Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots

427: BrainStation with Johanna Mikkola

June 16th, 2022

Johanna Mikkola is the Co-Founder and CEO of Wyncode Academy, recently acquired by BrainStation, whose project-based programs have helped over 100,000 professionals launch new careers in the tech industry.

Chad talks with Johanna about creating a digital skills training bootcamp, the hiring and training market and challenges, and prioritizing inclusion and diversity in the student population.

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CHAD: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. And with me today is Jo Mikkola, the Co-Founder, and CEO of Wyncode Academy, recently acquired by BrainStation, whose project-based programs have helped over 100,000 professionals launch new careers in the tech industry. Jo, thank you for joining me.

JOHANNA: So excited to be here. Thank you.

CHAD: I actually think that the weather we're calling from today might not be so different. It's very warm and sunny, and everything in Boston. So I'm pretty happy today. How are things where you are?

JOHANNA: That's great. We're coming to you live from the 305 in Miami, and it's turning into summertime here, which means it's pretty hot and sticky. But I'm originally from Finland, so I can't complain.

CHAD: [laughs]

JOHANNA: The novelty after eight years of living here has not worn off on me. I do enjoy the sunshine and the palm trees.

CHAD: That's great. So we'll definitely circle back and talk about Miami and the tech industry there and everything. But before we do that, I'm curious; you have recently been acquired by BrainStation. Let's rewind a little bit to getting started with Wyncode and what brought you to creating a digital skills training bootcamp.

JOHANNA: It's been quite the journey. It all started back in 2013, and at the time living in Toronto. I, at that point, had been working at the National Hockey League in Toronto for eight years and had just joined the management there on the hockey operations officiating team, which was an amazing chapter of my professional journey, and I love all the individuals that I worked with there. But I got to a point in that career where I didn't quite know what the next step would be professionally, and I was looking at getting an MBA.

But at the same time, while I was working at the NHL, I was helping lead an internal software build project. And it kept coming to the forefront for me that wow, hockey is being disrupted by technology or technology is being very integrated into something I thought, you know, I didn't think I would see that happen. And at the same time, my co-founder, who's also my husband, we're both from Finland. His name is Juha. He was an entrepreneur in the e-commerce sporting goods space, and he actually had joined a coding bootcamp in Toronto, an early one.

And as he was going through the process, we were both kind of at this inflection point professionally about what we were going to do. And so everything he was learning, the transformation of individuals he was witnessing first-hand, him experiencing that himself, and me being a non-technical business person leading a technical project at the NHL, we were like, wow, we're on the cusp of some serious change in the world, and we want to be part of that wave. So we were like, where can we go and be first to market to provide this life-changing, career-changing education and, in turn, really dive into not only education but also the technology space?

And ultimately, we landed on Miami. We had actually looked at Austin, Texas, and Los Angeles as options as well. But we arrived here in Miami, and it was very like a Hollywood thing. We were sitting at the coolest cafe in Miami at the time. We were here on Christmas holiday. And we, on a napkin, started writing ideas and brainstorming. You know, founders get very excited about logos and brainstorming names, or at least I do.

CHAD: [laughs]

JOHANNA: And it all came together really quickly. That was December 2013. We attended a startup meet-up here. We met four key players in this ecosystem, some of which are major drivers today, like the Knight Foundation and Endeavor. We heard their vision, and what they were doing, and how much funding was being put at the time into building a tech ecosystem in Miami. And we were like, wow, we want in. So we went from concept to launch in three months’ time.

And it was a pretty exciting ride. I mean, so much happened in that time [laughs], and obviously, the acquisition came early last year. And so we've kind of seen it go full circle. And for me professionally, I went from being a startup founder working very regionally, being somewhat nationally known but being a strong regional player, to being a global player overnight with BrainStation. So that also has been really exciting.

CHAD: At thoughtbot, we helped create a web development bootcamp around the same time actually.

JOHANNA: Love that.

CHAD: And that was for Kaplan, and they ended up purchasing Dev Bootcamp and then shutting it down. So I have some experience, and not only that, but thoughtbot has hired a lot of people from bootcamps into our apprentice program.

JOHANNA: Love that.

