Inspiration

.net Awards 2011: the top 10 young developers of the year

Another new category in the .net Awards 2011 honours the Young Developer of the Year. Here we profile the top 10 developers under 21 years of age from both sides of the Atlantic that you’ve nominated. Who knows? The next Mark Zuckerberg might be among them

Last week we profiled the Young Designers nominated in the .net Awards 2011, and now it's the turn of the under 21-year-olds who are making serious waves in the world of web development.

In this category, sponsored by Jabwebhosting.com, we honour the youngbloods whose talent has made them stand out beyond their years. Sadly, we didn't receive any nominations for female web developers this year, but surely they're out there? So, if you know any talented young female developers, please make sure you don't miss the nominations phase next year and let us know about them!

Based on your nominations, we've drawn up a list of 10 young talents between 14 and 20, and asked them to tell us a little bit more about themselves. They've also all provided a screenshot of a project they've worked on this year.

You've got until 30 September to cast your vote, which will whittle down the list to a top three. Then our industry judges will vote and the winner will be announced on 17 November.

So, here they are, in alphabetical order:

1. Alex Bor

Age: 18
Based in: Manchester, UK
Started developing websites aged: 14
Clients: Crysandrea, Brenelz, Onextrapixel, Ben Clatworthy, Will Rushworth, Oliver Cotterell, AtiKuS Design and various personal projects to keep myself occupied in my free time, though most of these don't make it to the full public view
Education: Self-taught
Areas of expertise: PHP, CodeIgniter and WordPress. Also the frontend HTML/CSS/JS/jQuery
Web idols: Tyler Diaz, Drew Wilson, Remy Sharp, Jeffrey Way, Martin Angelov from tutorialzine.com
Online: alexbor.com and @alexanderbor

.net: What have you been working on this year? What’s been your proudest moment?
AB: This year I've mainly been working to produce tutorials of my own for people when not studying for my exams. Along with that I've been helping to maintain and upgrade Crysandrea.com, a thriving avatar forum community that’s very friendly and great fun to work on.

My proudest moment was probably when we managed to raise just under $1,000 for Japan charities after their disaster by selling donated items and giving 100 per cent to the charities.

.net: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?
AB: I cannot pinpoint one piece of advice that I've been given but some of the most valuable has been from Tyler Diaz. He made it clear that if you get an idea into your head you should act fast and build on it quickly, then worry about maintenance and security once you've got the structure set up. This is great advice: follow it and you end up building multiple small side projects and don’t spend it too long on them before realising whether they'll work or not. I feel that practice is incredibly important, so it's important to remain active in development.

This is my portfolio, which was built using CodeIgniter. I built a custom CMS allowing me to add portfolio items and also edit them. It also allows me to add different post types such as guest posts. The whole site's CMS is flexible enough to allow me to add new features in the future and also use the same backend system in a new theme
2. Felix Krause

Age: 17
Based in: Berlin, Germany
Started developing websites aged: When I was 10 years old, I started to build and program Lego Mindstorms robots. Last year I qualified for the Robo Cup in Singapore. I started developing C and C# and began developing iPhone apps when I was 16. I received second place in the U19 Freestyle Computing Competition in Austria
Clients: Task manager Wunderlist is used by over 900.000 users worldwide
Education: I am a 12th grader currently attending HTL Wiener Neustadt in Austria with a focus on Business Computer Science
Areas of expertise: Objective C, Titanium, Javascript (with jQuery and AJAX), PHP, HTML, CSS, MySQL, Java, C#, Python
Web idols: Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg
Online: felixkrause.at and @krauseFX

.net: What have you been working on this year? What’s been your proudest moment?
FK: Most of the time I've been working on Wunderlist. There are apps for many different clients available: Mac, Windows, iPhone, Android and a web app, that can be used on every modern browser.

