Meet the Team: Judson Neer
Judson’s desire to make a positive impact on the world led him to Everyone Counts after 13 years of developing advanced applications in the defense and aerospace industry. As the Director of Platform and Architecture, his ability to design secure user interfaces that maximize efficiency, coupled with his relentless pursuit to modernize the election software industry makes him one of Everyone Counts’ most valuable assets.
Q: What is your education and career experience in the field of Computer Science?
A: I’ve been privileged to have access to computers for nearly as long as I can remember, which wasn’t common for a kid growing up in the 80s. Texas Instruments was locked in a price war with Commodore, and in 1983 was selling their TI-99/4A for a measly $49. My dad recognized the value and brought one home for Christmas.
By the time I was old enough to read, I had programming books in my hands from the local library. I credit the terribly slow internet of the 90’s for solidifying my desire to go into the computer industry.
My alma mater didn’t have a computer science program when I was a freshman, so I double majored in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics until they did. I graduated at the top of my class in 2001, which could be because I was literally the first and only graduate of the new program.
I ended up taking a job with the Northrop Grumman Corporation, which contracted with the Air Force Research Lab. I worked in that lab for six years. Northrop provided plenty of further opportunities for me, which eventually brought me to San Diego.
Q: As an Emerging Leaders Program Graduate from the Northrop Group Corporation, what achievements won you the Strategic Intellectual Property Award in 2008?
A: I had significant downtime during the flight testing I did in 2007, and since I was living on-base there wasn’t much to do other than write code in the evenings. I developed an algorithm for rapid aircraft route replanning based on dynamic conditions such as threat exposure, fuel state, and terrain.
By the end of the summer I had a working prototype, and that fall I was given an office and six months by myself to get the code to a marketable state. That’s how I won the Strategic Intellectual Property Award.
In 2014, I decided a change was in order, and I discovered Everyone Counts on LinkedIn. I was interested in voting, so it seemed like a natural fit. I started in January and have now been at Everyone Counts for nearly four years.
Q. As Director of Platform and Architecture for Everyone Counts, what are your primary responsibilities?
A: My department has three areas of responsibility. We provide architectural guidance and direction across the organization in a variety of areas, including system infrastructure, technology choices, security considerations, and application design. We also research emerging technologies and look for ways to use them to solve particular voting problems. Our vision is to work towards a common technical platform across our products.
We also engage with outside organizations, both within the elections industry (e.g. participating in NIST VVSG working groups) and the broader software engineering community (e.g. attending technical conferences, contributing to open-source software projects). The goal is to improve interoperability and cooperation between election technology companies, and raise general awareness of how we are innovating in the voting industry.
Q: Where do you see the election industry twenty years from now?
A: I’d summarize my thoughts around two terms: security and accessibility.
A lot of smart people are working to improve this process through research, advanced technologies, and in particular, collaboration. Vendors and customers alike are realizing that everything is more secure when we work together through common interchange and standards development.
In this busy world, technology is the best way to get more people to polls. The key to that is providing voting options that reduce barriers and increase accessibility for the largest number of people, while also providing the best in security. As the internet has matured, people have come to expect interfaces that are beautiful and enjoyable to use; I think it’s critical for the voting industry to embrace modern technology to meet all these needs.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone interested in entering the Computer Science field of study, what would it be?
A: Learn to type correctly, quickly, and accurately. I took typing as a 7th grader with an “old-school” teacher near retirement who didn’t take crap from anyone. She demanded I unlearn my bad habits and forced me to type the correct way. Having that skill has made everything I’ve done since come easier.
Besides that, develop a creative interest outside the realm of computer science. I believe software development is as much art as science, and strengthening the imagination is invaluable.
Q: A little birdy told us that you are very instrumental outside of the office. Can you tell us a little more about that?
A: When I was in 7th grade I had to choose between continuing piano lessons or playing basketball. I chose the latter, which was one of my larger regrets in life.
I’ve always had a soft spot for music, it just took me 20 years before I came back to it. Now I play piano and bass guitar. I’m the bassist for a band called Sonic Painters. We play a mix of surf rock covers and original songs.
Besides being a healthy mental outlet, studying music has made me a better and more well-rounded engineer, much like athletic cross-training. It develops good work habits, improves mental discipline, and improves the brain’s ability to think creatively.
Q: What is Everyone Counts doing that most excites you?
A: I first joined the team because I loved the idea of building software applications that could give an equal voice to every person, no matter their circumstances. I truly believe we’re on the forefront of change in political engagement, where technology will continue to play a large role. Being involved in that revolution is a big part of what gets me excited for work.