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Alumni Profiles

Jake Voytko ’08

Jake Voytko ’08

Google Docs, the suite of web-based productivity tools available through the Internet search giant’s Drive service, is changing the way people work by allowing users anywhere in the world to collaborate in real time on the same spreadsheets, presentations, and word processor documents.

Jake Voytko ’08 is a software engineer at Google, Inc.One of the people making this new way of collaboration possible is 2008 computer science graduate Jake Voytko.

Working as part of a team of developers, Voytko’s primary responsibilities include coding and implementing new features into Google Docs’ word processor. He was part of the group responsible for adding offline-editing functionality, a feature that was incorporated last spring and heralded by tech writers and Docs users everywhere. Voytko said the project was “one of the most difficult” he has worked on at Google, since he was writing code for which the browser support was still in development.

Prior to being recruited by Google, Voytko was on the technical staff at the Sarnoff Corporation, where he had the opportunity to work alongside “a bunch of brilliant researchers” designing computer vision systems for the military. His coworkers in Google’s Manhattan offices are equally brilliant, he notes.

“It’s humbling to come into work each day and talk to people who have such clear focus, and clear thoughts, and who are able to break down problems so cleanly,” Voytko said.

He credits what he learned as a math minor at TCNJ with helping him think more clearly as a programmer.

“Mathematics requires such a degree of precision of thought that there is really no forgiveness there,” Voytko said. Other disciplines allow for some wiggle room in forming arguments, he said, “But in math, if your ultimate result is to get a working proof, then you actually have to prove it. You have to have that rational bridge from your starting point to your finishing point. If I had just gotten a computer science degree, I would have needed to learn that type of precision of thought while I was working, as opposed to having already been exposed to it as a math minor.”

By Tony Marchetti

William Moncrief ’68

William Moncrief ’68

William Moncrief ’68

When William Moncrief ’68 and his wife Nancy announced their plans to open a bed and breakfast at the Jersey Shore, no one was particularly shocked. Sure, it was a big change from their 9-to-5 careers in Washington, DC, but Bill’s family and friends already knew he was a man of many talents: Navy pilot, technology management expert—why not add innkeeper to the list?

His kids began buying him books on the B&B business as Christmas and birthday gifts, and before long, the Moncriefs had traded in the “rat race” (Bill’s words) of DC for the serenity of a North Wildwood, NJ, inn. And they’ve done so with great success; earlier this year, Bill and Nancy were named Innkeepers of the Year by Select Registry Distinguished Inns of North America.

While Bill says running the Candlelight Inn isn’t all glamour and glitz—he spends plenty of time unclogging toilets, replacing air conditioners, and servicing hot-water heaters—he also has some remarkable stories from over the last 12 years.

One of his favorites involves a couple who mentioned during check-in that their minister had made the reservation for them. The wife had suffered several consecutive miscarriages, and they’d been going to counseling to try lift the resulting cloud of depression. Bill offered up some extra TLC, and “sure enough,” he says, “nine months later, we got a letter with a photo of a baby that had been conceived while they were here.”

Back in the late 1960s, long before his career as an innkeeper began, Bill was on a very different path. A science major at TCNJ, he had signed a contract to teach in Hammonton, NJ, after graduation. Then, in January 1968, “my friendly neighborhood draft board told me that I wouldn’t be teaching—I would be in the Army,” he says.“The morning I graduated from college, I enlisted in the Navy, and a few days later, I got my draft notice. I’d beaten it by just three days.”

While Bill says he wasn’t sure he’d even make it through flight training, “the next thing I knew, I was flying planes for the Navy. I liked it, so I ended up staying for 20 years.” In that time, he was deployed a handful of times—to Bermuda, Sicily, Iceland, Scotland, and Latin America. “They were paying me to go see all these places,” he says. “It was pretty incredible.”

During those 20 years, he also spent time teaching at the U.S. Naval Academy and earned a master’s degree in computer science at the Naval Postgraduate School. After Moncrief retired from the Navy in 1988, a contact from his military days called to see if he’d be interested in becoming network director at the Bicentennial Commission in Washington, D.C. And that’s how William Moncrief—a teacher-in-training turned naval officer turned technology expert—went to work for former Chief Justice Warren Burger.