I started learning Objective C three weeks ago and because I understood the programming language, I was quickly able to join the Wunderkit iOS development team. I created two very detailed screens including many new features. I'm very proud that I learned this completely new programming language in such short amount of time. I look forward to learning more and tackling new challenges.

.net: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?
FK: "Your path can change and your dreams can constantly evolve throughout life. Make sure to stay true to yourself, stay original and commit yourself in any position you decide take on. Surround yourself with good mentors, stay positive and always continue to explore” – Christian Reber (CEO, 6Wunderkinder)

I improved the quality of Wunderlist and added many new languages. You can now share lists and tasks via Facebook, email and SMS
3. Garrett Bjerkhoel

Age: 19
Based in: Sacramento, CA
Started developing websites aged: 11
Clients: Phiten USA, SmartWool, Spyder, Gregory, Chobani Yogurt, Scion, Analog Clothing, Microsoft Bing and Ellen Degeneres
Education: Self-taught
Areas of expertise: Ruby on Rails, PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS, JavaScript
Web idols: Paul Irish, Dan Cederholm, Kyle Neath
Online: www.garrettbjerkhoel.com and @garrettb

.net: What have you been working on this year? What’s been your proudest moment?
GB: My current position as a senior developer at BKWLD allows me to wear many hats. I am counted on to simply deliver the most immersive web experience possible, while maintaining focus on smart and functional builds. I often take part in initial concept meetings serving as the developmental conscious to our incredible design team. It is these progressive designs and challenging front-end builds that have allowed me to push my development skills to new heights.

In addition to heavy front builds, my most rewarding task has been to lead the development on our new Rails-based CMS, which is used by many of our big retail clients. The proudest moment this year so far has undoubtedly been this .net Award nomination. Something that’s more unique to me, though, would be getting promoted to senior developer at the age of 19.

.net: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?
GB: "You'll learn it, don't worry." Aaron Egaas, a past co-worker, said this to me a few years ago when I first started at BKWLD and was trying to grasp the Zend Framework. I'd have to say it has resonated with me ever since. Sure, it's not the longest piece of advice I've received, but it’s something that every programmer has to keep in the back of their mind and in the end has been the most beneficial to me. It's never a perfect journey learning a new language or tool, but as long as you don't give up while learning it, you'll understand and be able to write your own code in any language you desire.

I've been working on the new Spyder website for the past few months doing all of the backend work in Ruby on Rails, an array of frontend things in JavaScript and some miscellaneous markup and styling here and there. It's been one of the biggest data-driven sites I’ve ever worked on. Using the SOLR search server on this project has been a huge help. Being able to index thousands of products in an maintainable way while still allowing the customers to be able to filter out and find exactly what they are looking for with no loss of a user experience and speed has been key to the success of the project
4. Jake Mates

Age: 14
Based in: Tiburon, CA
Started developing websites aged: 11
Clients: Teens in Tech, Berkeley School, The Shadow Gang, Eutopia Airways, HarperCollins/Scholastic authors, and other assorted people along with personal projects
Education: Self-taught. A combination of internet resources, trying things out, and one HTML For Dummies book at age 11
Areas of expertise: HTML5/CSS3, WordPress, PHP, Keynote, currently learning Ruby on Rails and Objective-C/Cocoa
Web idols: Jeremy Keith, Ethan Marcotte, and Chris Wanstrath just to name a few, but there are too many to count
Online: www.jakemates.com and @jakemates

.net: What have you been working on this year? What’s been your proudest moment?
JM: The biggest project I'm working on this year is currently underway, so I can't say much about it. It has to do with ARGs (alternate reality games) along with transmedia stories. My proudest moment in web development happened when I was finishing up an author's website. The backend was done and I had just completed the CSS. I fired up an old computer I had sitting around and lo and behold, it loaded up in IE6 without any issues.

