Meet Our Team
Toronto’s tech scene has exploded over the past four years. But as it’s grown, so have issues of gender and wage inequality. In early 2016, colleagues Abdella Ali, Avery Francis, and Emily Porta came together to talk about how their combined experience working in, and recruiting for tech companies might help improve the experience for Toronto tech workers at large.
They identified two issues: women, non-binary and agender people were disproportionately not given the same compensation or opportunities as more “traditionally” trained male tech workers, while good companies continued to have difficulty finding qualified candidates from these groups to join their teams.
Partnering with Rangle.io, the trio believed they could create a single program to solve both sides of this problem: build a free education program taught by experts that gives these candidates the right skills the industry was looking for.
The need for this type of program — and especially one that removes the financial burden associated with so many other types of upskilling — has only grown. What started as a passion project has become a federally-incorporated not-for-profit (2018) that now offers three distinct programming streams.
Since 2018, Bridge School has evolved into a transformative educational model that addresses both sides of the tech industry problem by providing free educational courses to equity-seeking tech workers, while working hard to provide a safe and supportive community for them to thrive in the industry.
Thanks to the support of its sponsors, Bridge School has built a highly relevant curriculum across three product streams: software development, product design, and most recently, back-end development. They now work closely with some of Toronto’s most progressive companies to build, recruit, and train diverse employees, while giving them the technical skills they need to succeed.
The impact of Bridge School is wide-reaching. In 2019, the organization celebrated 100 graduates, and increased the number of cohorts able to run from one to six per year. Since its founding in 2016, Bridge has run 17 total cohorts, run almost entirely by hundreds of volunteers.
2019 was a major milestone for the organization, as Bridge was awarded a four-year capacity-building grant from the Canadian government. This long term funding, provided by the Department of Women and Gender Equity, has allowed Bridge to meet the challenge of scaling a sustainable organization to meet the rising needs of the industry, while continuing to diversify its offering, and invest in its own growth.
Bridge’s growth has only solidified further since announcing OCAD U CO as its new headquarters. Together, the organizations share studio space, resources, and ideas to further direct impact and inclusion in tech. This permanent space signifies that it’s no longer enough to address only short-term or immediate problems in tech.
As Bridge School continues to work to create lasting change for all women, agender and non-binary workers in tech, the leadership team is committed to solving harder problems. While continuing to provide our highest quality design and development programming to date, Bridge has expanded its mission and vision to lead the way in building a new tech culture in Toronto.
Bridge will double efforts to help the non-binary, Black, and Indigenous communities, work to increase awareness of ethical issues in tech, and work with companies to improve their hiring processes and their company culture. This includes bringing together community leaders, top-tier professional developers and designers, and the most forward-thinking hiring managers and executive leadership to build a future where tech is for everyone.
Bridge School is made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of our incredible volunteers. From mentors, instructors, event organizers, and more -- they are the heart of this community.
Are you interested in volunteering? Please fill out this form and we'll contact you as soon as we have something that fits your interests.