At 30, Macomb alum Jeremy Barnes-Smith is living his dreams. After a decade in the automotive industry, he is now working at General Motors as a mobile software engineer. But it took more than a little dedication and a fair number of nearly sleepless nights for him to get to where he is today.
An avid gamer, Barnes-Smith’s goal to become an electrical engineer began after he received a Windows 95 PC when he was 8 years-old. The computer came with a how-to guide for Game-Maker, a program that allowed budding young coders to build simple applications.
“I was also pretty good at math growing up,” elaborates Barnes-Smith, “so I knew a form of engineering was probably a good choice.”
The foundation for many rewarding careers is a quality education, and in 2009, Barnes-Smith made the decision to begin his academic journey at Macomb.
“I originally had high anxiety about attending a university,” explains Barnes-Smith. “Macomb was able to lower my anxiety by allowing me to slowly transition myself into a four-year program” and experience campus life at his own pace.
Perhaps that relaxed entry into college life is just what Barnes-Smith needed to succeed when he landed a job as a production operator for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in 2011. During his first few years at FCA, he worked the overnight shift on weekdays, 4 pm to 2 am. At one point, he found himself only getting four hours of sleep twice a week, when he was enrolled in an 8 am physics class.
“Going to college while working full time in the factory was very stressful,” notes Barnes-Smith. “I felt like it was a constant war going on inside my head between remaining sane and going insane.”
Fortunately, Macomb’s flexible class schedules allowed Barnes-Smith to continue his studies uninterrupted; even if, at one point, it meant ending a 6 am to 3:30 pm shift “only to have to rush to a class that started at 4 pm.” He also credits Macomb’s small class sizes to his success, as they ensured he was able to get help from faculty members, such as Maciej (Matt) Halfaf, after class.
Following his graduation from Macomb in 2014 with an Associate of General Studies degree, Barnes-Smith went on to receive bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Wayne State University (2018) and University of Michigan (2020), respectively. However, his time at Macomb put him in an enviable position as he geared up for his advanced studies: “I was able to go to Wayne State University debt free because of [Macomb].”