ever pull off taking a sick day, if it weren’t true!”
“He knows better than to even try!” says Jim.
Unsurprisingly, the pair share quite the sense of humor, and that often spills over into their work life. From fabricating an oil patch in the designated parking space of a fellow employee’s prized new car, to rewiring a colleague’s left-turn signal to his horn and filling another colleague’s car with packing peanuts through his sunroof, there’s almost no limits to their pranks.
“And then there was the hamster dance incident,” remembers Chris. “I challenged him by saying I could never get a song stuck in my head. I shouldn’t have done that, because everything became the ‘Hamster Dance.’ Every sound on my computer, my phone’s ringtone, the CD in my car.… It was the year of the ‘Hamster Dance’.”
“He cried uncle,” gloats Jim.
“You can’t be in this field without that kind of outlet,” says Chris, unapologetically.
Inspired by his father and by their long-running study sessions, Chris has started to become interested in introducing a new generation of potential young AV professionals to the business.
“I hope to start teaching AV and reaching out to high school and college kids to introduce them to AVIXA™ and the potential of audiovisual as a career. I think it’s important to help them see what an incredible industry this is to work in,” he says.