“He was a very smart individual and a great listener,” Bill recalls of working under Burger. “He was different from any manager I’d ever had. We could be in an hour-and-a-half meeting, and he might say 20 words at the most.”

After a year with the commission, Bill went on to work at Georgetown University, an international law firm, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Along the way, he and his wife often traveled to California wine country, staying in—you guessed it—bed and breakfasts. After talking to a newly minted pair of innkeepers on one of their trips, owning a B&B started to sound more and more enticing to Bill and Nancy. In 1985, the Moncriefs purchased the Candlelight Inn, and have been living out their dream ever since.

Bill says his workdays couldn’t be more different from the ones he spent in the corporate world. “I didn’t have too many people calling me to say, ‘Thanks, my computer’s working well,’” he says. “They talked to me if there was a problem, and they usually didn’t talk nicely. Here [at the inn], people really appreciate what you do for them. They say, ‘Thank you’ all the time.”

Brian Wanner ’05

Brian Wanner ’05

The president’s cyber squad

Last night, someone tried to break into the White House. Again. It wasn’t the ski-mask-and-crowbar attempt you might be imagining, though. It was the type of attack that Brian Wanner ’05 spends his days fending off: a threat of the digital variety.

Brian Wanner ’05
Brian Wanner ’05 shields the Executive Office of the President’s computer network from all sorts of digital dangers. Photo (c) Tom O’Dell ’12

When we spoke in early April, Wanner said that a prominent group of hackers had launched a “distributed denial-of-service attack” on the White House’s website the night before, sending numerous requests to the site at the same time in an attempt to crash it. “They don’t like something the White House has commented on, so they’ll try to take down our website,” he says of such groups. “I don’t know the specific reason they were [attacking] last night, but we handled it fine. That kind of thing happens fairly often.”

As branch chief of security operations, Wanner spends his days shielding the Executive Office of the President’s 
computer network from all sorts of digital dangers. His charges include the president and vice president, along with about 3,500 White House employees. “We monitor the firewalls here, any traffic to the Internet, and e-mail traffic to make sure it’s legitimate and that nobody’s trying to 
attack us,” he adds. “And when they are, we try to defend ourselves.”

He offers this “typical” example: An attacker sets up a Gmail account and sends a malicious PDF to someone on the president’s staff. “They craft it a certain way to get past most of the normal virus scanners,” Wanner adds, “so if it gets through to the inbox and [a White House employee] opens it, [the attacker] could potentially compromise the computer and start looking for good data—things like trade negotiations or economic information or the White House’s stance on a piece of legislation. It’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Wanner’s biggest moment on the job—or at least the most public one—came in early 2009. You may remember some of the headlines: Barack Obama to use BlackBerry as president; Obama to get spy-proof smartphone; President Obama’s super-secret BlackBerry cost $3,300! “The president wanted it,” Wanner says of the phone that launched a thousand news stories, “and we can’t tell him no.”

Still, there were concerns surrounding Obama’s insistence that a BlackBerry serve as his official work phone.

“You’re putting a smartphone on one of the most important people in the world,” Wanner notes, “and along with it comes all those capabilities—a microphone, possible location tracking; all the things you don’t want accessible. The challenge was making sure that all of those things were controlled in some way so we didn’t have to worry about someone tracking the location of the president, for example.”

Though he can’t get into specifics, consider this a testament to Wanner’s success in locking the phone down: Obama is still using it now, more than three years later. As for all the media buzz, “It’s actually pretty cool when you’re working on a project and then you see it in the news,” Wanner says.

A double major in computer science and mathematics, Wanner discovered computer security through a part-time student job at Skyline Security Consulting. After earning a Master’s degree in Information Security and Assurance at George Mason University, he went to work for the White House—first as a subcontractor, then as a prime 
contractor, and eventually as a federal employee. “It’s got some sexy parts to it,” he says of cyber security. “I guess I like the whole adversarial nature where the attacker does something and you have to try to respond and close it out. Then they’ll change tactics and you just keep going back and forth. That whole thing just interests me.”