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THE CODE WARRIOR

Johanna Mikkola’s Wyncode Academy is raising the ROI on education in Miami

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by Travis Sheridan in People
January 2, 2019
Johanna Mikkola

“WHO DOESN’T WANT TO COME TO MIAMI and learn technology skills? It’s very, very appealing!” Johanna Mikkola insists. The co-founder of Wyncode Academy isn’t wrong. With a tropical climate, lively culture and outstanding dining scene, Miami attracts millions of visitors every year.

But Mikkola is much more interested in the folks who want to stay and contribute to driving Miami’s new tech-focused economy. Since 2014, Mikkola’s Wyncode Academy has pursued that mission, offering accelerated education in a variety of technology paths and connecting outstanding students with career opportunities at big-name companies.

“We’re not at the beach too often, but it’s certainly awesome to be in the tropics and doing something like this. Isn’t it the greatest lifehack to be able to teach, to be in a tech community, to be part of building something from the ground up instead of joining an existing tech hub like San Francisco?” Mikkola marvels. “And I really believe that technology talent, high-quality technical training and education are going to be needed in every city. But for us, we’re just doing our best to make South Florida an awesome place to do that for anyone.”

Mikkola, originally from Toronto, Canada, deliberately set sights on Miami for establishing Wyncode Academy. After ten years of using technology to disrupt the National Hockey League as senior manager of officiating, Mikkola was ready for something new. Her husband Juha, a serial entrepreneur, had gone through a local coding bootcamp to boost his e-commerce business and began thinking about the true return on investment for education. Together, they saw the growing need for fundamental technology skills and the connection to well-paying opportunities for students, so they began developing their plan to provide that.

“We actually looked at Los Angeles, Austin and Miami. We tried to identify a few things, like which of these cities has the biggest gap between qualified talent and open positions for certain technologies.” Mikkola says. “Miami had one of the biggest gaps. There were so many open positions and very few qualified candidates in the market, according to recruiters. And so we saw a huge opportunity to do it in Miami. We were actually first to market in South Florida and ended up being the first code school in the country to be licensed.”

“We really view coding and technology skills as modern-day literacy. In order to understand industry and the world around us, everybody needs to have some understanding of the language of technology.”

Mikkola continues, “In a web development program [like ours], most people go on to pursue technical positions as developers. But the others are working as technical project managers or they’re entrepreneurs who are managing their tech scene. It’s important for them to understand the technology behind the things they’re interacting with.”

The decision to found Wyncode Academy in Miami’s colorful Wynwood district appears to be paying off. As of 2018, more than 600 people of all ages and backgrounds have gone through Wyncode’s programs in full-stack web development, UX/UI, front-end web development and digital marketing, with many landing jobs at national brands like Amazon, Microsoft and Wix.

But Mikkola’s focus remains on building opportunities directly within Miami, cultivating relationships with local companies that hire and promote Wyncode’s graduates. Moreover, Wyncode offers courses to corporate teams looking to partner with area startups on innovative solutions, ultimately fostering community relationships and keeping investment and ideas here in the region.

“We loved coming somewhere that was nontraditional tech, where we could be part of making the wave, not just joining the wave — building from the ground up,” Mikkola says.

Part of building Miami’s innovation hubs, Mikkola stresses, is connecting Wyncode students and graduates with area leaders. Through pitch competitions, local events and mentoring, Wyncoders gain visibility for their new skills and projects — something that’s essential to welcoming a greater variety of workers into tech fields.

“We really believe in the importance of a gender-diverse workforce, in particular in technology,” Mikkola says. “We really feel that education is the place where we need to start. If tomorrow we wanted to have a 50 percent female tech workforce, it wouldn’t even be possible because there aren’t enough women in the pipeline yet.”

“And it’s interesting about the background of people who come into the program — really, really diverse backgrounds. We’ve had chefs, musicians, artists, accountants, attorneys. We’ve had ages 18 to 63 and the average age is 29, so they’re career-changers,” Mikkola continues. “They want to be in a career that’s challenging, creative and has a lot of earning power. Huge demand and low supply means that it’s a great time to be in tech.”

Connect with Wyncode Academy:

To meet more people like Johanna, plan a trip to Venture Café Miami. If you aren’t in Miami, then check out one of our other innovation communities. Do you have a story to share, drop us a note. We love to feature great people doing great things. 

This story was originally published in HAPPEN Magazine, and written by Allison Babka. You can check out the digital version of HAPPEN to see other stories of innovators from around the world. 

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