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We are a team of creative, fierce, and diverse problem solvers.

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Maia Sciupac

CoFounder, Instructor 

As the daughter of South American, Jewish, immigrant parents, Maia has dedicated her life and career to social justice and human rights issues. After learning that a close friend had been sold for sex as a child, she focused the first ten years of her career to the field of anti-human trafficking.


Despite graduating at the height of the 2008 recession, she pursued her passion for social entrepreneurship by working at a San Francisco startup by day, and on anti-trafficking initiatives by night. Some of these initiatives included: starting a modern-day slavery radio show; writing and publishing policy memos for the California Research Bureau on the sexual exploitation of homeless youth; interning for a nonprofit that deterred child sex trafficking in Thailand by raising money for scholarships; and working as a 2010 Client Services Fellow for Polaris (a national anti-trafficking organization).


Eventually, she found a $300,000 grant to fund a position for herself and launch the Human Exploitation and Trafficking (HEAT) Watch Program at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. In less than five years, she took their prosecution unit and turned it into an award-winning Statewide Initiative. Some of the work she did there was a successful billboard campaign to change the minds of the community around child sex trafficking, a graphic novel series on trafficking risk factors for high school youth, and a web-app that engaged the community and businesses on a Statewide human trafficking law. Eventually, she was asked by the USDOJ to teach the HEAT Watch model to communities across the Nation.


After working for the District Attorney's Office, Maia pivoted to tech, and helped launch digital products for Thorn, like Spotlight, a machine-learning tool to find victims of trafficking online; and a redesign of their website and marketing strategy. She also worked as a Product Manager for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, where she helped improve the user experience of their internal Amber Alert program, and ran a design sprint for their search missing kids tool. 


Currently, Maia works on the Innovation Delivery Team at Booz Allen Hamilton, where she gets to be a polymath and explore her interests in human-centered design, instructional design, & blockchain technology.

Maia received an AA from DeAnza Community College, a BA (summa cum laude) from UC Berkeley, and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University. 


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Gabe Arteaga

CoFounder, CEO

Gabe has dedicated his career to being a proponent for hard-working, low-income families. Most recently, he led the strategic vision and implementation for a coalition of over 230 community colleges in 23 states as the National Manager for The Democracy Commitment, with the goal to engage students in civic engagement to prepare them for democratic life and action upon graduation.


Prior to that, Gabe worked for various members of Congress, both in California and Washington D.C., including California Senator Barbara Boxer, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, and Congressman Eric Swalwell. His primary areas of focus included higher education, immigration, healthcare, foreign affairs, community development, and Latinx engagement.


Gabe also has experience working with the Progressive Era Project, a funder group promoting progressive policies, identifying emerging leaders, and advocating for underrepresented communities, particularly communities of color, in Southern California.


Finally, Gabe is a proud Board Member of La Familia Counseling Service, an inclusive Latino community-based multicultural non-profit organization committed to strengthening the emotional wellness of individuals and the preservation of families. 

Gabe has an AA from the College of San Mateo, where he served as a Student Senator, and representative of the American Student Association of Community Colleges. He also received his BA from the University of California, Riverside, and recently received his MBA from American University.

Meet Our Dynamic Advisors, Fellows, and Partnering Consultants

Andres Marquez-Lara


Andres Marquez-Lara is Founder & CEO at UFacilitate. They help leaders create spaces for collaboration that is more effective, efficient and inclusive. They do this through individual and group coaching, training, direct facilitation and consulting engagements. With 80 facilitators around  the world in 15 different countries, they quickly bring global teams together to support any facilitation needs.


Prior to founding UFacilitate, he founded Promethean Community LLC, a social enterprise that helped organizations improve their efficiency in tackling social and environmental impact projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. 


He has personally designed and facilitated over 200 workshops with more than 5000 people all over the Americas, Europe and Asia. He has a BA in psychology from Duke University and a graduate degree in Clinical Community Psychology.

Ashley Albert


Ashley Albert is a communications professional at LinkedIn where she currently specializes in internal communications for the global sales team. Prior to LinkedIn, she served as a District Representative for the U.S. House of Representatives in CA-15, where she addressed issues like Education, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Financial Services.


She also worked as an Assistant Account Executive at FleishmanHillard; a Change Management-Communications Specialist at Cisco; and a Senior Account Executive at Edelman.


An advocate for education and economic development, Ashley spends time out of the office dedicated to advancing economic opportunities for underrepresented communities.

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Maurice Boissiere


Maurice helps founders build their venture faster. With over 20-year’s of product leadership experience at early-stage ventures, he is the Chief Customer Officer at DataTribe, a cybersecurity start-up studio, and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Maryland where he teaches entrepreneurship and serves on the advisory board of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Smith School of Business.


