Meet the Careers in Code Team!

Learn more about Doug, Jesse, Will, and Jason.

Jun 26 · 10 min read
Will, Jesse, and Doug at Hack Upstate XIII

Doug Crescenzi

Doug Crescenzi

Current occupation:
Partner, Co-Founder, Software Engineer | Upstate Interactive
Founder, Partner | Hack Upstate

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was extremely fortunate to grow up in CNY. Upon completing high school at Baldwinsville, I went on to Syracuse University, where I received a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and a master’s degree from the Syracuse University iSchool.

After grad school, I made my way down to Washington, D.C., where I worked as an Information Security Engineer / Scientist at The MITRE Corporation (great company). Once I had a few years of experience under my belt, my wife and I made our way back up to Syracuse, at which time I began to pursue a PhD from the Syracuse iSchool. I realized after a year that academia wasn’t for me and quickly transitioned into the startup world.

In February 2013, we founded Hack Upstate with the underlying mission to advance Upstate NY’s technology community.

Fast forward to fall 2017, at which time we applied for a grant through Onondaga County to start up Careers in Code, 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.

What led you to found Careers in Code?
We all know people that go above and beyond the call of duty. They work hard, they battle through tough circumstances, and they never quit. We started Careers in Code because we believe when individuals with these characteristics are matched with the right opportunities, they can do incredible things.

What is the most rewarding aspect of running a coding bootcamp?
Wow, there are so many things. First, it’s amazing to see how hard the students are working. They’re so committed. They’re taking advantage of this opportunity and going above and beyond in order to be successful. We have a really talented group of software engineers that will be joining our CNY workforce this fall and they’re going to have a profound socioeconomic impact on the region for years to come.

Second, our instructors and TAs are incredible. Like the students, they too are making sacrifices and working extremely hard to advance CNY’s tech community and combat poverty in the region. We are so lucky to have them on board.

Third, the collaboration we’ve seen among students, instructors, TAs, and partners has made a profound impact on me personally. I’ve never seen anything like it to be honest. I’ve learned so much and am so thrilled to be a part of it.

What do you see for the future of Careers in Code?
We are ramping up to offer more opportunities and classes for more students that have the grit and perseverance necessary to become successful software developers. In fact, we have a growing wait-list of applicants interested in joining our next cohort of students. Please share with individuals who might be interested!

What are you most looking forward to in the Syracuse tech scene?
I’m excited to see the partnerships and collaboration that are taking place among the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County, and the private tech sector. It’s not easy to make public-private partnerships work, but we’re fortunate to have the right leadership in the right roles at the right time to make a long-lasting impact on the region’s tech community and the economy.

What do you like to do outside of bootcamp?
I’m extremely fortunate to have amazing family and friends whom I love spending time with. In particular, my 15-month-old son, Gio. He’s a goofball and always makes me laugh.

I also love to read. I’m a big fan of non-fiction — biographies in particular. I’m currently reading a biography by the infamous hacker Kevin Mitnick, Ghost in the Wires. I’m also reading Angela Duckworth’s, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Lastly, I love to exercise and play golf, though I’m not very good (21 handicap). Hit me up if you’d like to tee it up sometime!

Jesse Peplinski

Jesse Peplinski

Current occupation:
Co-Founder, Partner | Hack Upstate.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I love to empower developers, unite tech communities, and solve challenging engineering problems. I’ve been a partner at Hack Upstate for ~3 years where and I manage the day-to-day operations for our hackathons and Careers in Code.

I received my B.S. in Computer Science at SUNY Potsdam and I’m the co-founder and former director of Hack Potsdam. It was a ton of fun to organize a student-run hackathon and help build a tech community in the north country.

I’m extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to organize and execute our weekend hackathons and to help change the lives of our 11 amazing students at Careers in Code. It’s been tremendously challenging and rewarding.

What led you to found Careers in Code?

Talent is everywhere. Opportunity is not.

The poverty rate throughout CNY is staggering. Roughly one in every three people in Syracuse live in poverty and there is simply not equal access to educational and employment opportunities for people to advance in these areas. When passionate, hard-working folks are given the right opportunities to thrive, it can change their entire life.

What is the most challenging aspect of running a coding bootcamp?
There are a ton of moving parts for the program. Sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming to figure out what to tackle first when there are so many things to get done.

We’ve been extremely fortunate to bring on an intern, Will Guisbond, who has been tremendously helpful in the day-to-day operations of the program. We also hired a Student Success Representative, Jason Scharf, who helps our students navigate problems and challenges they face during the program. Our incredible team has been instrumental to our program’s success thus far!

Most rewarding?
There’s a ton. It’s been amazing to see the light bulbs go off with our students and see pieces of the pieces of the puzzle come together. We’re a little over halfway through the program and all of our students have come an incredibly long way in their journey so far. It’s what gets me up in the morning.

It’s been an amazing opportunity to work with our amazing instructors, teaching assistants, guest speakers, and partners. We are super fortunate to have so many incredible people involved with our program.

