Jamie Knight on autism, lion plushies and building the BBC iPlayer

We chat to the UK developer about his journey from teen homelessness to the BBC Frameworks team.

One of the 10 nominees for Young Developer of the Year in the 2014 net Awards, Jamie Knight is a web developer, accessibility speaker and mountain biker who is never seen far from his plush sidekick, Lion. Senior developer at the BBC, he headed up the release of BBC iPlayer Radio. We chatted to him to find out more...

What are your main areas of expertise?

Accessibility, JavaScript, HTML, CSS and Autism.

Give us a summary of your career so far.

I started building sites when I was nine, so about 15 years ago. I first built websites about my hobbies (mountain biking, Lego) then started building sites for others such as my school. I have Asperger's, which is a form of Autism, so I got somewhat obsessed with the world of the web and as I grew older the obsession grew. Around this time I met a bunch of amazing people, such as Alun Rowe, Richard Quick and Paul Boag. They kept me busy with projects and work.

+Lion is the accessibility startup founded by Knight

When I was 17, I was made homeless, but I continued with the web design and development. Starting my own business, Pluslion.com and eventually getting back into education part time alongside my work. I also started doing more public speaking covering web stuff and autism stuff. I started doing some work for Birmingham University doing guest lectures about Autism.

After I completed my A Levels I studied an FDA in business and management, moved out of supported living and went independent funding my independence with web design. I paired up with Alex McGibbon, a freelance designer, and together we worked on projects for charities such as Dogs Trust.

Channel 4 and Treehouse

Via metabroadcast.com I also did some work for Channel 4 (Come Dine With Me Homemade) and via + Lion did some work on the precurser to Treehouse, Think Vitamin subscription.

In 2010 I made the move to London and started at the BBC. I first worked with the Radio & Music team on iPlayer Radio, then last year moved into the platform engineering team.

What have you been working on over the last year?

My current role is on the BBC Frameworks team. The most visible thing we develop is the header and footer on every BBC page. But we also support, maintain and provide a ton of tools to help other teams create BBC products. I have code running on almost every BBC webpage.

My favourite project was developing a JavaScript Multi Variant test framework for internal use, which is being used to test different designs across the BBC website.

What have been the particular high points of your career?

I was the frontend lead for iPlayer Radio. iPlayer Radio was the first BBC product to bring together all the BBC Radio stations into a single codebase and has millions of users per week. I led on the build and architecture of the frontend, built the theming tool and wrote the carousel in use on all the radio homepages (eg bbc.co.uk/radio4, etc etc). It was quite a project and a truly amazing experience.

What are you excited about at the moment?

I'm excited about node.js and high performance computing in general. I have been hacking around with writing work stealing code in JS and teaching my DVD ripper to send me iMessages when its done.

Tell us about an important lesson you've learned in your career.

Being memorable really helps. I have Autism and I carry a giant lion plushie everywhere with me. People remember the lion and understand that I work a little differently. So I think it's really important for peple to build a reputation around who they are. Everyone has something and that something is often better than a natty logo.

Name an 'unsung hero', someone you admire who deserves more recognition for their work.

Wow, lots of people. Alun Rowe would spring first to mind, he has been working away behind the scenes in the industry for years giving a whole stream of people thier first chances! Patrick Sinclair (now at Sidekick Studios) has also been an inspiration, during my BBC career.

Finally, Anthony Kennedy was the guy who convinced me I could handle the move to London, so his input was instrumental!

Vote in the net Awards!

Celebrating the best in web design and development, the 15th net Awards is open for public voting until 24 March. With a record breaking number of nominations this year, it's set to be the biggest and best yet. Have your say by casting your votes here.