.net: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?
JM: I haven't had the chance to meet with many other web developers in person, so the most valuable bit of advice I received was a submission to my contact form from a "John Doe". It read (in part):

"you should also fix your footer the div's showing up as text. very unprofessional, embarrassing actually lolol"

This taught me two valuable things: one, that having your footer look like a block of code on purpose is not the best of ideas. Two, that I should be logging IP addresses with contact form inquiries. In all seriousness, the best advice I have ever followed is to make sites for yourself or for fake companies as practice. I've seen many people focus too much on getting clients when they could be learning and improving at their job.

This is a site I created for a small private K-6 school in Southern California. The feedback has been great from parents, teachers and students
5. Jamie Rumbelow

Age: 16
Based in: Bath, UK
Started developing websites aged: 8
Clients: Inovat, Fabric London, Pixel and Tonic, Carsonified, Plexical, Twobelowzero
Education: GCSEs, self-taught development + business
Areas of expertise: PHP, CodeIgniter, ExpressionEngine, Ruby/Rails and CoffeeScript
Web idols: Tim Bray, Joel Spolsky, Neil Davidson, Simon Collison, Jarvis Cocker
Online: jamieonsoftware.com and @jamierumbelow

.net: What have you been working on this year? What’s been your proudest moment?
JR: 2011 has been a year of hard work, exams, new challenges and opportunities. My biggest freelance project to date, a Facebook game for the American charity Breakthrough, went live in April. Within a week of launch it was featured in TIME, Fast Company and AOL. I've also been running my own CMS add-on shop, Sparkplugs. It's given me a host of new challenges. I've had to build it from scratch, answer customer support requests and handle the general running of a business. It's all been out of my comfort zone, but equally enriching. Finally, I've accepted a senior role at VIA, a web-to-print and communications startup where I'm excited about growing their development team and underlying tech. This weekend I've been setting up my new apartment in Bath, which I'm sharing with a friend. Moving away from home is terrifying!

.net: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?
JR: I'm blessed that I've had the opportunity to network with a ton of amazing people. Ryan Carson gave me the book How To Win Friends and Influence People, which has been incredibly helpful. Neil Davidson, from Red Gate Software, once told me to 'be careful what you tweet'. That's one of the best pieces of advice I've ever had!

America2049.com is a complex Facebook puzzle game that I built the backend for, including account systems, forums, game logic and administration
6. Joe Holdcroft

Age: 19
Based in: Brighton, UK
Started developing websites aged: I started messing around with HTML/CSS when I was 12
Clients: I work at an agency called Message. Some of our clients, for whom I have worked on projects, include Rapha Racing, BT, Strutt & Parker, American Express, howies, Fresh  Britain, Pictet, Day 22, British Wool Marketing Board and Katie Price
Education: I'm self-taught (except for what I've picked up from co-workers). I started working at Message after secondary school (at 16) after doing work experience there. I didn't go to college or university and started learning web development properly at 13
Areas of expertise: LAMP development and JavaScript/CSS/HTML(5). I normally focus on backend development and JavaScript, and I'm also responsible for leading all development and running the production team at Message
Web idols: Wow, idol is a really strong word! Just a flick through my Twitter stream is enough to get me inspired most days. Every developer I follow does fantastic work. On a more personal level, Adam Ellingford taught me a great deal in my first year or so at Message; in fact I probably learned something new almost every day, and for that I am in his debt!
Online: www.joeholdcroft.com and @joeholdcroft

.net: What have you been working on this year? What’s been your proudest moment?
JH: By far the largest and most important project for me this year has been the redevelopment of Oi Polloi's website (not yet live). We're also developing them a web-based EPOS system including a till system that runs in your browser (it even prints receipts, opens the cash drawer etc). See early prototype here: message.uk.com/playing-shop-at-message.

My proudest moment so far this year was definitely getting that early prototype working. I'm leading the development of the website and EPOS project for Oi Polloi and when it goes live, that will be an even prouder moment!

