Introducing the First Careers in Code Students!

Hack Upstate
10 min readMar 27, 2019

Careers in Code is a coding bootcamp that teaches computer programming to women and minorities to help combat poverty in Central NY. We provide students with the technical skills they need to obtain internships and entry level software development jobs with local employers after 24 weeks of instruction. Our first class began on March 11 with a group of 12 students.

Dakir Thompson

“I love to code because I love to solve problems and help in creative ways.”

Dakir graduated with a bachelor’s degree in general science last year, switching his focus to coding towards the end of his college career. He held several different jobs as he searched for one focused on his true calling and with great timing, he was hired as a software engineer two days before being accepted into Careers in Code!

“Now that I have a job as a software engineer I want to make websites and web applications for people who have great ideas, but no capital to pay someone to implement them. Specifically, people who are low-income, in the hopes that it brings them some side income.”

Visit his YouTube channel to learn more about his journey as a software engineer.

If he had a superpower: “I would be Spider-Man. He looks so free swinging through the city.”

Kelly Corey

“Learning the material from qualified instructors in a structured format with other people who are also new to the field sounded like it would be a good fit for me!”

Kelly comes to us with a bachelor’s in Broadcasting-Mass Communications from SUNY Oswego. As with many of our students, she was looking for a career change and wants to pursue a full-time developer position following Careers in Code.

“I’m a creative person and didn’t think a STEM field was a place for me. After meeting some people who work as web developers and getting a greater sense for the job, I decided I wanted to pursue this professionally. I envision remaining in this field for a long time.”

Outside of our coding bootcamp, you can find her with her nose in a book and a cup of coffee in her hand. She also likes to paint for fun and is working on a podcast.

If she had a superpower: “I’ve always wanted to fly.”

Kate Tortora

Kate is a producer for the local talk show “Bridge Street” and a director for the evening news. She became interested in coding after continually hearing about the rise in educational opportunities for women and children, and decided to take action when she saw Careers in Code come about.

“My main goal is to get a job with a growing company that gives value to me as an employee, a company that will invest in me and my future, and a company that gives purpose to my work. I also hope to gain a great work-life balance.”

When she’s not coding or working at her TV job, she enjoys hiking and exploring parks with her dog, taking photos, and tending to her vegetable garden.

If she had a superpower: “I’d like to have mental super powers… like X-Men.”

Kaitlyn Warboy

“I want to have a successful beginning to a new career where I feel excited and challenged.”

Kaitlyn is currently a special education teacher who wants her passion for solving problems and using critical thinking skills to be utilized in a new career. She has a BS in Sociology/Anthropology, where her favorite courses were linguistics, anthropology and statistical methods, as well as an MS in Early Childhood/Special Education.

Unsatisfied with her career prospects, she turned to coding and began to dabble on her own. She fell in love with the problem-solving, thinking outside the box, and collaboration with others, so Kaitlyn decided to apply to Careers in Code to change her future for the better.

“I’d like to be able to secure a full-time position after the bootcamp where I can use the skills I have learned, and continue to develop them on various projects to help others. I envision a better, more exciting life for myself and my family.”

At home, she loves to read, paint, and write, and her happiest moments are spent outdoors (when Syracuse weather allows) in the woods, hiking and exploring with her daughter, friends, and family.

If she had a superpower: “ I would choose the ability to time travel (it’s coming back that’s the hard part).”

Ashwon Johnston

“I am a seeker of information and hopefully one day a higher consciousness.”

Ashwon is an Image Specialist at a data-management company in East Syracuse. He’s passionate about learning, self-development, and traveling, enjoys TV and films, and is currently into Anderson Paak’s music.

He found out about Careers in Code through his cousin, Yahkeef, and decided to apply because he craves intellectual stimulation and loves the process of creating.

“My main goal in attending the program is to absorb as much information as possible. After graduating bootcamp, I would like to put my new skills to work and gain some amazing experiences.”

Outside of Careers in Code, Ashwon likes to spend time with family and friends, play cards, go to the movies, and go out to eat.

If he had a superpower: “I’d have the ability to have as many abilities as I want.”

Elizabeth Metcalf

With a background in Social Work (MSW) and Education (PhD Candidate), Elizabeth has spent the past 18 months working as an AmeriCorps*VISTA service member at Cooperative Federal: an innovative, Syracuse-based credit union dedicated to social justice and financial inclusion.

“Before starting at Coop Fed, I had a long illness and spent two years virtually bed-bound with little hope that I would ever get up again. It was my CNY community of friends and comrades that supported me completely and loaned me their fighting spirits when mine was nowhere to be found. When I started to recover, all I wanted to do was give back. The people at Coop Fed have helped me channel that drive and find myself again. Now, as my VISTA term of service comes to a close, I’m enrolling in Careers in Code in order to find my next calling.”

After graduating, she hopes to user her new skills to not only support herself as an independent consultant, but to help provide discounted services to high-impact but under-resourced non-profits.

