Meet Our Careers in Code Instructors, Teaching Assistants and Staff of our Second Cohort!

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 cohort began in March with instruction from the talented folks below.

Instructors

Joey Buczek

Software Engineer at Elation Health

Tell us a little about yourself.

When I was younger, I used to play Dungeons & Dragons with my friends, so when I went away to school (Art Institute of Pittsburgh) we kept playing through chat rooms. I soon discovered that I could write small programs within the chat app we used, so I started writing dice-rolling programs to automate our adventures. That was my first introduction to programming. Today, I mix both my art and design skills with my ability to create software, all while being able to support my family with what I love to do!

What’s the most exciting project you’ve been able to work on?

Helping to rewrite a multi-million dollar eCommerce website. We implemented the latest best practices using modern front end technology and architecture.

What led you to Careers in Code?

I wanted to be able to give back to those who are where I used to be before getting into software development. I had lots of questions in the beginning, but knew very few people that could help me learn, so I wanted to become one of those people I wish I had access to back then.

What can we find you doing outside of bootcamp?

Model railroading and woodworking.

Gus Cost

Current occupation:

Engineer at Density (right in The Tech Garden).

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m from Rochester, NY. Technically, I did go to school for Computer Science (but didn’t graduate), and technically, I did graduate from RIT (but not for Computer Science). I’ve only ever lived in New York and California.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve been able to work on?

It has to be my current company, Density. They’re a startup in Syracuse (pretty rare) and building a hardware product (also pretty rare). The work is challenging and often fun!

What excites you about the local tech community right now?

Many of the tech businesses in town are surviving, which is honestly sometimes the best we can expect. The opportunities are not going to dry up forever. It feels a bit gloomier without social events, but those will hopefully be back in the summer.

What led you to Careers in Code?

I know Jesse and Doug through Hack Upstate (and I’m actually a former medalist there!). I was a teacher for the first cohort and I am teaching several weeks for the second cohort too. The focus on results, and trying to provide an intense but navigable path into a booming industry, is what keeps me engaged with Careers in Code.

What can we find you doing outside of bootcamp?

Being outside! As much as possible, and especially this year. Remote work is tricky, and you need to make space for regular activity breaks. This can be the key to not burning out, if you’re working any desk job!

Ryan Gaus

Current occupation:

Software Engineer for Density.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been writing software since I was 12, starting in an esoteric BASIC derivative called Liberty BASIC. I didn’t really have many people in school who were also interested in software to the level that I was interested in it.

On a whim, I attended one of the first OpenHack meetups way back in 2014 and immediately found a group of people that I could relate to. A few years later, I had a part-time job with Lono, a company started by Doug that made an IoT device for controlling lawn sprinklers. I worked for Doug throughout high school and when it was time to graduate, I had a choice: continue working for tech companies or pursue a college degree?

It was a tough decision, but I ended up at least for now choosing the former. I currently work for Density as a software engineer, mostly focusing on our frontend dashboards and interfaces while occasionally touching some of our backend and embedded systems.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve been able to work on?

Some of my favorite projects have been completed at Hack Upstate’s hackathons. One project in particular is called CandyCrowd. A graphic-design student from RIT and I designed and built an application to make trick-or-treating easier.

The idea was simple: crowdsource trick-or-treating data so that any potential trick-or-treater can easily figure out which houses on a block are worth visiting. After trick-or-treating, a trick-or-treater would assess their candy, and rank it from 1 to 10. This data, along with their GPS location, would be uploaded to a server, where it would be incorporated into a mathematical representation of the neighborhood. Then, in the same interface used to assess candy, a map was shown that would mark each house with a dot. Larger dots on the map indicated houses that had higher rated candy (and therefore, houses that are worth visiting).

It turned out quite well, and we ended up winning Hack Upstate that year!

What excites you about the local tech community right now?

Syracuse has an amazing tech community for its size. We have a number of active meetups that are all well attended (and a number of them have become virtual during the pandemic), a hackathon that people have come to from all over the state (and sometimes beyond!), and programs such as Careers in Code that help teach software-development fundamentals to members of the community.

And best of all, the vast majority of the members of the community are really great people. I think that Syracuse software developers are incredibly lucky to have such a supportive group of people around them.

