When Michael Montero received his first paycheck, he used the money to buy a desktop computer. He tinkered with it. Took it apart. Put it back together. His mom would get mad at him for hogging the phone line to dial up the internet.
“I always had a passion for computers,” Montero said. “It was love at first sight.”
The 26-year-old didn’t have the financial means to pursue coding, so when a friend told him about the Future Leaders of Technology scholarship, he applied.
His lifelong dream became a reality when he was chosen as one of two recipients for the $10,000 scholarship, sponsored by Knight Foundation at Wyncode Academy, which covers tuition for a nine-week intensive coding boot camp, moving him a step closer to a new career.
Wyncode “saw my passion for coding,” Montero said. “When you take something that’s an idea in your head and develop it into something that other people can use and give you feedback on, it’s priceless.”
Montero and other participants in that boot camp pitched their final projects on the last Thursday in May. Wyncode’s Pitch Day IX at The LAB Miami featured the academy’s ninth graduating class, pitching to an audience full of friends, family and employers looking for South Florida-based junior developers.
The students “persevered through this,” Wyncode co-founder Johanna Mikkola said. “Tonight is a celebration of all the hard work and dedication they put in the last nine weeks.”
Nine groups presented their projects, which featured everything from apps about investing to apps that help you take a spontaneous vacation.
A panel of judges – Zumba Vice President of Engineering Ralph Valdes, Facebook Director of International Business Development Laura Gonzaléz-Estéfani, Equisolve Senior Engineer Stephanie Serafine and SpeedeTab founder Adam Garfield – determined the graduating classes’ winning project.
“We’ve covered lots of topics over the last couple of months,” Wyncode head instructor Ed Toro said. “We’ve empowered these students to create full-stack web-based applications, and they’ve decided to use those powers to solve problems.”
The winning project, EmojiSentiment, is an app that fine-tunes how well people understand the meaning of a topic by the emojis used, according to its website.
“This ecosystem is filled with individuals who really believe and want to build something great here,” Mikkola said. “It’s such a unique and wonderful time to be in South Florida, particularly in technology. In a lot of established markets like New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, it’s very hard to get a meeting. It’s hard to get a job; the competition is rough.”
Now Montero is looking forward to finding a full-time job as a junior web developer.
“The world has opened to me,” Montero said. “I can create whatever I want because [Wyncode] gave me the tools.”
Wyncode also named two new Future Leaders of Technology scholarship winners, Nayeli Alejandra Estevez and Philco Michel. They’ll be a part of Wyncode’s 10th cohort.
But the newly graduated class is moving on to a new journey, Mikkola said.
“They have the tools they need now to get a job with an amazing hiring partner who is willing to give them a chance,” she said. “And now they have the tools to continue learning. That is what this is all about.”