Despite the ever-evolving landscape of technology and design, it can seem as if diversity takes a back seat in the digital evolution. Veronica Shelton and her partner Hannah Ryu created their tech company Oak Theory as a response to their shared experience in the tech world.
“When I met my business partner, Hannah, we were both basically carving our paths in our industry,” Shelton shares with BrownStyle Magazine exclusively. “As two women of color, we were more than familiar with fitting ourselves into spaces not designed for us. And we bonded over wanting to change that.”
Recognizing this, the dynamic duo envisioned a radical shift in the industry where diversity in thought and creativity wasn’t just something to say, it was a reality.
Founded in 2020, Oak Theory was created to shift the design narrative and bring some much-needed perspective to the UX/UI web and application studio space. “While the world was in a pandemic panic, I decided to leave the country and move to Poland, but that’s a whole other story,” Shelton tells us. “Despite the challenges— Hannah in California, me in Poland— we were tenacious. The shutdown gave us room for late-night brainstorming and cross-continental calls.”
Leveraging their diverse backgrounds and their unapologetically authentic approach to design and partnership, their design studio is making waves in the tech industry. Today, Oak Theory stands as a testament to belief in the power of diverse perspectives in design. “It’s our story of breaking norms, embracing four-day work weeks, and building a remote studio that truly reflects the world’s diversity,” Shelton notes.
Read on as we discuss with co-founder Veronica Shelton the importance of paving the way for WOC in tech and how she’s encouraging more women to enter the UX/UI design field.
Creating A Path For Women Of Color In UX/UI Design
For Shelton, standing out as a woman of color in UX/UI design and development wasn’t so much about finding courage as it was about necessity.
“When the ‘norm’ doesn’t represent you or speak to your experiences, you’re left with two choices: you either blend in or blaze your trail. I chose the latter,” she tells us. “Being that we are a design studio owned and operated by women of color, Hannah and I are deeply committed to transforming the UX/UI industry.”
Oak Theory is growing at a rapid pace, leaving an indelible mark on the world from the inside out. “As women of color, our presence in this space serves as a pivotal entry point. It’s more than just opening doors—it’s about constructing new opportunities for other women of color to thrive and excel,” Shelton explains.
Building A Tech Brand That Values Diversity
One of the key challenges of building a brand is creating a team that not only shares your vision but also brings diverse perspectives to the table.
“Hannah and I talk about it all the time, but our synergy was and still is vital to the success of Oak Theory,” Shelton reveals about her business partnership. “Our different backgrounds and strengths combined, create a very powerful partnership that allows us to handle a much wider range of challenges.”
When it came to building Oak Theory, the founders were intentional about creating a team of talented individuals from different backgrounds and skill sets.
“It’s one thing to talk about inclusivity but it’s another to embed it into the very fabric of your company,” Shelton explains. “Our ultimate goal is to not only ensure women of color have a place in this industry but to also empower them to be the architects of their paths and the paths for others.”
Aligning Projects With Diversity And Values
For Shelton, being super selective about the projects that their team works on has proven to be beneficial for both morale and growth.
“It’s not just about the project scope, it’s also about the people or teams we are working with. I am very protective of my team and our clients— keeping them both accountable and responsible,” she shares.
Celebrating The Wins
While Shelton and her co-founder cherish every joyful moment of their business, the ones that really speak to her heart are their client testimonials.
“It always feels good to know we are doing a great job, and that they know we see them AND their vision. That alone gives me purpose and helps me stay committed,” the co-founder concludes with enthusiasm.
To learn more about Oak Theory, visit: oaktheory.co