CHAD: So, from a hiring and training perspective, I think it's great. From a business perspective, it seems to have been a very challenging market. How did you weather that?

JOHANNA: Oh yeah. I mean persistence, unwavering commitment to the people we worked with, and the people we were helping gain these skills to change their careers. And like with any startup, there are moments where it's like, wow, you know, this is a big challenge. How are we going to overcome this? But we've always had the mentality of if there is a will, there is a way. And don't get me wrong, it doesn't always work out. But fortunately, now that I have hindsight, I can say that that mentality resulted in where we are today, and it was very positive.

And I have the really fortunate position of looking back on those stressful moments and seeing the lessons now, which is such a gift and maybe also alludes to me being old, I don't know. [laughter] But it really was a great journey. And I mean, the challenges started in the beginning for us, which is turns out it was a federal offense to operate without a license in the state of Florida, you know, lots of details to talk about there. But come full circle, we ended up being the first coding bootcamp to be licensed by a State Department of Education in the entire country.

So even though other people were operating in their states, it was different statutes, different legal requirements. And so, we were the first to be licensed. And as a result, we actually helped advise some of those other big names that we all see in the coding landscape to explain how it worked for us. And shout out to the Florida Department of Education and Commission for Independent Education for working with us to make it all come together. But it started off with a very exciting beginning getting that letter, which was essentially telling us to shut down before we had even begun. [laughter] And it all worked out. And we have a great relationship with them. And we learned a lot there.

And I will say just in the coding landscape, what ended up happening and what's happened with a lot of for-profit education is there was a huge opportunity, and there still is. People really genuinely need these skills. They really need this vocational training, and the companies hiring really need this talent, as you know firsthand. And so a lot of people jumped in and saw that there was money to be made because professionals and maybe also people who can afford it...there are a lot of financing companies that came in.

And so the thing that started wavering is the quality in terms of the training. And that's one of the things that you just, you know, one of the things we were unwilling to compromise at Wyncode and also why BrainStation, I like to say, is our soulmate because they feel the same way. To go from zero to software engineer or zero to UX designer (We also teach data science and digital marketing.), it really takes high-quality education, high-quality educators, and a high-quality network to do that at the level that we want to do that.

And then the other thing that a lot of people fell into is this desire to scale really quickly, so take in too many students which quality goes down, open too many locations, quality goes down. And to be the best, you got to learn from the best, and that means learning from software engineers, product designers, individuals who are really highly sought after right now. So, in the same way that software companies are facing talent issues, for us, that was also a key piece for us to solve and work out.

We're really fortunate that in the space of education, this is such rewarding work. We build such amazing relationships with the people coming through the programs and, in turn, are contributing so much to our local ecosystems that it hasn't been that hard to attract amazing talent to be our educators because it is so rewarding. They're getting an opportunity to apply their craft to something they love and really shape the minds of future technologists. And it's just a wonderful thing to watch and be part of, so really fortunate to be in that space.

CHAD: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's one of the things that has made the space challenging is you come into it with the desire to have that really high quality, but there's a cost to that. And if you don't scale the number of students, you might have trouble covering that cost. How did you balance that?

JOHANNA: In the early days of Wyncode, it was easy because we were self-funded, and we were growing organically. So we were quite conservative about how we scaled and how many people we took on, and we stayed very true to that. And honestly, we stayed very focused on the state of Florida. So at one point, we actually had three locations; we had Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, and we scaled them down to have a large HQ in Miami. Because we saw that when the team was together, and the community was together, the overall experience from network to learning was better because we were self-funded.

And then, later, when we had partners who were committed to quality, we were able to make decisions for the sake of quality instead of profitability. And then now with BrainStation, I mean, BrainStation is an incredible company. It's been around for ten years. It has been very successful. And right now, what we've been able to do is invest. BrainStation is in a position where we're investing in different pilots to see what things will make learning even better than it already is, although I will say it's at a really high quality right now.

And so we're in a fortunate position where, of course, it still needs to make sense. The unit economics needs to make sense. But we're also doing everything we can to continually iterate and make it a great environment for people to learn in. And I think that has come with taking the approach that we're in a long-term marathon. We're not in a sprint with what we're building right now. And I think a lot of the companies in this space that ran into issues were really sprinting to a certain scale, which is a way of operating that we haven't operated.

