Carnegie Mellon University
October 20, 2015

Living the INI First-Year Dream Blake McMillian

By Jessica Corry

Blake McMillian does not have a dream career. Instead, he says he is living the dream as a first-year student in the Information Networking Institute’s (INI) Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) – Software Management (SM).

“All too often people project their dream in the future, and they forget about the present moment; the present, that is life,” he explained. “I have a here, and a now, and I’m living in a dream every day.”

A 2015 computer science graduate of Hampton University, McMillian chose the INI’s software management track for its flexibility and the appeal of software development’s holistic nature.

“Yes, algorithms and data structures can be fun, and I use them to solve a lot of problems, but I enjoy something else a little more,” said McMillian. “What I really appreciate is the sweet science of developing a product, from start to finish, from end to end.”

The INI has worked closely with faculty at Hampton University to develop new curricula in security and forensics through the Information Assurance Capacity Building Program (IABCP). This physical presence at Hampton was one of the factors that influenced McMillian’s decision to choose the INI. “Even when I was considering other options, like work, or a master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction, having INI representatives physically come to my department and express interest definitely carried weight,” noted McMillian, referring to the INI instructors involved in the IABCP who are also senior technical staff in the CERT division of the Software Engineering Institute (SEI).

Prior to joining the INI, he completed software management internships with Visa, where he developed an iOS application that allows wallet-less customers to use a vending machine, and Intel, which sponsored his GEM Fellowship to attend the INI. GEM is a network of leading corporations, government laboratories, top universities, and top research institutions that enables qualified students from underrepresented communities to pursue graduate education in applied science and engineering.

Only a few weeks into his first semester, McMillian says he has solved the simple formula for success at the INI: pour a large amount of time and effort into whatever you are doing. He says this “insane” work ethic, coupled with the reputation of an INI degree, will serve him well in his future, though he is unsure about exactly where he will go and what he will do. Joining the industry as an application developer and later creating a startup or transitioning to management are the most likely paths.

“I always enjoyed internships, but what I enjoyed more were the things that I built in my free time. In that way, I found selecting the bicoastal program, and a major in software management, to be a natural decision for me,” concluded McMillian.

As a student in the INI’s Pittsburgh-Silicon Valley MSIT program, McMillian will head west to Silicon Valley in 2016. He looks forward to building a full product, end to end, with other like-minded individuals during the capstone project.

“I think the INI, and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in general, is a rigorous environment that will give you the work ethic that you ‘need,’ in order to get the things that you ‘want,’” McMillian concluded. He says INI professors are brilliant and the assignments are rigorous, which means he must push himself past limits to reach objectives.

“Work, sleep, work” are his self-described hobbies, but McMillian says it will pay off in the form of an incredible work ethic and a software management degree for the future he wants.