September 13, 2017

Blain Smith Returns to College

SUNY Empire student Blain Smith

Blain Smith

Blain Smith has a successful career as a computer engineer and IT systems programmer, including seven years as a programmer at Harvard University, is a married father of a four-year-old son and, with his wife, has just finished building a new home in Saratoga County, in upstate New York.

His interests include powerlifting – he works out every day; cars – he drives a jeep, modified a classic Mustang and soon will install a new, customized engine; and two Harley Davidson motorcycles, one of which he converted into a chopper.

Even though he enjoys his job and loves spending time with his family, Smith felt something important was missing and incomplete in his life. He could not shake the feeling, or dismiss the nagging thought, that he had started college, but had not yet completed a degree.

Smith decided it was now or never, made a realistic appraisal of his time constraints, and began to evaluate colleges.

With a demanding job, a wife with her own career, a young son attending school for the first time and a new home, Smith manages his day by following a strict schedule, with limited flexible time.

“I went to the information session at Empire State and one of the first things that came out of the mouth of the woman who was running the session was, ‘You are an adult, parent, homeowner and professional first. Then you are a student,’" Smith said. "That convinced me I was in the right place.”

About four months later, Smith enrolled at SUNY Empire State College for the fall 2017 term.

Even though he already possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience, there were aspects of his computer programming abilities he wanted to strengthen.

“I need to learn data structures and algorithms," said Smith. "I can learn that at Empire under a better model, where I am going to be more successful. (SUNY Empire faculty and staff) are going to set me up to pass that class, more easily, because of my (work and life) situation, as opposed to being shoved into a day class."

A native of Massachusetts, Smith knew in junior high school that computers were his future and enrolled at Shawsheen Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, in Billerica, Mass., a small town north of Boston.

His passion for computers, computer systems and programming was an early manifestation of a strong autodidactic streak and he began a lifelong endeavor to learn all he could in formal and informal settings.

His senior year of high school, Smith participated in a year-long internship as an entry-level programmer at a private company. After graduating, he enrolled at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, N.Y., in the fall of 2000, to study computer science.

Although his academic performance was satisfactory, Troy was not a good fit, and he returned to his small hometown north of Boston, where both of his parents also grew up, were married and still live.

Smith attended two colleges in Massachusetts in search of an education, which would not only put him on a career path, but also enable him to pay off his growing student debt.

Disillusioned with his future employment prospects and alarmed at the rate he was accumulating debt, he dropped out and entered the workforce.

Smith worked in the computer and computer programming industry, in a variety of roles, in and around Boston. As always, he continued to seek out like-minded computer experts, online and face to face, to share ideas, learn and grow as a person.

He chronicled his journey from Boston to Saratoga Springs in a December 2013 TEDxAlbany talk. Smith tells the story of how browsing Craig’s List led him to be hired by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health as a senior web developer, despite not having even an undergraduate degree.

Once in Saratoga County, while working for Harvard remotely, he began connecting online, and then face-to-face, with compatible computer programmers and hobbyists.

One introduction led to another and Smith left Harvard in 2012, joining the owner and two other employees at MadGlory, a start-up company based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

MadGlory develops software for the online gaming industry and, today, employs more than 20 people. Now, Smith is the chief technology officer for Odd Networks, Inc., a recent spinoff of MadGlory.

According to Bloomberg Business News, Odd provides OddWorks, a developer platform that focuses on streaming and on-demand media applications. Its platform enables developers to integrate with their existing online video platforms, ad servers, or subscription providers, as well as manage applications across multiple devices and much more.

Smith and his wife, Jaime, live in Saratoga Springs with their four-year-old son, Austin.

Take the Next Step

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