What do you see for the future of Careers in Code?

It’s been really exciting to see coding bootcamp enrollment grow by nearly 10x since 2013. The landscape of software development has changed over the past few years and companies like Apple, Google, and Netflix are dropping their college degree requirements.

We’re super excited to explore future cohorts for the program and provide opportunities for more students to transform into software professionals. If you (or someone you might know) is interested in learning more about the next cohort — join the waitlist here!

What are you most looking forward to in the Syracuse tech scene?
There are so many awesome events/meetups happening in the Syracuse area, such as Openhack, the Syracuse Javascript meetup, Women in Coding, and Tech4Kidz, to name a few.

There’s a Code for Syracuse Chapter, a chapter of Code for America, where local developers partner with civic organizations and nonprofits to create digital solutions to civic challenges. It’s being started by some awesome folks in our community including Jason Scharf, our Student Success Representative. You can learn more on the Meetup page, Twitter, or their website.

I’m also really excited about public-private partnerships w/ Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse such as the Syracuse Surge effort, an initiative aimed to helped renovate the south side of Syracuse & kickstart its tech sector. You can read more here about Syracuse Surge.

What do you like to do outside of bootcamp?
I love spending time with my family, friends, and wonderful girlfriend, Abby.

I’m recently into productivity books and how to “do work better, stop talking, start working.” In particular, I’ve been reading Getting Things Done and diving into Rework.

I also love binge-watching shows on the weekends, which is somewhat counter-productive to my previous statement. After a lackluster ending to Game of Thrones, I loved the mini-documentary series Chernobyl and the amazing podcast to go along with it. Now I’m onto The Americans.

I also love a nice charcuterie plate. Go to Liehs and Steigerwald and get it. You won’t be disappointed :)

Will Guisbond

Will Guisbond

Current occupation:
Intern at Careers in Code

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m currently a high-school student (going into my senior year) who has been involved in the Syracuse tech community from a really young age. I started attending OpenHack when I was in middle school and have fallen in love with empowering developers ever since. I really enjoy working with people and have found a lot of satisfaction in helping run this program.

What led you to becoming an intern Careers in Code?
I met Jesse at OpenHack a few years back and we talked for a while about the tech community within Syracuse. Having worked as an assistant teacher at Tech4Kidz (coding school run out of LeMoyne College), I had also attended several events hosted by Hack Upstate and found myself at an all day hackathon for kids. There, Jesse and I were able to catch up, and after learning about the Careers in Code program, the prospect of becoming an intern became a really exciting possibility.

Fast forward to an interview in January of this year, I couldn’t have been happier with how things turned out. I love contributing to this team!

What is the most challenging aspect of helping manage a coding bootcamp?
As with any sort of large-scale undertaking, the most challenging part of Careers in Code has certainly been all of the things we weren’t able to plan for. Obviously, there’s only so much you can do to plan for something this monumental, but we did do a lot of preliminary work and continue to try and stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the day-to-day operations of the program. As a result, it’s always challenging when you have to adapt to things on your feet. However, as a student still in high school, this has taught me so much about being more thoughtful in how I execute things and, overall, has improved my critical-thinking abilities.

Most rewarding?
By far, the most rewarding aspect of this position has been seeing the progression that the students have made thus far. I vividly remember going around the room during our kickoff party to what seemed like very nervous, shy, but nonetheless excited, individuals. Now, more than halfway into the program, I see these people as professionally adept and technically fluent. I see them as people with amazing stories to tell and with the skills to tell them. I see them as future co-workers, as well as friends. Being able to call myself part of that progression has been incredibly humbling, and it makes me really excited about the work that I am doing every day.

What are you most looking forward to in the Syracuse tech scene?
While this is pretty new, I’m really excited about the Syracuse Surge initiative brought on by the City of Syracuse. Not only will it heavily impact the tech industry, but I’m also really excited about the parallel improvements to the downtown area that it includes. I think this aligns really well with Hack Upstate’s mission, and am excited to see the new tech business and innovations that end up coming to the area as a result.

What do you like to do outside of bootcamp?
Outside of the bootcamp, I am an avid tennis player, athlete, musician, and airplane pilot. While I love going to events that coincide with the program (OpenHack, Meetup events, dinners, etc.), I also value the flexible schedule that this position gives me, allowing me to continue to do the things I love. Right now, that means spending time with my friends as the summer begins, and in the fall, it’ll mean starting the college-admissions process.

Jason Scharf

Jason Scharf

Current occupation:
I am a Child Protective Caseworker with Onondaga County. I have been doing this for over seven 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 am a newcomer to the local tech community and 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 and 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 playing Super Smash Brothers with my youngest son, Luke; skateboarding with my oldest son, Jaiden; or going for walks around some of our beautiful local parks in Syracuse with my wife, Courtney. I am also active at my church, Great Grace COGIC, and am a Lego Robotic Volunteer at PEACE Inc.’s Westside Family Resource Center.

☞ Interested in learning more? We’d love to hear from you!

Hack Upstate

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