Mark Rutledge passed away this week.
Mark was a member of a few exclusive groups. He was an installer who became an electrical engineer, and his work was informed by his experience in the bay. He was a security-and-remote-start pro who transitioned into the audio field (a maneuver which sounds easier than it turns out to be). He pioneered the use of external devices to configure in-car products – first with the Bitwriter alarm programming tool (which I believe was his senior project for his EE degree), and extended to many other devices which were PC-configurable when that was still rare. Finally, he was an engineer who went back to school and learned business, earning an MBA. Mark had a level of credibility with installers, salespeople, buyers, marketers, and business leaders which is very rare – and it was deserved.
I knew Mark for almost 30 years. He was working in the install bay, and came to a training we did on selling security for cars. Mark took that back to his shop, and reported 6 months later that their average ticket had almost doubled using the techniques he learned. Soon, he was working in our technical support department, taking over the management of the department shortly after I left, and eventually returning to school and progressing to vice-president of engineering.
He then pivoted, going to iDatalink to head up an audio-focused initiative based on leveraging knowledge of vehicle networks. iDatalink’s Maestro has become a highly respected brand, known for solid engineering, great vehicle-specific plastics, and appealing features. Whether it involved head-unit integration, amplifier replacement, or the sound processor created in partnership with Rockford, products from this group are widely considered to be excellent.
Seeing him over those years – almost 30 – I got to see him grow as a person and a leader. We have all made mistakes, but the best of us learn from them, and Mark learned from the past and improved. His team at iDatalink hold him in high professional and personal regard. He told me recently that I was a different person than when we met, that I had grown, and I believe this was equally true for us both. He recommended me to my current employer, and I don’t know that I would have this job without his advocacy.
He will be missed by his many friends and colleagues in the 12-volt community. We offer our condolences to his family.