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Juha Mikkola Interview: “I Really Love Florida, That’s What Drove Me Back Here”
Written by Administrator on 3rd August 2015, 11:00 AM
Juha Mikkola, co-founder of Wyncode Academy
Wyncode has quickly become Florida’s premier academy for intensive technological and entrepreneurial training, technical instruction, and job placement.
The company was founded by the husband and wife team of Juha and Johanna Mikkola, and in just one year they’ve graduated nearly 100 students in web development, networking, self marketing, and startup coursework.
Wyncode grads can be found in the development shops of some of the region’s leading corporations, exciting new companies, and at the helms of their own exciting endeavors. Here’s what Juha Mikkola had to say about the journey so far, where he’d like to see it go in five years, and pitching Wyncode’s educational model before the founder of a $35 billion company.
Congratulations on all of your recent accomplishments!
How do you feel about Wyncode after one year?
I’m excited. I am happy about how things have gone. When you start a new venture you have a vision of how you hope things will work out, and so far it has gone according to plan. Through a combination of our great team, and the awesome support from the community, we’ve seen changes take place in the local tech community right before our eyes. And that’s the best part. We just visited a new co-working space in Little River called MADE and the first thing I saw was two Wyncoders were there working on their own start ups. Our graduates are learning new skills and moving ahead to work all over the city in new creative fields. It’s really exciting.
What are some of your biggest milestones so far?
Our placement rate is really awesome, and we’re proud of that as we work really hard at it. We’ve been able to validate our educational model thanks to the small and big companies that hire from us, and that was a big deal. The pitch days we host at the end of cohort have been just great community events. I love seeing everybody get together and rally behind South Florida tech and welcome new members to our community. Those events in Miami and now Ft Lauderdale at our FAT Village campus have always been highlights, and our more recent selection as Endeavor Entrepreneurs was a big honor too.
What is Endeavor?
Endeavor is a global organization that focuses on helping high-impact entrepreneurs around the world, and it essentially offers us guidance and a highly qualified advisory board for Wyncode. They help the companies and entrepreneurs that they select to dream bigger and multiply their influence, which is something we definitely aspire to. To become members, join the network, and meet the people we’ve met has been really unbelievable and we feel it’s only the beginning. We hope that one day soon a company started by a Wyncode student will be selected to be a part of Endeavor.
What made you want to work with the organization?
Before we opened in Miami we researched Endeavor and the entrepreneurs who have been selected before us. They were all really inspiring. Candidates are invited to apply, and are nominated by their peers, but Endeavor also encourages individuals to nominate themselves, which is very cool. Upon selection, we got the chance to meet with leaders in the community; and they provided us with feedback and validation. We got a chance to talk about our business, and before we knew it, we were invited to an international selection panel to pitch Wyncode and get unparalleled feedback by world class business leaders. Talking through our business in this context really helped us crystallize our vision and ultimately made for a better Wyncode.
Who was on your selection panel?
Everybody was incredible. The level of people involved is the most impressive part. Chris Rogers was one of the people asking us questions. He’s the co-founder of Nextel, which his group sold to Sprint for over $35 billion. We pitched to Ayman Ismail who launched products like Crest Whitestrips and Swiffer while working with Procter & Gamble. We also had the chance to meet Edgar Bronfman who is on the board of Endeavor and is a brilliant investor. Their feedback, guidance, validation and introductions have already been tremendously helpful.
And the selection took place in Amman, so how was Jordan?
It was awesome. I don’t know how else to say it. It was my first experience in the Middle East and the people were so friendly and super welcoming. The landscape in the desert is so incredible that it’s difficult to believe it’s real, you feel that you’re on another planet. Floating in the dead sea was definitely a highlight, and we had a chance to experience some pretty cool stuff in between the pitches. That said, the real value was meeting the people associated with Endeavor and the other companies from around the world who were there to pitch
What inspires your entrepreneurship?
It’s my passion. I get really excited about what I’m doing. I haven’t always been an entrepreneur, but I’ve always been entrepreneurial. I like being part of something where you can have a big effect. And we want everyone who is part of Wyncode to feel that way, and that what they’re doing really matters. We want students and faculty alike to think, “What’s the next step? Where can we push ourselves today?” It’s about being the best that you can be, but it’s also about creating a community and a place you want to be, a place where you want to go and be part of something that’s fun. We love seeing people get excited by and wanting to be part of what we’re playing a part in building. Building a team, attracting students, and working with hiring partners, that’s what gets me excited.
How does your Endeavor selection help your students?
It informs and enhances everything we do. I’m actually a graduate of a code school. I went into it with a startup mindset, and technically Bitmaker in Toronto was really great, but there wasn’t much of an entrepreneurial angle to it. And that’s where Wyncode is different. If you want to get a job as a developer we prepare your for that. And if you want to challenge yourself to start your own business, we give you that skill, that confidence, and that community connection. We’re super proud of our placement rate, but what’s cool is we also have six startups that came out of the program, and that’s really unique in the code school landscape. Seeing how students develop over time, and offering ongoing mentorship is very fulfilling. We’ve even seen our grads and partners hire second, third, and fourth Wyncoders for their own teams. And that’s really exciting. Upon graduation from our courses you just have this more holistic understanding of the tech ecosystem and what it’s like to be part of a start up technology company.
Where would you like to be in five years?
We wanna make sure that we maintain what’s exciting about Wyncode today. And that we never grow or expand unless it’s right for our culture and the whole vibe of Wyncode. We always want to make sure that every Wyncode student learns effectively. And that’s why we just recently retrofitted our classroom to make it better experience overall, and so that we could meet the demands of the market and accept more students. The number one feedback we get is about the incredible culture around Wyncode. Everything we did from hiring more team members to making sure the quality was there has helped significantly. And we’d like to grow and expand by offering more of our same formula in more areas. Initially we’d like to expand throughout Florida,and on the side of our existing locations, we want to offer more programming for part time developers, for executives, for kids, and more….that would be exciting.
You’re of Finnish descent right? What was your first time in Florida?
Yes. I lived here at a really young age, from Kindergarten to 4th grade and it was just beautiful. From the incredible nature, to the quality of life, I’ve always thought it was a great place to live, and I really love the state, and that’s what drove me back here.
Any shout outs?
Too many to mention, but definitely everybody on our team. We couldn’t do this without the group we’ve put together. Our people are awesome and exciting and inspiring to work with and we couldn’t have a better situation. Everybody is an awesome contributor from our teaching staff to our campus director. We just had our first intern join us today. We just want to be a spot where people like to work and make a difference and that’s who deserves the recognition.
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