CHAD: Well, so based on what you've said so far, I can make certain assumptions about how you answer this next question.

JOHANNA: [laughs]

CHAD: But I think it's an important topic, and so I want to make sure even if it's obvious that we talk about it and that's how to bring in students, how to scale the business while still prioritizing inclusion and diversity in the student population, in your organization. What sort of attention did you put on that?

JOHANNA: Yeah, so this is a really key one. I mean, in the early days of Wyncode, we were able to do things in a different way than we are now with BrainStation. But I would say Miami is naturally a very diverse and international ecosystem. And so, from the beginning, we really wanted to see that reflected in the people who were in our programs because I knew that would, in the long term, provide so much value to building a great ecosystem.

And so, in the beginning, we partnered...we worked very hard to partner with The Knight Foundation to launch what was called The Future Leaders of Tech Fellowship. This is an example of something we did with different groups throughout all the years and continue to do today, but I'll use Knight as the example, which essentially was a full-ride scholarship for underrepresented individuals in technology. So the first iteration we ran of that was a full-ride scholarship because we thought that was the main barrier.

Then we realized that a lot of these individuals who hadn't had the means before and didn't necessarily have the educational training needed a little extra training, and they needed to start working right away. So what we created was a pre-program for them. It was a full-ride scholarship, and then it was a guaranteed three-month paid internship at a tech company. And of all the people who went through that program, the majority transitioned, with the exception of two, transitioned into full-time salaried roles. And those are incredible stories that are truly life-changing.

But I think the important thing there and what we learned over time is people need support, financial and educational, and they need time. So obviously, in an accelerated learning program, you want things to go as quickly as possible but through the help of partners and making it work for certain communities, we were able to do that. We also partnered with the's the Women's...YMCA for women. I cannot remember the acronym right now.


JOHANNA: Thank you. Thank you. We provided a program in-house for them specifically.

CHAD: No, it would be the YWCA.



CHAD: Sorry to interrupt you.

JOHANNA: I'm sorry. I'm not doing you all a good service here. But it's an amazing organization here in Miami. And that was geared specifically towards women from disadvantaged backgrounds, giving them the education they needed. And with that group, we had actually a 70% success rate, which was wonderful. Those are individuals who had no options for any type of white-collar position, many of whom we still keep in touch with today.

So, in the beginning, with diversity and inclusion, we were doing things at a smaller scale, very specialized, and very catered to make sure that they were successful in the hope of eventually building more momentum to do this. And the work very much continues. So BrainStation, larger company, we have a lot more firepower in terms of what we're able to do.

So we've partnered with companies like Ernst & Young, Shutterstock, Microsoft with our Impact Scholarship, which is also full-ride scholarships for the underrepresented communities in technology, and that's been really successful as well. And, again, education is really rewarding, but it's also really rewarding to see, in particular, those success stories.

CHAD: Yeah, one of the things when I speak at bootcamps or when I talk to apprentices who are joining us, I often reinforce or remind them that they bring something to the table, which is really special. I started programming when I was in middle school. I went to school for computer science. Aside from a brief stint as a dishwasher and a checkout person at a grocery store, this is all I've ever done. And I recognize that that has pros and cons.

Like, I just don't have the same perspective and diversity of experience, let alone actual demographic diversity that many of our team members bring to the table. And there's something special in that, whether it be from your experience working in another industry like hospitality or something like that. You bring a perspective. There are so many hospitality startups, for example, that would love to bring a new developer onto their team who actually has industry experience. It makes it very powerful for people.

JOHANNA: Yeah, absolutely. And I think oftentimes, people in anything when you're transitioning a career, there's maybe a little bit of imposter syndrome or a lack of confidence. And I see oftentimes not only minority groups but everyone shying away from their previous professional backgrounds. But technology is built for us, for humans who are very diverse in background experience and the products and services that we need. And so we really try to emphasize at Wyncode and at BrainStation to lean into your past profession. Because if you can bring that through and really focus on the things you learn there, you can provide so much firepower to what you're building with technology, and it’s super important.