What can we find you doing outside of bootcamp?

I spend the vast majority of my time in my shop building things. I’m currently building a fully functional letterpress (I’ve designed and built it from scratch!), a 1:12 scale model house using realistic materials and processes, and will be soon embarking on designing and building a loom. I really enjoy working with as many tools, materials, and processes as I can!

Nathan Evans

Current occupation

Staff Software Engineer @ Density

Tell us a little about yourself.

At one point in time, I’ve been a Software, QA, ML, and DevOps engineer. Startups are awesome — they let you try different hats before you commit to specializing in one area.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve been able to work on?

I got to manage the code that moved money between accounts at SoFi. It was nerve-wracking, but also the most exciting, high-stakes code I’ve gotten to write.

What excites you about the local tech community right now?

I think it’s a great time to get involved. There’s folks in the industry that want to give back, but don’t know how. HackUpstate, CodeSyracuse — grassroots organizations are stepping up to fill that gap. It’s exciting to be a part of.

What led you to Careers in Code?

My coworkers at Density, Ryan Gaus and Gus Cost!

What can we find you doing outside of bootcamp?

Very little programming! I’m a new dad, so I’m taking the time to slow down and enjoy that world.

Aneesa Hussain

Current occupation

Cybersecurity Copywriter and Communications Manager at Keyavi Data

Tell us a little about yourself.

Aneesa Hussain is a Cybersecurity Copywriter at Keyavi Data, IT Professor at Mildred Elley, Founder of Girls Who Code — Capital Region, Mentor to girls entering the tech field, Technical Workshop Creator/Facilitator at “Tech with Aneesa”, Conference Speaker, and a huge advocate for bridging the gender gap within the tech sector!

She also recently launched her blog, where she focuses on Women in Tech, and tech topics in general. Aneesa holds a B.S. in Informatics/Cybersecurity from the University at Albany.

She craves adventure, passion, trying new foods, and learning new things. Also, she loves taking photos of everything along the way. You can check out her portfolio here.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve been able to work on?

Launching Girls Who Code — Capital Region

What excites you about the local tech community right now?

All of the up and coming Technical Programs targeted toward specific underrepresented groups who may not have had the access or public motivation otherwise.

What led you to Careers in Code?

I came across this program via an Instagram post, I believe, and was intrigued that there was a specific bootcamp meant for minority women pursuing a career in technology/cybersecurity. I reached out right away!

What can we find you doing outside of bootcamp?

Cooking, eating, and taking photos of my food always! I also love playing sports and going on adventures and long drives.

Max Matthews

Current occupation:

CTO at tuzag, inc.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a full-stack JavaScript developer who has been writing code for over 10 years. After attending the iSchool at Syracuse University, I was offered a position at a local startup, tuzag, inc, and have been there since. When I’m not writing JavaScript, I enjoy hanging outside with my dog, Stella, cross-country skiing, biking, and sparking deep philosophical questions with friends.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve been able to work on?

I built a custom CMS and API that allows for the building of computer-mediated conversations through touch points like Alexa, email, website, mobile apps, and even print. The most exciting part is the constantly evolving product demands, and therefore code. More recently, I’ve had the opportunity to grow a team of developers, contributing to our company tripling in size last year.

What excites you about the local tech community right now?

I think Syracuse is at a pivotal moment of tech growth.The low cost of living combined with the demand for tech in the area is going to lead developers in higher-expense cities (NYC, SF, Seattle, etc.) to see the appeal of living and raising a family in the Upstate NY area. There are great communities like OpenHack and Hack Upstate that create an awesome support network for developers, and they are perfectly positioned to grow the community even larger. The pandemic has proven remote work is here to stay. Upstate NY provides the perfect ecosystem for developers to have a high quality of life and the salary to match it.

What led you to Careers in Code?

While teaching at StartFast Code, I fell in love with mentoring. I’m excited for the opportunity to give back to the community and shape the next generation of in-demand developers.

Christy Presler

Current occupation:

Design Technologist at Upstate Interactive

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have a degree in Art and Design. Early on in my career I realized that I wanted to use my skills to solve problems for other people, which led me to explore web design and development. I quickly realized that designing and building in the digital space mixes three of my favorite things: creative problem solving, languages, and people.

