First Impressions of Joining Junto

Like many people, I first heard about The Junto Institute from a friend. He works for Spikeball, a JuntoII company, and had just returned from a field trip to Nick’s Pizza and Pub in Elgin, IL. He walked into our apartment - we are also roommates - and dove right into a deeply excited, marginally coherent description of the operation that he had just explored: “Dude, I went to the craziest place today … a pizza spot … there are these ‘ops cards’ … people are signing boards … efficiency … madness.”

I asked questions, and we got to talking more about the experience. Soon I learned that something called, “The Junto Institute”, or “Junto”, was the facilitator of the unusual curriculum that Spikeball was going through.

I had heard of incubators and accelerators before, and one of my older brothers had been to business school. Junto seemed different, though. I was intrigued by this unique form of education, so I poked around the website to learn more. I liked what I read, and for a while that was it.

Then my friend passed along the job posting for “Program Coordinator”. I reached out to Catherine to learn more about the role. She was able to give me a brief list of its responsibilities with the caveat that this list was not an exhaustive one. In addition, she suggested that I come help out at JuntoNight (a graduation ceremony of sorts) for the JuntoII cohort; it would offer a powerful display of Junto’s effect.

This experience solidified my excitement for the opportunity. The event was a ton of fun, but that’s true whenever free food and drinks are on the table. It was the founders’ speeches which affirmed my confidence that this was a special company. After getting a bit more feedback from alumni, meeting with Raman and Catherine a few times, and a bit of soul-searching, I took the leap and joined the team about three weeks ago.

In these past three weeks I have come to learn more of what Junto is from what it is not. As I’ve mentioned, it is not an incubator. It is not a place where people are running around with MacBooks and ideas. Junto is not business school. There are no textbooks, and there are no teachers in the formal, lecturing sense. Instead concepts are presented within the context of personal experience. It is neither a product nor a service. It is tangible, consumable content presented with a dedicated human touch. There is a lot more to distinguish other comparable entities, but most important to me, Junto is never finished.

Working from the same table as the founders I have found no room for complacency. Conversations occasionally reflect on successes, but usually revolve around the improvement of the program. The question that’s always being asked: “How can we deliver a remarkable experience every single time we meet?” Things are changing and Junto growing.

At times it has been a disorienting orientation process. These first few weeks have seen me automating processes, writing a blog post, and ironing table cloths for the JuntoIII Opening Night.

The Opening Night party was a huge success for Junto as a whole. For me, personally, it was a great opportunity to meet a Tribe of diverse experiences and impressive achievements. It humanized the accomplished professionals whose LinkedIn profiles I had creeped through while making the Meet the Mentors slideshow for the party. It also dispelled some of my preconceptions of entrepreneurial success. I always assumed that the recipe was varying parts brilliant idea, large checks, and executive talent. From what I gathered through a few conversations at the party, though, the secret sauce seems much simpler: First you recognize an opportunity. Then you work very hard, making sure that your efforts are informed by the wisdom and experience of yourself and others.

This last bit was reassuring. From what I gathered through my first few weeks at Junto, we have been using that secret sauce heavily since the company began operating in 2013. It’s worked well so far. The future is bright. And I am looking forward to it.