And I will say healthtech is big in South Florida. And so we have had various people with some type of health background, whether they were an assistant or worked in a medical office, or we've had a few doctors go through the program. They were, as you can imagine, really sought after for the healthtech companies because not only do they bring technology skills, but they have this understanding that no one else does. So it's really unique.

CHAD: You're part of the tech industry now. [laughter] How has that diversity of mentioned at the beginning, at the top of the episode that you were originally at the NHL, to starting to lead software projects there. How have you leveraged that for yourself and for your business?

JOHANNA: Oh yeah, 100%. So we do an exercise at BrainStation where you have a chart, and you plot out your past professions, and you look at the things that you learned, and the mistakes you made, and the things you didn't like, to start to build a thread of what are things carrying over? And for me, the thing that has come to the forefront is technology or not...and I feel like anyone investing is also saying this all the time, and maybe founders say it too. But it always comes down to people and relationships and how you are listening and taking in the information to then digest it and deliver something.

And so, I think my ability to connect with people and mobilize people around common goals is something that has been a common thread throughout my career. It's interesting. I'll say some of the best things I learned as a founder came from engineers, the first being agile. Like, we weren't operating like an agile company in the beginning because we weren't a software company. And our very first hire was a guy named Ed Toro, an MIT graduate. Shout out to Ed. It's actually his birthday.

CHAD: [laughs]

JOHANNA: Incredible, incredible engineer originally from Boston. He was our lead educator for software for so long. And he just brought so much knowledge to us about how software is built and works. And we integrated that into how we operated as business people and organized the company. I mean, it's amazing. I actually don't remember what it's like to not be organized in that manner anymore. Although I can tell you going from the NHL to Wyncode was a huge jump because NHL, even though we were using and leveraging technology, was still organized very traditionally.

And so I'll give you a simple thing, some software teams...I know a lot of software engineers appreciate transparency. So, in addition to organizing in a very agile method in terms of how we operated the business, we also pivoted to be extremely transparent as a team as well in terms of how the company is doing, which is something that is not common in a multibillion-dollar industry like the NHL. Although you see that more and more with tech companies, which is interesting.

CHAD: How long ago did you join up with BrainStation?

JOHANNA: So we were introduced to the founders and owners of BrainStation really because they were potentially looking at coming to Florida. And a mutual friend, a mutual business person, had said, "Hey, you know, if you guys are looking at Florida, probably you guys should meet Jo and Juha. They built something called Wyncode. You're going to get to know them anyway." And so I would say a little bit over a year and a half ago, we started chatting. And we realized that we had a lot in common in terms of how we had built the businesses, where we wanted to see the business go. And the rest isn't history because we're a year and a half in.

CHAD: [laughs]

JOHANNA: So you know what happened. It all worked out. It's really great but also really excited for the future. Because now with the BrainStation acquisition comes a lot of firepower in terms of experience on the team, much larger team, capital, reach of team. We have students in over 100 countries. So I'm very excited for what we're going to do in the future as well because we can have so much more impact, and that is really exciting as well.

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CHAD: You mentioned before you had a very Florida-specific focus previously. Is part of this next stage to be working across BrainStation and really working more globally?

JOHANNA: Yeah, so working regionally with a focus on South Florida but with the know-how and the resources of a global team for sure. And being on the senior leadership team here, I am still 100% focused on Florida, but I get to have perspective from all the other markets. We have five campuses in New York, Toronto, Vancouver, London, and now Miami. So that's very interesting. And I have to say, when we were running Wyncode, we were always like, man, I wonder, how it's going in New York?

CHAD: [laughs]

JOHANNA: Or I wonder how it's going in Vancouver. Well, now I know. So it is really interesting because it also gives you not only a perspective in terms of bootcamps and how that's going but also a perspective on those ecosystems and how the tech companies there are growing and hiring. Because we're at that really interesting spot where we always know everyone's closed a round of funding because they go on a hiring spree. And then we see the bigger companies who are continually hiring. So we always kind of have a little bit of a pulse on what's going on in all of the ecosystems.

And also really, before, we were primarily American students in the southeast, but now as BrainStation, I mean, it's global. So seeing how different everyone is but also still so similar in terms of their end goals and collaborative, it's really special. And yeah, it's been great.

