Jim Blackley says he has spent his early career “chasing the next technology.” A first-generation American whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from Scotland after World War II, Blackley joined the Navy after high school in 1974. A military aptitude test revealed his natural affinity for engineering. He entered a two-year training program in Tennessee, and then went to work on a Grumman stealth plane. After completing his military service and programming school, he found his first private-sector technology job and attended night school to earn a degree.
Blackley joined Royal Insurance, moved to financial services company DTC, then had a “brief fling” at Goldman Sachs, moved on to Dun & Bradstreet, then Long Island Lighting, Con Edison, and AIG. “There’s a lot of value in being an IT vagabond and chasing the next technology,” he says. Specializing in billing and workforce management systems, he says, “I was preparing for a life in cable that I didn’t know I was preparing for.”
After wandering for nearly 20 years, the vagabond found a place to call home in 1996 at Cablevision, where his background was needed. The company was looking into building what it referred to as its own MOAB -- Mother of All Billing Systems. Blackley convinced Cablevision management that the undertaking would be a bad idea.
Chasing technology was no longer necessary at Cablevision. “I didn’t have to go anywhere; new jobs kept coming to me.” The company was talking about going all-digital, and Blackley was excited to be a part of the transition. Cablevision was also getting into other businesses. When it acquired a movie theater chain, Blackley learned about popcorn systems and the ticketing equation. For Madison Square Garden, he oversaw installation of the largest high definition screen in the U.S.
In cable, Blackley felt he was now part of an industry that was changing the world. Over 16 years, he was instrumental in a number of ground-breaking industry deployments, including outside-the-home WiFi service and the first downloadable security system for set top boxes.
In 2012 Blackley left his position heading Cablevision’s engineering and technology to become Charter’s executive vice president, engineering and information technology. At Charter, he led the integration of Time Warner Cable, Bright House, and Charter into a single, virtual infrastructure, and oversaw the company’s technological transformation. He was honored with the Vanguard Award for Science and Technology in 2015 by the NCTA, now the Internet and Television Association.
Blackley spends his leisure time golfing, reading, and doing “anything on water, whenever and wherever I can.” His personal fleet includes two boats, paddleboards, surfboards, and scuba gear. As he looks ahead to retirement, Blackley advises those entering the industry to keep their eye on what’s over the horizon. “Technology is coming fast and furious, and we’re uniquely positioned to provide the technology platform that will power this country for a very long time.”