Meet the Cohort 3 Instructors and Teaching Assistants!

Hack Upstate
9 min readJul 21, 2022

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.


Max Matthews

“In addition to being an instructor in cohort one and two, I’m excited to be the Lead Instructor & Dean of Students for the third cohort of Careers in Code. When I’m not teaching, mentoring, and working on curriculum, I’m working as CTO at tuzag building concierge bots. I’ve spent over a decade in the Syracuse area, and after a short hiatus, I’m excited to lay more roots with HU & CiC bringing me back to the area. If you’d like to learn a little more about me and my perception of the technology community in Upstate NY, check out this post on HU’s blog. Outside of work (i.e. the only time I’m not writing Javascript) I’m likely working on smart home gadgets, DIY’ing projects that I definitely should not be DIY’ing, cross country skiing, and above all else, hanging out with my dog, Stella.

I’m hoping to instill the same passion I have for software development into the students. Solving bugs is an exhilarating feeling, but so is understanding how to think like an engineer by breaking down complex problems into action items. Our bootcamp does a particularly good job of not just imparting knowledge, but setting up our graduates to be well rounded engineers ready to impact the workforce, and I aim for my involvement to continue that standard.”

Ryan Gaus

“I’ve been writing software since I was 12, starting with 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.

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!

By the end of the cohort I hope that students have a general understanding of web development and the skills to continue learning on their own after graduation.”

Nathan Evans

I’m currently a Site Reliability Engineer at Datadog in addition to my role as an instructor for Careers in Code.

I’ve worn a lot of different hats (software, ML, QA), but I’m currently doing the Site Reliability Engineer thing now.

In terms of my goals in the classroom, I hope students walk away with a passion for building things and feel empowered to do so!

Teaching Assistants

La’Tonia Mertica

Careers in Code gifted me a mental model of myself that codes. That mental model has allowed me to seek my comfort in the world — through intentional actions that result in empowering outcomes ranging from economic stability to self confidence. My first name, La’Tonia Mertica, is pronounced luh tone yuh merr treece. My titles include communications and creatives specialist and (aspiring) full stack javascript developer. My goal is to specialize in python and design.

After graduating CiC C2, I completed a series of additional cohorts that included full stack python, javascript refreshers, and formal mentoring with industry professionals. My code/web dev experience now includes rigorous pair programming, full-cycle project flows for JS and Python/Django applications, Squarespace client sites, open source project contributions, and creation of documentation. I’m also studying Kubernetes/containerization.

CiC provides a tremendous opportunity to secure a solid foundation from which you can pursue usual suspects or little-known pathways in code/web dev. I hope students get a sense of clarity regarding their place in the tech ecosystem, the confidence to pursue their place in the tech ecosystem, and the determination to not give up. It is not and will not be easy. There will always be something to learn and something to improve. Embrace the discomfort, embrace the support, create your own viable outcomes.

I’ve taken a quirky route to full stack JS status. In part because I’ve always been a late bloomer. In part because I prefer to exhaust resources before committing. In part because this truly is the fun part. Some graduate CiC ready. Others take more time, energy, and coaxing. Judge yourself on your terms — not in relation to anyone else. Do what feels right to you. Take risks, push yourself. Still, always go forth from a solid understanding that you are in pursuit … pursue those things that matter to you and will get you where you are meant to be.

Ariel Murphy

I am Ariel Murphy, a Full Stack Developer, WordPress Designer, and Teaching Assistant for Careers in Code Cohort 3. Prior to becoming a Teaching Assistant, I was a previous graduate of Career in Code Cohort 2, where I learned not only development, but about my own character. I would like for the current and future students to learn the fundamental skills I picked up from my own experience in the program, such as perseverance, time management, and a sense of accomplishment. The program gave me such a head start into not only the tech field, but the importance of networking as a female in the industry. I firmly believe CiC changed my life for the better as a developer, a problem solver, and an advocate for women in code.

Melaquan Saffold

My name is Mel Saffold. I decided to change my career to technology two years ago. I am a graduate of Careers in Code cohort 2. I currently work as the Enterprise Product Lead for the City of Syracuse. When I’m not working or learning new technologies, I enjoy finding different ways to stay at peace.

I have a degree in Education. I’ve worked in the private sector teaching and writing technical documentation for 8 years. My journey into software development and product management has been great. The technology industry is truly limitless.

I hope these students find belief within themselves and conquer the imposter syndrome that most of us get when starting to learn technology. I hope they gain skills that will bring them closer to their desired outcomes.

Karin Thorne

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 future cohorts.

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 do I hope students will get out of class? My hope for the students is that they realize what a life changing opportunity Careers in Code is for them. They learn the amount of time and dedication it takes to become a good developer and how much time and dedication all the staff put forward to see them all succeed. I hope they see that it’s not just about improving their income but, it also improves their lifestyle and the sense of community you feel, especially in the local tech community. Finally, I hope they take all their experiences and share them with others to show that Careers in Code is really a great program.

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. I love to shoot archery and cook for my friends and family. I enjoy spending time outside and soaking up some sun, which can be rare in Upstate New York. I am also working on getting Salt City Code back up to speed now that the pandemic has slowed down slightly.

Kaitlyn Warboy

After graduating from the first cohort of Careers in Code, I worked as a .Net Developer at Raymour & Flanigan, where I learned a TON over the last couple of years. I most recently began working at tuzag as a full stack developer, and it has been so exciting! In addition to my full time job, I LOVE being able to give back to CIC as a TA & Instructor for the last two cohorts and hope to continue for many more. I am also the interim Student Success Coordinator for the LeMoyne/ERIE21 certificate programs.

In my spare time, I like to enjoy the outdoors, garden, spend time with my family, and work on restoring and improving our 1930s house. A side project I am currently working on is using NFC chips in birthday invitations, that link to a simple page for my daughter’s birthday party, and teaching her some basic html and css skills along the way.

Thank You!

We are so appreciative of all the hard work that our instructors and teaching assistants put in. Without them, Careers in Code would not be possible. Thank you all so much!