CHAD: So you have the campuses, the geographic locations, and then you have the global students. Are they in different silos, or do the two groups of students interact with each other at all?

JOHANNA: Yeah, great question. So we do execute our..., and we call them diploma programs for the bootcamp programs, both online and in person. So as you can imagine, students in over 100 countries we're executing in all the time zones because of online delivery. But much of that, if they're outside of the geographic region of one of our campuses, they're likely an online student.

CHAD: Are they being taught by an instructor in one of the campuses, or is it a separate thing?

JOHANNA: Yeah, our educators are located in our campuses geographically.

CHAD: How did the pandemic change or not change the experience of students, and what you needed to offer?

JOHANNA: Wyncode, at the time, we were still Wyncode when the pandemic hit. I'll never forget having an all-hands meeting in our conference room and being like, was a Thursday. We're like, come Monday; we're going fully remote. We weren't a remote educator at that time. Everybody needs special permissions and licenses to also have remote teaching, which most governments made exceptions for because of the pandemic. So we were all good there.

But we were thinking at the time, oh, maybe it'll be a month. Well, two years later, we're just about to have our grand reopening of the space in Miami. Our other campuses have already opened. And it was pretty exciting. When the pandemic hit, there was definitely an oh no moment. Like, people paused their enrollments, understandably. That was March. But as we got into early summer, we actually saw enrollment skyrocket. So huge success was pivoting to go remote.

We were very fortunate that we had a pretty seasoned senior team on our software and UX side. And they had been through the world of remote learning and just being on tech, you know, Yahoo, Google. They had worked at Yahoo, Google, so they knew remote, and they were able to help us and bring that expertise. So the transition to remote was easy. And then we got all these students. And actually, that started a wave which has continued to this day of really people having an appetite for online learning and continuing to want to pivot careers into technology, both out of individuals' interests for technology but also because of the demand.

So the pandemic was terrible. Business-wise for sure, there have been challenges, but there have, I would say, been a lot more successes and opportunities as a result of the pandemic. And for me personally as an entrepreneur, the pandemic got us, you know, we were doing well and having a lot of success, so the pandemic also got us on the radar for BrainStation. We started that conversation, and that was really exciting. And, again, here we are as a global educator now.

CHAD: I've talked to a lot of people and seen it in our applications as well, like, it was really two things: people losing their jobs because of the pandemic and then getting that opportunity to take a look around and say, you know what? I'm not going back to that industry, and I want to learn to code.

And then a lot of other people saying, you know, sort of the great resignation kind of stuff saying like, I want to change and actively switching as well. And you can see it in our applications the number of switchers, the number of people who have taken the last year, year and a half to do a remote bootcamp and make a career transition. It was always high. It's even higher now.

JOHANNA: Yeah, totally agree, like, very respective of what we see as well. And we've had a great relationship with CareerSource South Florida as well. And they fund workforce transformation. And so initially in the pandemic...we're not seeing those layoffs now, but initially, a lot of those people who were getting laid off many of them were able to qualify for CareerSource as well, which also really fueled people's ability to take part in this education.

And South Florida is interesting. I think 65% of the workforce before the pandemic...a lot has changed. Tech has moved in, a lot of big names have moved in. But before the pandemic, 65% of people professionally here were working in hospitality or real estate so it was definitely a big pivot for some people to go into the direction of technology.

CHAD: That's great to hear that they were able to be helped by that because that can be a big impediment to this. I believe that the cost of an average bootcamp for what you actually get and for the impact it can have on your salary or your compensation is worth it. But if you can't afford the tuition, then it's a non-starter.

JOHANNA: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And then it goes without saying, but there are some people...there are a lot of opportunities. There are a lot of jobs. There are a lot of ways to get in, but it doesn't mean that it's for everyone. And I think for us, some of the work that's required to get into the program in our admissions process and our advisors who spend a lot of time with people considering this are also helping people guide this thought process of what they go into and what they're going to do to decide if it's the right direction for them.

And I think ultimately, the large majority who come in have done good research and good work and have really thought it through, and it's a good fit. But again, it's not for everyone. So it goes without saying it's good to go online, do some coding. Download Figma if you're going to go into UX. Tinker around with some stuff. Ask some people, go to some meetups, and then start looking into the education piece.

