Oakland Web Designers Nonprofit Gives Up-and-coming Creators a Jump Start

shaun tai


OAKLAND — A man in the East Bay finds that few women or people of color are getting jobs in one of the fastest growing areas of tech. So he decided to do something about it.

Sean Tai has taught thousands of students in dozens of schools that their creativity can change the world.

“I was wondering how I could use all my passion and energy to help the community,” he said.

How he got started begins with his mother and the small business she ran for 40 years.

“Growing up, my mother is an immigrant single mother. I spent most of my college years helping my mother in her family’s furniture store in downtown Oakland,” Tai said.

In the late 1990s, long before she became popular, the Oakland native created a website to sell her designs online.

“And I thought, ‘What if I could take an inexperienced student and help people like my mother?'” Tai said.

Tai co-founded Bridgegood in 2009. Tai and his team teach young people how to code what they see and experience while using technology.

This Oakland-based nonprofit offers three months of free apprenticeships, expert guidance, and work connections—the real-world skills of designing for social good.

“They can use them to make products that actually benefit people,” says Tai.

Some products are born from Tai’s design challenge “Inspire Oakland”. A piece by Dominic Taylor showing the city’s sights was featured on Billboard, leading to other big projects.

Today, Oakland A’s Taylor’s art encourages reading and writing. His design for his 49ers highlights that history.

“It showed me that the sky is the limit, and I can continue to do this and inspire my kids,” Taylor said.

The 31-year-old says Tai has opened up opportunities he never imagined.

“He is like a mentor. First and foremost, he made me believe in myself more.

Apprentice Tori Spiegel feels confident that she can demonstrate the marketable core skills she learned in designing sites that users can navigate seamlessly.

“It gives me hope because it reassures me that I can build my own future,” Spiegel said.

Her future looks promising. Of her more than 800 graduates at Bridgegood, more than 90 percent have found employment within her first year, she says. And it makes him proud.

“It’s not about Sean, it’s ‘Did you improve the community around you?’ ‘Did you help when they needed help?’ ‘ said Tai.

Major funders including, Adobe, Twitter, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and MC Hammer are on board.

For Tai, the nonprofit’s past 13 years are just the beginning. His goal is that by 2030 he will train over 40,000 designers.

So, this week’s Bay Area Jefferson Award goes to Shaun Tai for providing Bridgegood’s free training and instruction in design technology to underrepresented youth.


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