After learning HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and landing my first job as a front-end developer, my skills expanded from working within a variety of different build systems, content-management systems, and technology stacks. Over time my passion for bringing solid design and user experience principles into development has led me into Design Technology, which utilizes a combination of design and development processes to produce better digital experiences.

Improving people’s lives by making every day tasks easier with software continues to drive me to strive for the best possible solution to any problem.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve been able to work on?

Most recently I’ve been working on an enterprise level expense management platform. My favorite parts of this project have included: learning a new (to me) JavaScript framework, and getting to create/expand a design system for the project that allows the styling of the project to be utilized at scale.

What excites you about the local tech community right now?

As someone who ended up relocating in the middle of the pandemic, I have really appreciated all of the online events that the Syracuse Tech community has continued to hold. I know they aren’t as fun, or invigorating, as the in-person events, but it has helped me stay connected with folks from afar.

I’m also super excited that Careers in Code was able to get another cohort rolling despite all the challenges of the pandemic. I’ve experienced the life-changing effect of learning to code, and I’m so glad that the Syracuse Community continues to invest in the local technology talent pool.

What led you to Careers in Code?

At this point I have known the folks at Hack Upstate for quite a while, and am passionate about their mission. As a “non-traditional” tech worker I have experienced the need for a wider variety of perspectives to be involved in solving problems. Careers in Code is a super tough program because there is so much to be learned in such a short period of time, but for the students that complete it, the program can be an avenue for completely changing their lives. Learning to code, and developing the technical expertise to work in this industry completely changed my career trajectory, and it has the potential to do the same for the students. I’m excited that Syracuse is investing in its people, and I can’t wait to see what this cohort of students will accomplish in the future.

What can we find you doing outside of bootcamp?

Designing and building is pretty much what I do in most aspects of my life, but outside of work I tend to keep things lower tech. I’m passionate about food and am always exploring new recipes and tastes from around the world. I also enjoy creating systems to simplify our day-to-day which I’m leaning into pretty heavily these days as we have a young daughter — soon to be daughters — at home that keeps my partner and I pretty busy. I also enjoy exploring the natural world and having friends over for good food and fun.

Karin Thorne

Current occupation

FullStack Developer, Owner of JSWebbDevelopment LLC, Co-Founder of Salt City Code Podcast

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have always had some interest in how computers work and what I can accomplish with them but, girls weren’t pushed into that career path when I was in school. I have worked various jobs in my life so far and while at my last job, I decided that I had had enough and I was going to try and go to school for some type of computer degree. Just as I was starting some classes I met Jesse and learned about Careers in Code. I applied and was accepted as a student of the first cohort. Careers in Code helped me become a fullstack developer and I am grateful that I can now help the next group of students in cohort 2.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve been able to work on?

Being fairly new to the developer scene I haven’t worked on a big list of projects. I would have to say that my own capstone project during the program and working on an inter-company portal have been the most fun for me. Building an app for archery was something that I had thought about before I was a student of Careers in Code so that was a big deal for me. Being able to see that come to life felt really really good.

What excites you about the local tech community right now?

The upward direction of growth. Syracuse has a bigger tech community than most people realize. When I entered it for the first time, I went to a local meetup called Open Hack. I was amazed and scared at the same time. I was scared because I had no idea what I was doing but I was amazed at how welcoming and helpful everyone was towards me. I have seen more meetups get started that revolve around some area of tech and I have seen more startup companies become established.

Syracuse has the potential to accomplish great things within its tech community and I look forward to seeing it grow and help the communities that are not just within the city limits. Having Careers in Code be one of those catalysts is, well, indescribable with just one word.

What led you to Careers in Code?

My path to Careers in Code was by meeting Jesse Peplinski at the first Open Hack meetup that I attended. At the beginning of the meetings everyone introduces themselves and lets everyone know what they do or if they need help with something or if they want to share some news. Jesse talked about Careers in Code kicking off in a few months and suggested that I apply seeing as how I was just getting into programming. Applying was one of the best decisions I had made in my life. I will always be extremely grateful to Jesse and all the people involved that allowed me to leave the program with the set of skills I have today.