CHAD: Yeah. Are there ways in which you're exploring how either through partnerships or that kind of thing like it sounds like you've done to make it more accessible to people?

JOHANNA: Yeah, so we put, again, Wyncode and BrainStation now puts a lot of importance on building a diverse, inclusive environment. And the most important thing is just collaborating also with organizations in our various regions that serve communities that are underrepresented in tech so that we can provide certain pathways to this. And one of the key things that we're doing with our Impact Scholarships, I think we've committed over $1.2 million just as BrainStation to giving those pathways.

The other thing that we're piloting right now is what we're calling Tuition Free. So we piloted in London. Miami is the only other city we're testing it with in-person learning, not online, but it being completely tuition-free for the individual coming into the program, which we're calling a trainee. And then working with some amazing partners here in South Florida, in London who essentially, if they opt to hire someone for the program, are going to be paying a percentage training fee for hiring that individual.

So we're really excited to be piloting what's called a reverse model. But more so, training people in a very specific skill set that companies need, eliminating financial barriers as much as possible, and then also providing a very robust, rapid pathway for this incredible talent to then join companies. And maybe we'll do a synopsis in about a year, and I'll let you know how it all went.

CHAD: [laughs] That'd be great. That'd be great. So a common thread throughout this conversation has been Miami, and it's come on my radar recently in terms of the ecosystem there and how it's expanded and grown significantly over the last several years. You mentioned you picked up and moved there because you identified it as a great market. What has it been like for you?

JOHANNA: It's been a whirlwind. I mean, #Miamitechisonfire, literally.

CHAD: [laughs]

JOHANNA: It's a pretty exciting time to be here. I got to say, when we moved in 2014, our campus was and still is based in Wynwood, which is a wonderful creative space but also mixed in with tech companies.

CHAD: Is that why it's called what it's called, Wyncode?

JOHANNA: Yeah, that's right. [laughs] Wyncode and Wynwood, yep. So the landlords knew they really had all the leverage, right? But we have had, and I've always had, an amazing space here. And when we first opened, the biggest complaint we got from people who took the program was there were not enough places to eat. And for anyone who's listening who's from Miami and spent time in Wynwood, that sounds crazy because now all the hottest restaurants are here in Wynwood. And that's happened in the span of, you know, I know we've been here for eight years, but that's happened like in the last five years.

So a lot has changed. Wynwood is kind of an analogy to what's happened in the rest of Miami. It was kind of like a little bit quiet and slow, known for hospitality, awesome partying, real estate, not really known for all of this other stuff. The pandemic, again, was horrible from a business standpoint, terrible for some people, amazing for others. It was amazing for Miami. The state of Florida remained relatively open throughout the pandemic. So that attracted people here. The tax situation, no income tax, has also been very appealing, particularly for anyone who's made a lot of money in tech and crypto, in particular from Miami.

And then we have this incredible Mayor, Mayor Francis Suarez, who, long before what's happening now, has been an advocate and supporter of the tech ecosystem and startup founders here, which I've personally had experience with. He's been amazing. You know, in Silicon Valley, there was some social media going on for anyone who saw it on Twitter, and he tweeted back, and he said, "Hey, Miami would love to have you, guys. How can we help?"

And so there's this tagline in Miami which is how can we help? Trying to be an ecosystem that's here to help that's open to all. And that's been going on now for almost two years. And as a result, there's been a huge number of people in technology in particular who have moved here, both big names like Jon Oringer, Founder of Shutterstock, Keith Rabois, Founders Fund. There are so many people to name down to founders who are like; I'm starting a new startup. I don't want to do it in New York or Silicon Valley. I want to do it in Miami. So that's really exciting.

I can tell you; there's more going on here than I could...before I could keep an Easy Calendar, I knew everyone. I knew what events were going on when and now it's just...there are multiple events, meetups, multiple companies to meet. So it's really, really an exciting time. I think Mayor Francis Suarez has said this, too but definitely making a play to be the capital of crypto. So there's a lot going on in the crypto space here, a lot going on in Web3. Like Web3 being at the beginning, this is still at the beginning. This is a moment that we're hoping to turn into a movement, and I think it's really, really exciting.