He is also the DC organizer for SEED SPOT, a Top-3 US ranked Social Impact Incubator that runs programs in schools and communities supporting entrepreneurs.

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Tara Pokras

Design Researcher and HCD Strategist

Tara Pokras is interested in using design thinking and creative problem solving to uncover new solutions to social impact issues. She is a global health professional with over 8 years of experience in project management, development and implementation in the nonprofit, public sector and social enterprise spaces. She has dedicated much of her life to cultivating leaders, managing interdisciplinary teams, and developing organizations across a wide variety of issue areas. 

During her tenure she designed, prototyped, and scaled two new hospital programs. In addition, Tara is the founder of Period Portraits a project grounded in design thinking theories, breaking down the stigma of menstruation through vulnerable storytelling and empowering photographed portraits.

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Charley Raine

Entrepreneur In Residence

Charley Raine is the current entrepreneur in Residence for Brllnt Collaborations and Create& Co. Charley currently runs her own clothing business that dedicates 100% of its proceeds to children in underprivileged communities as well as foster care.


She is currently working on transitioning her business into a nonprofit as well as starting up her very own marketing/content creation business.


She loves to play guitar, skateboard, ride dirt bikes, and sing. Most evenings you can find Charley jamming in her car listening to her favorite artist...Justin Bieber.

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Emily Nixon


Emily is a passionate and innovative thought leader with a decade of experience delivering unique solutions that realize efficiencies and create sustainability in organizations.  With her finance and operations background, she is specifically interested in the intersection between the education and business spheres. 


Emily has had a wide range of experiences, from starting her career as a high school English teacher in Illinois and to managing global settlements for derivative products at Morgan Stanley.  


In her current role, Emily is the Managing Director of Operations and Programs at the DC Public Education Fund where she helps oversee strategy and ensures fiscal integrity. 


She received her BA with High Distinction from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed her MBA at Johns Hopkins with a concentration in finance.

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Ali Ahmed

Advisor + Facilitator

AIi likes to design inclusive experiences that are good for people and businesses. Ali has had experience, using design thinking and human-centered design, in a variety of industries like finance, government, transportation, non-profit, emergency management, and education. He loves to create and is all things design. In his current role, he is the Principal Design Strategist for Fidelity Investments in the greater Boston Metro area. 


Previous to his work at Fidelity, he was a user and customer experience consultant at Amtrak, providing unique and customized solutions using various elements of human-centered design.

Ali loves cooking, hosting, and spending time with loved ones, including his furry-four-legged pooch, Frank.

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Puneet Kaur

Business Strategy and Development Fellow

Puneet is currently pursuing her bachelor's in Industrial Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Her past internships have been in various fields as she wants to explore her interests and have a diverse set of skills.


She enjoys working out, travelling and spending time with her loved ones when she is not working.

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Rizza Ritz Buling

Administrative Assistant

Ritz has been helping founders and busy professionals keep their businesses running smoothly for more than a decade now.

She just recently started her very own VA agency that offers a variety of services for growing businesses and is dedicated to helping as many clients and virtual assistants as possible get started on the path to success.

When she is not working, you can find her in the kitchen cooking or spending quality time with her husband, son, and furry babies outdoors.  

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Carlos Granados

HCD Fellow Alumni

Carlos is a native Washingtonian. He recently graduated from the University of the District of Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. As a scientist by training, he has spent several years researching and conducting projects at his alma matter’s laboratory.


Carlos is naturally curious and a creative problem solver. He looks at problems holistically and thoroughly enjoys working with community leaders, issue area experts, practitioners, and various stakeholders to come up with human-centered solutions to address real world problems using design sprints.


When he is not in the lab, checking participants in at Create& bootcamps, or in-front of a whiteboard, you can find him on the soccer field. Carlos is soccer enthusiast and a part-time youth soccer coach in Southwest DC.

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Dana Mariani-Lada 

HCD Creative Alumni

Dana is a mission driven professional who loves solving practical problems and empowering others to be healthy and productive. She is naturally curious and enjoys working with clients. Dana has worked in the life science sector and in Federal healthcare consulting for a total of eight years.


Her fellowship interests include how to best teach Human-centered Design and Design Sprints to professionals outside of the IT industry. Specifically, how to tailor these innovative strategies and methodologies of creative problem solving to the public health and healthcare sectors.


When she is not running or painting, she enjoys time with her husband Sam and their french bulldog, Chip. 

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Join our team

We're always looking to work with great talent. Check out the opportunities below, and if you don't see what you're looking for, email us your cover letter, resume, a portfolio (if applicable) and a compelling reason why you'd be a great fit for Create&. ​

Note that we often work with contractors who specialize in website and visual design, UX design, copywriting, and full-stack developers. 

Human-Centered Design Fellow
Business Development Fellow
Communications + Marketing Fellow
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