Brad Shares His West Virginia Roots

Person holding a laptop with mountains in the background

On June 3rd, 2021, Brad D. Smith appeared on the the Mountaineer Media Podcast, a podcast that connects West Virginians by sharing stories and interviewing leaders.  Smith, a native of West Virginia, discussed his roots and Ascend West Virginia, a remote worker initiative he is spearheading. Brad also explained how West Virginia’s unique culture guided his career path, and how he’s working to help the state become an entrepreneurial force.

Brad began the interview by sharing the ways in which his West Virginia roots and community shaped him. Explaining how local events impacted his life, such as the plane crash in Kenova, West Virginia that claimed the lives of the 1970 Marshall University football team. Brad talked about how the community’s response to the tragedy demonstrated the unique richness and grit of West Virginia.

Brad’s career pursuits eventually took him outside of West Virginia. He shared how, before leaving Kenova, his father gave him three pieces of advice for life. This included pursuing the thing that makes your heart beat the fastest, surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you, and never taking a job for the money or the title. With this advice in mind, Brad took his first job at Pepsi and moved to Indianapolis. Throughout his career, he developed a passion for managing people and investing in others. As Intuit’s CEO, he served small businesses and entrepreneurs through Intuit’s product offerings.

Brad Smith always wanted to return and give back to the community that shaped him. He has since returned with a career’s worth of lessons learned and a new program to bring remote workers to the state. The Ascend West Virginia program aims to establish Brad’s home state as a new entrepreneurial hub by encouraging remote workers to move to and live in West Virginia.

Brad explained how COVID-19 and the renewed interest in remote work made it the right time to pursue the initiative. The timing was perfect as he stepped down as Intuit’s CEO and developed this program and a government partnership to help support it. It also aligned well with The Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative (OEDC) through the University of West Virginia. OEDC is focused on utilizing the great outdoor assets of West Virginia to create educational opportunities, develop recreational infrastructure, and spur economic growth.

To attract capital that usually goes to big cities, Brad realized that West Virginia would need a new ecosystem and the infrastructure to support it. This became his passion project. As a community still powered by small businesses, West Virginia turned out to be the perfect place for the initiative. Ascend West Virginia could create needed opportunities for business and entrepreneurship. In its first year, Ascend West Virginia will attract 1,000 participants who will move to the state and start working remotely.

Brad mentioned his desire to make West Virginia the next Silicon Valley, stating, “The rest of the world will come to us.” Concluding this podcast, Brad left with two pieces of advice. First, he told the audience that the main predictor of success in all efforts is having grit and perseverance. Second, he mentioned a quote from King Arthur stories: “That which you seek cannot be found, it must be made.” Brad interpreted this quote as meaning individuals should be the change they seek in the world.