I don't think everyone is going to stay here. I don't think Miami is going to be the next Silicon Valley or New York. It has its own character. It has its own vibe. It has its own way of functioning, and that's what it is. Its original kind of environment is also what's attracting people. So it's an evolution right now. It's going to change.

The people who have come here and who have been here are all in the process of evolving to what the next chapter of Miami tech is. But it's definitely an exciting time. It was a place for me where I came to professionally reinvent myself as well and really be a part of building an ecosystem. And that's very much true today for anybody who is coming here. And I think that type of opportunity is really, really exciting. There's definitely an energy, yeah.

CHAD: The state of Florida has passed laws like the Woke Act recently, which can present a challenge to employers strictly speaking. You're not allowed to ask certain questions around diversity or inclusion in interviews now. And that can be uncomfortable or difficult to do business in or to say, "Hey, we're the most welcoming company. Come here. Come to Miami." Is that something that's, you know, I'm not there. So is it a challenge on the ground, or does it not really affect people day-to-day?

JOHANNA: I mean, that's a really good question. I would say I haven't encountered it personally or even on the professional side with how we've been hiring. So it's hard to say from my perspective. I think certainly there are some things going on in Florida that Florida and California are very different. I myself I'm not an American. I'm not as involved in the politics. But it'll be interesting to see what happens in the future and how these things shape.

I will say that employers have a lot of power because they're the ones who are bringing in a lot of money into a state. They're hiring people. And so some of the responsibility is also on the companies and employers who are in their respective areas to advocate for the things that they want to see. And one of those things is diversity, inclusion, which not everybody has made that a number one priority.

And the one thing that I've said in the past is creating an inclusive and diverse ecosystem is the opportunity I think that Miami has because it is a less established tech ecosystem. The canvas isn't fully painted over, so we have an opportunity to be unique and be different and to try to avoid maybe some of the biases that have existed in other tech ecosystems.

But at this point, while there has been progress made and there are some amazing individuals doing amazing things like Leigh-Ann Buchanan leading Tech Equity Miami and JPMorgan Chase coming in to support that in a really big way and Knight Foundation, we're still at a state where the minorities are advocating for the minorities. And that's something I hope to one, personally contribute to changing but as an ecosystem as a whole hope to see that happen. Because, like I said, Miami is attracting people for a certain reason, and that's great. And I think if we could build a diverse ecosystem, that would also attract certain people and retain certain people.

And I am a firm believer, and, I mean, there are also stats to back it up, but the best products are built by the most diverse teams. So it goes without saying that the most diverse ecosystem is going to result in the best companies, best environment, et cetera. And I think that's the big opportunity for Miami, but we still have a lot of work to do to get there.

CHAD: Yeah. Well, if folks want to follow along with you or get in touch with you or learn more about BrainStation, where are all the places that they can do that?

JOHANNA: Yeah. I would love to connect with everyone. On LinkedIn, we have all of our respective social handles just at BrainStation. Even our Wyncode handles are still alive, so that's great. My parting words would be if you know someone amazing, a professional who wants to pivot careers and learn in person, now is an amazing opportunity to apply to BrainStation for incredible education and network. And I'm really looking forward to seeing amazing professionals come through the program.

CHAD: And I assume if you're in a position where you're hiring talent that you should also check out BrainStation.

JOHANNA: Yes, thank you, Chad. We 100% the thing we take the most pride in is connecting this amazing talent with awesome companies. I always like to tell everyone to keep a very wide lens on the type of talent you're hiring for your technology teams because some of the best individuals have very non-traditional tech backgrounds but bring so, so much to the table.

Our team does a lot of work in terms of once we get to know a partner, which I would love for you all to reach out and join; we do a lot of work to make sure that we are connecting curated talent to companies. And if you go to, you'll be able to sign up there.

CHAD: Wonderful. Jo, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it.

JOHANNA: Great. Thank you so much. Great to be on.

CHAD: You can subscribe to the show and find notes and a transcript for this episode at If you have questions or comments, email us at And you can find me on Twitter at @cpytel.

This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore. Thanks so much for listening, and see you next time.

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