.net: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?
JH: Probably from Jamie Freeman, who employed me at 16, to avoid college/university for this occupation and to go straight into work. That was certainly the best decision I have made so far in my career. In England, generally, college and university courses for web development are teaching shockingly out-of-date or inaccurate material. I want to get involved in more efforts to improve this situation, as it's something I feel very strongly about.

This is the entirely online in-browser till system for Oi Polloi. The system uses a barcode scanner, a receipt printer and a cash drawer, all of which are fully integrated. I integrated the hardware and lead the build project, developing the majority of the backend system
7. Paul Davis

Age: 20
Based in: Rochester, Kent, working in Chiswick, London
Started developing websites aged: 18 (on my birthday of all days)
Clients: Radiohead, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Timberland, Nike, Salomon, to name but a few
Education: I am self-taught, initially from Chris Coyier of css-tricks.com. I hold no qualifications in art, design of development. I didn't even do ITC at school
Areas of expertise: HTML, CSS, JavaScript. jQuery and WordPress are the only frameworks I use
Web idols: Remy Sharp, Stephen Fulljames, Jonathan Andrew, Chris Coyier, David Walsh and Jeff Star
Online: pauladamdavis.com and @pauladamdavis

.net: What have you been working on this year? What’s been your proudest moment?
PD: This year, I have had the pleasure to do some very high exposure work for Sony Ericsson, but that was only a couple of weeks’ work. By a long shot, the largest piece of work I have done is build my own web app from scratch, Kodery. My proudest moment was when people I've never met or spoke to asked for invites to the service. It left me with a smile on my face for many days knowing others shared my problem with storing code centrally and liked my solution enough to want to use it. There can be no greater feeling for a developer.

.net: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?
PD: "Learn JavaScript" – Stephen Fulljames. This pushed me to look at JavaScript from a new point of view, exploring how the language really works.

8. Peter Hamilton

Age: 19
Based in: London, UK
Started developing websites aged: 12 to 13
Clients: Croft Management Centre, JRC Imports Ltd, Longmead Community Farm, Dexplore, Ministry of Dance, The Sunnybank Trust, TPD Partnership Ltd
Education: Self-taught in web design and development including all relevant languages and tools. Just completed the first year of my computing degree at Imperial College London with a much more traditional computer science outlook
Areas of expertise: Started in PHP (Yii & Zend), MySQL/TSQL, HTML/CSS, Prototype and Photoshop. Recently moved on to trying Python (Django/Pylons) and Ruby on Rails, jQuery for JavaScript. I also know Java & C/C++. Git is my first choice for versioning (massive Github fan) but I also use SVN. Eclipse, Aptana, Netbeans, Textmate, MAMP, GitX & Cyberduck are my most common editors and tools.
Web idols: Thoughtbot build really awesome things in Ruby on Rails, contribute back to the developer community and just generally create beautiful products. Qiang Xue (initial author of the Yii Framework) started the project himself and now has a community of thousands. Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin and Larry Page have to be up there as well, simply because they all took a cool project, threw themselves into it head first, made it successful and eventually worked out how to make a profit out of it. I suppose there isn't one particular person who has inspired me the most, I draw my inspirations and solutions from all over the web in snippets here and there, all of which help me to become a better web developer in their own way.
Online: www.inspiredpixel.net and @peterejhamilton

.net: What have you been working on this year? What’s been your proudest moment?
PH: This year, I have been exploring the web development community, going to hack days, talks, presentations, tech demos and meeting up with other like-minded developers and entrepreneurs. I also develop and maintain an open source Ruby-On-Rails gem called ‘citier’, a fantastic learning experience.
The 360 management competency tool I built aged 16 is nearing 500,000 unique responses and has been used by over 15,000 users from around 50 companies which is pretty cool!
I have just recently started an internship with Next Jump, which is absolutely amazing and excitingly I recently won a Google Interactivism award. This followed an accessibility hack day event with Google, Gransnet and FutureGov and means financial support and guidance from them to develop an open source community focused project. Turning a rough idea into a real product that could benefit thousands of people is an incredible opportunity and I can’t wait to start!