If she had a superpower: “I have an actual superpower. I’m usually very private about it but it’s called Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, aka Elizabeth can’t forget…..anything. Ever.”

Karin Thorne

Karin currently works as a Field Technician for a company that serves insurance companies in need of audits performed at various doctor’s offices and hospitals. She is a mom of three children ages 9, 17, and 27.

“I am looking forward to this opportunity to finally put me in a place where I know I will enjoy my job and will look forward to going to work. I envision my life after the next 24 weeks as becoming only better for not only myself, but for my family as well. I see myself pursuing a job that will be fun and one that I look forward to everyday, and will hopefully be my last one until I retire.”

If she’s not at home with her family, you can usually find her at an archery shoot. She has targets set up in her yard and basement so she can shoot her bow whenever she feels like it.

If she had a superpower: “I’m not so sure I would want one. There would be advantages and disadvantages and a lot of responsibility. If I had to choose, I think it would be invisibility.”

Eva Carafa

Eva comes to Careers in Code with a background in political campaigns. In a prior life, when she lived in NYC, she was an attorney — a job she was not too fond of. She initially thought of a friend of hers to apply to the coding bootcamp, but the more she thought about it, the more interested she became in doing it herself.

“During last year’s campaign, I managed the campaign’s website, and I became intrigued with the confluence between message and code. It made me think in a more conscious way about how we, as consumers, interact with the internet and how that influences us.”

She hopes to explore her interest in the user-interface component of website design following graduation.

When Eva isn’t spending her time on the computer, you’ll find her doing yoga, taking a walk with her dogs, or refinishing furniture.

If she had a superpower: “Being able to teletransport through time and space. I love history and travel.”

Dana McMullen

“I’m so excited to be a part of this inaugural class for Careers in Code. It’s such an honor.“

Dana is currently an Employment Consultant with a local social-services agency, but prior to that, had spent a great deal of her professional career at SU and OCC providing Assistive Technology Services to individuals who had difficulty with reading, writing, and using the internet. She’s also certified to provide technology instruction to individuals who have low or no vision.

At the time Dana was selected for the Careers in Code bootcamp, she was attempting to complete her last semester and a half at OCC in Computer Information Systems, that’s when she was crushed to find out that she was no longer eligible for financial aid. She was frustrated because she got stuck with the bill for that semester, and was also trying to figure out how she was going to save money to return to complete her last two classes. As well, she was tired of seeing job postings that she was qualified for but couldn’t apply because she didn’t have her degree or certificate. She sees her acceptance into Careers in Code as a way to gain the credentials she needs to open up a more rewarding career path that includes better pay.

“I found Careers in Code by accident. I was looking for free coding classes for my daughter, who had just graduated from college, and wanted to learn how to build a website for her art portfolio. For every class I found for her, I also signed up. We were attending the biweekly Women in Coding classes at the library, so I thought this was just another weekly or biweekly one-day ‘Intro to Code’ class when I signed up. That’s when Jesse [Peplinski] called me and explained that it was a scholarship opportunity and invited me to apply. Honestly, I didn’t think I would really get the scholarship. A week later I found out I had been selected. I was speechless but excited. And I’m so grateful I was selected. Once I graduate, I look forward to working with a company where the pay will get me out of the poverty income scale.”

An interesting fact about Dana is that in her younger teenage years, she was very involved in hip-hop culture and was part of the first female rap group in Syracuse to get a record deal. It was also during this time that she won first place in a regional poetry contest. Today, she is a mother of three daughters (ages 14, 20, and 28), a grandmother, and is working on pursuing a new career.

Today, she lives a pretty conservative lifestyle but says she has a little “daredevil” in her as she loves to roller skate and ride her bike. She also enjoys spending time with her family, studying religion/history, watching Marvel/DC Comic movies, going to outdoor music and food festivals, and dancing.

If she had a superpower: “I would eliminate suffering.”

Anna Aombe

Anna found her interest in coding during college, five years after moving to the US, when her friend convinced her to take a computer science class. She ultimately went with a nursing major, but last year decided to switch to computer science.

“I took a Java class at Lemoyne College for a semester and fell in love with programming. I have no background in coding or computer, but after taking the class, I realized I did like coding and have been teaching myself on the side how to program ever since. I hope to continue to develop my programming skills beyond the classroom.”

She decided to apply to Careers in Code because she was looking for opportunities to help build on her knowledge of programming and provide her the technical skills needed to obtain internships and eventually a full-time job in software development.

Timothy Liles

Timothy prides himself on his ability to pick up and learn new topics quickly, as well as his high attention to small details, both of which allow him to be versatile with his various skills and to expand them independently.

“I wanted to enroll in Careers in Code because it is a great opportunity to start a career in a promising field of work that is applicable in a variety of industries and that has the potential to allow me to work anywhere.”

Following graduation, Timothy hopes to get a job as a developer.

Follow along with the Careers in Code students in our classroom livestream, broadcasting Monday through Thursday nights, 5:30–8:30pm on YouTube. Archived classes can be found here.