What can we find you doing outside of bootcamp?

Currently, I am trying to find the balance of less screen time with not only myself but with other members of my family as well. The pandemic has increased that unfortunately so, now that the weather is warming up, you might find me on a 3D archery course, walking around Green Lakes and cooking on my grills for family and friends. I love to cook but would never do it as a profession. I also might be recording and editing episodes for my podcast Salt City Code.

Kaitlyn Warboy

Current occupation

I am currently a junior web developer at Raymour & Flanigan.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in Syracuse, and have an awesome 7 year old daughter and a supportive bf who I met right before I decided to give my life a little 180 twist haha. I love to be outside, garden, and spend time with my family and friends. I also love learning new things, and we recently gutted and renovated our main bathroom in our house all by ourselves — it’s been so fun to problem solve in other ways than just code.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve been able to work on?

The most exciting project I’ve worked on is re-working the Careers in Code website last summer. I got to learn Gatsby, and practice with React. It’s also been really fun to be a part of the team working on the new Raymour & Flanigan website!

What excites you about the local tech community right now?

I’m super excited for all the new faces popping up in the community, the expansion of tech in Syracuse, and getting back to in person meetups soon!

What led you to Careers in Code?

I came to CiC after a long search to find the right career/lifestyle for myself. I was unhappy in my previous career choice, and wanted a change. I revisited some old skills and interests I had, and finally rediscovered what I now love doing! A family member mentioned the program to me and I applied immediately and never been happier. I am so excited to be back for cohort 2, teaching and as a teaching assistant and I hope to encourage cohort 2 students’ love for programming and give back to the program.

What can we find you doing outside of bootcamp?

Outside of bootcamp, I’m usually drinking too much coffee, tending to all my plants, and scheming the next home renovation. I love spending time with my family, and going for hikes, attending concerts and eating good food together.

Teaching Assistant

Kelly Corey

Current occupation:

I’m a freelance web developer currently getting back into the job market after some health-related time off last year.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m from an incredibly small town in central NY and went to college at Oswego, so Syracuse feels like a big city to me. I have a naturally shy and quiet temperament, but I invest in things I’m passionate about, and tech is one of those. In another life, I’d probably be a librarian.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve been able to work on?

I’m really proud of being a member of the leadership team behind Women in Coding. I was asked to join in Nov 2019 after attending multiple Meetups and graduating from Careers in Code and I’ve been on the team ever since. It’s been rewarding and fulfilling to have a space to teach classes, start new Meetups, and host events with the support of an awesome group of ladies.

What led you to Careers in Code?

I have a non-traditional journey into the tech scene. After a lifelong interest in computers, I decided to pursue that passion professionally two years ago. I didn’t think I would make it because I’m better with words than numbers, but code is a language just like any other. Becoming involved in the Syracuse tech scene has changed my life for the better and I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve received and the people I’ve met as I continue along my tech journey.

What can we find you doing outside of bootcamp?

Suggesting more Meetups in the Syracuse.io Slack. Drinking coffee with a book and a laptop at a local coffee shop or co-working spot. Hiding in the stacks of Central Library (once it’s back fully open!) attempting to see how many books I can sign out at once. Playing Tetris Effect or Minecraft or working on crossword puzzles and listening to lo-fi chill beats to study and relax to. Streaming on Twitch as I start my gaming journey.

Staff

Jason Scharf

Current occupation:

I am a Foster Care Caseworker with Onondaga County who is also a Junior Developer at Kirkwork Software Development in Syracuse, NY. I have been working in the human services field for the past 15 years and enjoy helping families navigate crisis situations.

Tell us a little about yourself.

In my career, I have worked a variety of different jobs in the social-work and human-services field, many with adults and children with developmental disabilities. For most of my jobs, I am working with people encountering a variety of challenges.

What excites you about the local tech community right now?

I have been involved in the local tech community for the past few years local meetups and helping to organize local meetups. In that time, I have been blown away with how accepting and personable people in the community are. I have loved being able to discuss ideas with local developers and software engineers to get their feedback and brainstorm potential solutions.

What led you to Careers in Code?