.net: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?
PH: I have received tons of useful advice during my short career so far. However the advice that has stuck with me the most is this: “No matter how much hard work it feels like at the time, stick with it because it will all be worth it in the end. Besides, even if it isn’t, chances are you will accidentally learn something useful along the way”. I first remember my dad saying this to me aged about 15. It has applied to almost everything I have done in education, work and life, projects both big and small, and it is still very true today.

A design portal for JRC Imports to quickly showcase their work to clients and allow instant feedback. A very simple native drag and drop backend for management of designs and authentication by the design team, complex logic behind the front-facing web application for categorisation, presentation and UI/UX based solely on the file structure. Clients can star designs they like and request copies, then an automated email is sent to the team back at JRC
9. Simon Fletcher

Age: 19
Based in: Silicon Valley (San Francisco/San Jose) currently. Was based in Birmingham until May this year
Started developing websites aged: Roughly 11 years old
Clients: My product's (Interstate) clients include Dailybooth, Media Temple, MinoMonsters, Seesmic, Squarespace, Twitter, Vimeo, Virb and many more
Education: All of my web-related knowledge is self-taught. I finished high school at 16 and then headed straight into the web industry
Areas of expertise: PHP (I prefer my own framework but have experience with Zend Framework, CodeIgniter, Kohana, Yii and others), HTML, CSS, Javascript (+ nodejs), MongoDB, MySQL, OS X/Linux (UNIX)
Web idols: Top three are probably Paul Graham, Kevin Rose and Jack Dorsey
Online: www.bakedcode.com and @simonify

.net: What have you been working on this year? What’s been your proudest moment?
SF: This year I've been focusing on my startup, BakedCode. We've been working hard at BakedCode this year building our first product called Interstate, which is a project management app that provides businesses and developers alike with a way to plan and share their development progress. My proudest moment so far this year was when BakedCode was accepted into the Summer 2011 cycle of Y Combinator.

.net: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?
SF: My favourite and best piece of startup advice is "Build something people want" by Paul Graham. It's such a simple piece of advice but surprisingly hard to execute well.

Interstate is the first product from my startup, BakedCode which I co-founded with my friend, Greg Cooper. At BakedCode I am responsible for developing the backend of our applications which generally involves working with PHP, MongoDB and Javascript (+ nodejs)
10. Zachary Collins

Age: 16
Based in: Holland, MI, USA
Started developing websites aged: 14
Clients: I've done a lot more personal, entrepreneur-like developments, such as selling Twtbase.com and Yazzem.com and being featured on Techcrunch, Mashable, TV, front-page newspaper, etc. However, I've done some freelance work for others, but nothing too special
Education: Self-taught
Areas of expertise: PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Photoshop, building websites from blank text documents
Web idols: Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Brian Wong
Online: www.zacktheweb.com and @zacharycollins

.net: What have you been working on this year? What’s been your proudest moment?
ZC: I've been working on a project called Five, which is a social review website. Think of Yelp, but for products. Currently in private beta and inviting the first few hundred people, it's already been a great experience.

.net: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career so far?
ZC: Dream big, otherwise only your small dreams will come true. Also my favourite quote coming from a friend of mine: "If you already have haters, it means you're doing something epic." - Hunter Owens. One great example is Twitter.

I designed and developed the entire site by myself. Users are able to post 1-5 star reviews of products, comment/like reviews, follow others, connect Twitter/Facebook, and I also created a notification system. Lots more to come

So, we hope we've made your decision a bit easier and you now know who to vote for. Remember, you have until 30 September to cast your vote at www.thenetawards.com and the three finalists will be announced on 12 October.

Also, if there's anybody you think definitely should have received a nomination this year, let us know in the comments!

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