Meet the Exelaration Team

Steve Cooper

Founder & CEO

With over 30 years’ experience in technology consulting, Steve Cooper has founded three successful companies whose clients include Fortune 100 companies, leading federal agencies, and world-class non-profit organizations. Starting his career as one of the first relational database experts, Steve’s focus is helping individuals achieve exceptional careers, and helping leaders build organizations around them. He founded NextUp Solutions to focus on transformative learning for teams and individuals. Steve is a vocal leader in the effort to invite more diverse and abundant participants to the technology workplace through internships and experiential learning.

Margaret Archer

VP, Workforce Development

With over 30 years’ experience in the technology industry, Margaret has held a range of strategic and operational roles for private and public sector clients – but she found her passion, developing peopleright here. Margaret grew the early Exelaration Center from a few students to a nationally ranked experiential learning program it is today. Deeply interested in the future of work, she is using her expertise to develop a future-focused workforce, helping Exelaration define where it wants to go and strategies to get there. Margaret also loves to hike, travel, and pursue her photography 

Amy Baldwin Efird

VP, Partnerships

Amy Baldwin brings over 10 years of creating connections and partnerships in the startup sphere to Exelaration. She is the person who will chat you up in the elevator about rescue dogs, music, and science trivia (or possibly the cool socks you have on). Amy also believes that the art of tech is the people and success is measured in quality relationships and service.


Matt McHugh

VP, Mentoring & Growth

Matt is an experienced developer with a passion for software development and Agile best practices. For the last 10 years, he has been sharing that passion with others as a trainer and mentor, working with developers of all skill levels. By day, he’s working to train the next generation of enthusiastic software developers at Exelaration, and by night he’s building Legos or playing Minecraft with his son. In his free time, Matt is an avid singer, instrumentalist, golfer, and runner.


Expertise: C#, Python, Java, JavaScript, RESTful APIs, Relational Databases, SOLID Principles, TDD, Containerization, Mentoring/Teaching

Alan Baines

Lead Software Development Engineer & Mentor

Alan lives and breathes science, engineering, and computers. He is an engineer with a background in desktop architecture and design including integrations with engineering simulation software. Alan has had the wonderful opportunity to train and educate users in using complex engineering tools. He has a passion for learning technologies and techniques for robustness, reliability, maintainability, and passing that knowledge to others via mentoring, coaching, and paired programming.  Outside of work, he loves playing board games, developing mods for video games, driving boats and D&D. Alan is also an enthusiastic fan of orange and emojis. 🧡


Expertise: Java, C#, Teaching/Mentoring, APIs, TDD, LUA, Python, JavaScript, System Architecture

Nancy Moreno

Lead Software Development Engineer & Mentor

With over 20 years of development experience, Nancy is a full stack senior software engineer and certified Scrum Master based in the Washington, DC, area. As a client-focused, detail-oriented consultant, she has helped Product Owners shape and realize successful technology solutions across federal, commercial, and non-profit sectors.Nancy is an avid foodie and dog lover who enjoys the challenge of keeping up with her son’s breathless pursuit of engineering.


Expertise: C#, SQL, Angular, TypeScript, JavaScript, Agile Methodology, Object Oriented Programming

Brian Palladino

Lead Software Development Engineer & Mentor

Brian has nearly two decades of software industry experience and has worked in development, consulting, training, mentoring, documentation, and technical support roles. He is passionate about teaching and helping new developers launch their careers. In his spare time, Brian enjoys studying history, reading, board games, travel, cooking and exercise.


Expertise: C#, Ruby, JavaScript, Relational Databases and SQL, RESTful services, Automated Testing, Azure, Agile

Denise Poll

Lead Software Development Engineer & Mentor

With over 30 years of experience as a software developer, manager, and tutor, Denise has a wide-ranging skillset that is invaluable to the Exelaration team. Within her profession, she enjoys communicating with technical and non-technical users, mentoring, designing software, debugging, and problem-solving. Outside of work, you can find Denise paddle boarding, hiking, or lap swimming.


Expertise: C, Java, Python, cloud server internals

Anjali Shingala

Delivery Manager

As Exelaration’s Delivery Manager, Anjali’s primary goal is to provide support to clients, mentors, and students. The Exelaration mission is a personal one, having completed the program as a student team member herself while completing her Industrial and Systems Engineering degree at Virginia Tech. Since graduating, Anjali’s mission has been to continue learning, mentoring students, and providing top-notch service to clients. In her free time, she enjoys to go for walks, cook, and hang out with friends.

Expertise: Project Management, Agile Principles, Scrum, SQL, Python

Will Drougas

Software Development Engineer

Will is a Full Stack Developer based in Washington, D.C. He earned his Masters of Education from the University of Virginia in 2018 and has brought his passion for mentoring and teaching to Exelaration since joining in November 2021. Will enjoys spending his free time outdoors either golfing, playing tennis, hiking, or just exploring D.C.


