Johanna Mikkola brings Silicon Valley skills and a hockey coach-like attitude to Wyncode Academy, Florida’s first coding boot camp.
Johanna Mikkola at the Wynwood Building.
Johanna Mikkola isn’t afraid to play hard. The cofounder of Florida’s first and only brick-and-mortar coding boot camp was raised in Toronto by way of Helsinki, and after playing floorball (akin to hockey on a gym floor) on an international level, worked her way up the ladder at the National Hockey League. There, she became the highest-ranking female in the officiating department and spearheaded the development of a custom app that’s used to this day to train referees. In early 2014, just a few whirlwind months after Mikkola decided to pursue her dream of having a start-up, she landed in Miami to launch Wyncode Academy, the first code school licensed by the Florida Department of Education’s Commission for Independent Education.
Wyncode’s nine-week courses (or “cohorts,” in techie parlance) consist of 21 students culled from hundreds of applicants. Once accepted, a serious coding cram session ensues to create the next generation of developers: Monday through Friday, for upwards of 10 hours a day, students are drilled in the Web framework Ruby on Rails. Weekend attendance, while not mandatory, is “expected.” “It’s called boot camp for a reason,” Mikkola says. “If you’re not frustrated, you’re not working hard enough. The beautiful thing is when you finally have that breakthrough, and you’re like, ‘Holy shit, I get it!’”
In addition to teaching coding know-how, Mikkola is resolute in equipping her students with the soft skills that will give them a professional edge. Like a coach hell-bent on a winning season, Mikkola is often found working directly alongside her students, providing one-on-one mentorship that is at once encouraging and blunt, or attending networking events to connect her pupils with the who’s who of the tech scene.
Her tenacity is paying off: Wyncode’s first cohort, in May 2014, was the largest inaugural launch in all of the United States, and saw 93 percent placement of its students four weeks after the course, with most graduates entering Miami’s workforce. She’s also been invited to a roundtable tech discussion at the White House, and will continue working with the White House to advance access to accelerated learning programs. “There were boot camps in New York City and San Francisco, but it was an unproven concept here,” says Mikkola. “It turned out that Miami was not only ready, it was overwhelmingly ready. Right now, we’re on the cusp of something great, and everyone involved is playing their role in the history of tech.” 400 NW 26th St., Miami, 305-570-9767