Being active at local meetups and on local tech Slack channels helped me hear about the Careers in Code bootcamp. I was very excited to hear about the Student Success Coordinator position, where I could combine my passion for computer coding with my human-services background to help support our amazing students in the bootcamp.

What can we find you doing outside of bootcamp?

You can often find me exploring local parks and trails with my wife, Courtney, our two sons, and our dog Ryder.

Laura Thorne

Current occupation

Self-employed Social Entrepreneur. I am a strategy and execution consultant, career coach, photographer, publisher, and most recently, an executive producer for a television series.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a leap taker, a creative, and a process-oriented person. I love being self-employed and designing the type of work that I do for the clients that I want. On any given day I might be helping a business owner with strategy improvements, developing programs, authoring books, mentoring, or just inventing something new. Some fun facts — I lived a year in Dublin, Ireland, I lived another 3 years in a 35 ft RV named Lucille and traveled the country with my two cats, I’ve been to 49 of 50 states and over 20 countries with a lot more waiting since Covid put us on hold.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve been able to work on?

I am currently working on developing an environmental consultant/manager-in-training program.

What excites you about the local tech community right now?

The endless opportunities to solve the world’s simplest and most complex problems.

What led you to Careers in Code?

Networking! When I moved from Tampa to Syracuse in 2017, I made it a point to have a coffee meet with one person every week. That process eventually led me to meeting Jesse Peplinkski and the work I was already doing coaching environmental career seekers along with my previous background in programming seemed like the perfect fit for the career coaching position they were looking to fill.

What can we find you doing outside of bootcamp?

Outside of bootcamp, you’ll find me working on the other projects mentioned above plus reading for the High Impact Reading Challenge Book Club that I co-host, working on the Environmental Professionals Radio podcast that I co-host, mentoring, and traveling, trying new restaurants, riding horses, and playing cello (not at the same time LOL).

Dana McMullen

Dana McMullen

Current occupation:

I currently serve as the Program Manager, Website Accessibility Instructor, & Teaching Assistant for Careers in Code.

Tell us a little about yourself.

In addition to working with Careers in Code, I’m also the owner of a tech consulting company called the Technology Overlay.

I’m a proud graduate of the first cohort of the Careers in Code in Code. In August 2019 I graduated from the program as a full-stack web developer. Prior to that, most of my technology career was spent at Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College from 2002–2009 as an Assistive Technology Specialist. I was tasked with helping college students with disabilities learn to use specialized technology to help them with reading, writing, and using the internet.

During this time, I also worked as a private technology vendor for the NYS Commission for the Blind as a JAWS Technology Instructor. I’m certified to teach and support JAWS (Job Access with Speech), a text to speech screen reading software for individuals whose vision loss prevents them from seeing screen content or navigating with a mouse.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve been able to work on?

Most recently, I helped Hack Upstate launch their first ever virtual/remote hackathon, and as program manager for Careers in Code, I helped with planning and launching its first virtual coding and programming bootcamp. When I was interning, I built a responsive website for an aspiring local politician and also learned how to build a website with Gatsby.

What excites you about the local tech community right now?

I’m most excited to see more employers embrace the concept of workers working from home as a result of the pandemic. I’m also excited to see the increase in the number of remote learning opportunities available that are free or low-cost.

What led you to Careers in Code?

Some years ago, I left a career in Assistive Technology to care for a sick loved one. When I tried to return to my former profession, so much had changed that I wasn’t able to return to the same position with the same type of pay. As a result, I started attending meetups to expose myself to free learning opportunities and to help me make connections while I tried to figure out my next career move. I found out about Careers in Code because I thought it was another one-day meetup, and so I signed up for it. Jesse Peplinski, program founder, called and made me aware that it was a 24-week bootcamp. After talking with him and understanding the full commitment of what would be required, I decided to apply. Fortunately I was accepted and my career in tech has really taken off. I haven’t looked back since then!

What can we find you doing outside of bootcamp?

I like to spend time with my family, rollerskate, ride my bike, read, take online courses to learn more about programming, and watch Marvel movies.

. . .

We’re so grateful to have such an amazing group of instructors. They’re truly the best our tech scene has to offer. Thank you all!

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

Advancing Upstate New York's tech community through events and education. http://hackupstate.com/ && https://careersincode.org/