Expertise: Ruby on Rails, React JS, Object Oriented Programming, RESTful services, Agile practices

Emanual (Manny) Henry

Software Development Engineer

Before becoming a software engineer, Manny taught high school physics. He also worked as an analyst to create, report, and perform database work. Later in life, Manny decided he wanted to know more. He learned React and has been doing so for the past four years. Manny is passionate about learning and believes everyone should be a lifetime student. So, he found a job where he can continuously learn while sharing his knowledge with others. Fun fact: at one point in Manny’s life, he almost become a professional ballroom dance teacher.


Expertise: Typescript, JavaScript, React, Node

Will Krause

Software Development Engineer

Will loves all things science, especially space! He is a full-stack software engineer as well as a certified scrum master and product owner. He has a passion for learning and teaching and is currently pursuing his MBA from West Virginia University. Will has a background in hospitality, mobile networks and devices, and supply chain and logistics. During his free time, he enjoys reading, traveling, and hanging out with his cat, Kitterson.


Expertise: Python, Django, Java, Unix, SQL, Relational Databases, APIs, Integrations, Agile/Scrum principles

Lance Parlier

Software Development Engineer

Lance is a talented full stack software engineer with experience architecting and building new software as well as maintaining existing software. He is skillful at building enterprise level software, as his previous role included development on a point of sale system for a Fortune 50 company. Lance also cofounded an e-commerce business where he developed a custom stand-alone sales platform. He prides himself on writing clean and maintainable code while instilling similar values on entry level developers.


Expertise: Python, Django, JavaScript, Java, C/C++, Linux, Containerization, CI/CD

Cody Mensavage

Software Development Engineer

Cody is an experienced software engineer with a desire to not only learn all he can about software development in order to teach it back to aspiring technologists. Prior to joining Exelaratoin, he worked for software development firm focused on public safety that served customers all over the country. Cody spends his free time outdoors trying to keep up with his energetic dog, playing basketball, and playing online games with friends.


Expertise: C#/Java/SQL/HTML/JavaScript/C++/Python

Prachi Tomar

Software Development Engineer

Prachi is a Full Stack Developer based in Blacksburg, Virginia. She joined Exelaration as a student team member and earned her Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech. Since graduating, Prachi’s goals include learning new skills and expanding her knowledge across various engineering fields. She enjoys spending her free time playing guitar, reading books, learning new languages, and picking up new hobbies and skills.


Expertise: C++, C#, Java, JavaScript, MATLAB, HTML

Hunter Horton

VP, Marketing

Hunter is a brand strategist that brings her powerful creativity and organization to the nonprofit, corporate, and startup teams she works with. After earning her degree in Media Production from the University of North Carolina, Hunter entered the marketing world to pursue her passion for branding and digital storytelling. She has exceptional pride in Exelaration and its sister company, NextUp Solutions, whose brands she built from scratch and profiles she continues to raise.

Mike Staples

VP, Finance & Operations

Mike brings over 25 years of corporate finance, operations and enterprise systems experience to the NextUp team. He is a Certified Corporate Financial Planning & Analysis Professional who has supported a variety of industries throughout his career including technology consulting, telecom products manufacturing, and housing related private equity, primarily in executive management level positions within start-up to growth stage companies. He enjoys spending his free time with his family and is an avid golfer and cyclist.

Avril Ussery Sisk

NextUp Board of Managers

Avril Ussery Sisk has a strong record of leadership in large and mid-size government, business and nonprofit organizations as well as consulting experience in both Japan and the United States. She combines governance and ethics expertise, employee relations, community engagement successes and extensive legal background with a track record of achieving first rate strategic and business realignment. An attorney with more than 30 years professional and community leadership, Avril currently serves as Chair of the Arlington County (VA) Economic Development Commission (EDC), and is the immediate past Chair of the EDC’s Workforce Taskforce, the Commission’s collaborative community initiative to address workforce development, business recruitment and realignment, business climate and other regional and local economic development issues.

Todd Rowley

NextUp Board of Managers

Todd Rowley has over 35 years in the banking industry, most recently with Old Dominion National Bank as the Market Executive. Additionally, Todd has an understanding of corporate finance, credit process, capital structure, acquisition financing and financing options. Rowley has a long history of involvement in community engagement, and currently serves as a Director for the Northern Virginia Community College, a member of Virginia Tech President’s Advisory Council, a member of the Virginia Tech Pamplin School of Business Advisory Council, Board of the Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board, a board member to the Northern Virginia Council of GO Virginia, and a member of the board of directors for LEAD Virginia.

Our Clients Include: