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.net Awards 2013: top 10 brilliant newcomers

In the second of a series of articles profiling the nominees for this year's .net Awards, we delve into the minds of 10 web pros who've made a splash over the last 12 months

Yesterday, we took a closer look at the nominees for the young designer category in this year's .net Awards, which honours those who have excelled in their craft before reaching the age of 25. But not every newcomer to the web industry chose it as their first career, so we came up with this award to recognise rising stars of all ages.

Starting in January, we asked you to tell us which web folk have impressed you with their outstanding achievements over the last year. And you did, in your droves. We then whittled down a long list of great people to the top 10 you see below. We know you'll struggle to pick just one person to receive your vote, but when you do, head over here to make your selection.

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Josh Long

Online: joshlong.me, @joshlong
Job: Editor at Treehouse, author of Execute & Jenius, co-founder Execute Ventures
Based in: Wilmington, NC
Got into the web aged: 28
Areas of Expertise: Writing, web design, business design, UI design

.net: How did you get into web stuff?
JL: I was a business designer for 12 years, which means I helped large companies redesign how they operated and marketed themselves. This always led to some sort of innovation in web or interface design, so I learned how to design for the web and immediately put it into practice.

.net: What have you been working on recently?
JL: I'm currently redesigning the Treehouse blog and company-wide marketing strategy, building apps and a new publication with Execute Ventures, and working on two new books (one of which is for Five Simple Steps). I also co-host the Happy Monday Podcast with Sarah Parmenter, and have one or two speaking engagements planned each month for the rest of this year. I've got some really big announcements coming in the next few months too.

.net: What are your proudest achievements of the last year or so?
JL: I started working at Treehouse and the traffic to the blog has more than doubled in the last few months. We're growing like crazy and we have the best mission behind us. I finished two books in the last three months and they're doing better than I ever imagined. I've also been able to donate all of the proceeds from one of them to The Great Discontent Charity Water campaign. I'm also very proud of what Drew Wilson and I have built with Execute Ventures. What started out as a simple book, has turned into a company that will make a huge impact in the lives of those working on the web and beyond. Hosting Happy Monday with Sarah Parmenter has also been a proud achievement of mine. I've had so much fun learning about other people on the web and making great new friends.

Dan Eden

Online: daneden.me, @_dte
Job: Student/designer
Based in: Nottingham/Manchester
Got into the web aged: 18
Areas of expertise: Design, CSS, HTML

.net: How did you get into web stuff?
DE: The same way we all do; I fell into it. The company my Mum worked for needed a website, and I foolishly agreed to build them one, having never even heard of HTML. I grabbed a copy of Frontpage (shudder), Googled “How to make a website”, and continued from there. At the end of the project, I found myself thinking, "Hey, this was something I really enjoyed, and there seems to be good money in it too!”, and over the years my work with the web grew from a part time hobby to the thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

.net: What have you been working on recently?
DE: Recently, my time has been taken up with my final year of study at Nottingham Trent University, but I’ve still managed to find time to work on projects such as Onword. I’ve also been using the last 12 months as an opportunity to really learn about the origins of design and traditional design teachings and methods. I should soon be able to put all that knowledge to great use!

.net: What are your proudest achievements of the last year or so?
DE: By far my proudest moment would be attending the Webshaped 2012 conference in Helsinki as a speaker. It was my first speaking gig, and while I was absolutely terrified the whole time, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it seemed the audience enjoyed it as well.

Josh Emerson

Online: joshemerson.co.uk, @joshje
Job: Frontend developer at Clearleft
Based in: Brighton
Got into the web aged: 20
Areas of expertise: Responsive design

.net: How did you get into web stuff?
JE: As a kid I was amazed at how easy it was to make a website. Of course, there's a lot of complexity to making websites, but a basic "Hello World" site is nothing more than those words in a text file with an extension of "html". This low barrier to entry inspired me to start hacking around with personal sites and later client work. I enjoy making sites just as much today as I did when I was a 10 years old.

.net: What have you been working recently?
JE: I developed the Wellcome Library website, a responsive site for a science charity. I developed a technique called Responsive Enhance for dealing with responsive images on this site.

I also worked on the new Clearleft site, which uses icon fonts to make sure the website looks great on high DPI display devices.

.net: What are your proudest achievements of the last year or so?
JE: Speaking at Responsive Day Out was an incredible experience. This was my first time speaking on a stage and I feel a great sense of accomplishment. I look forward to doing more public speaking in the future. I'll be speaking at Front End London at the end of the month.

Brendan Falkowski

Online: brendanfalkowski.com, @Falkowski
Job: Web strategy and design consulting
Based in: Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States
Got into the web aged: 16
Areas of expertise: Responsive design for ecommerce, frontend development, user experience, Magento platform

.net: How did you get into web stuff?
BF: As a young teenager, I spent hundreds of hours in blissful tedium merging photos with just the pencil tool in Microsoft Paint. My Mom thought programming would appeal to me, and my high school had exceptional computer science classes even by today's standards. I soaked them up and arranged to do independent study — mainly for fun. While in university I worked for Fortune 500 companies because I thought tech leadership roles were prestigious and that mattered, but it lacked heart. It took me a few years to understand that working on the web was better than a job before I dived back in.

.net: What have you been working recently?
BF: In November, I went to Finland for four weeks to help Angry Birds rebuild its ecommerce site using responsive design and run a two-day responsive workshop for its tech, design and UX teams. We've been working together remotely since then. It's really exciting having both the ideas and resources to experiment and create the best product. I've also been contributing to a new Magento developer certification track, and writing two presentations for the Imagine Ecommerce conference coming up in April. In the wee hours, I'm grinding away on some new products and services.

.net: What are your proudest achievements of the last year or so?
BF: I did my first speaking gig last year about responsive design for ecommerce. The approach was barely on the radar before that, and hadn't been proven. The industry was pushing mobile-specific sites and native apps. I was five months deep executing this for Skinny Ties and had to continually rebuild trust that we were doing the right thing. They're a small family-owned company and risked a lot on this strategy.

The Skinny Ties relaunch was a roaring success and vindicating. Its revenue increased by 42 per cent and stayed up, as did every other metric. It showed responsive design was a viable and extremely profitable option beyond news sites. The response was overwhelming and opened up doors for me, but it really transformed my client's business. That's what I remember most about the project.

Mat Marquis

Online: @wilto
Job: Developer at Filament Group.
Based in: Boston, MA
Got into the web aged: 25
Areas of expertise: CSS voodoo, and I’ve been known to write a little JavaScript from time to time

.net: How did you get into web stuff?
MM: I kinda stumbled into this gig after quitting a dead-end retail job and spending a few months aimlessly hitchhiking around the east coast.

.net: What have you been working on recently?
MM: Client work, more often than not. I’m looking forward to stepping up my jQuery Mobile contributions back up to normal once some of the dust settles.

.net: What are your proudest achievements of the last year or so?
MM: I’m tremendously proud of the work we’ve done in the Responsive Images Community Group, getting the Use Cases and Requirements document and the picture extension specification to First Public Working Draft a few months back. I’m still in awe of the fact that I’m allowed to post on A List Apart (as though I know what I’m talking about or something) and I don’t mind saying that I’m proud just to be able to keep up with the rest of the crew at Filament Group, on my best days.

Laura Kalbag

Online: laurakalbag.com, @laurakalbag
Job: Designer
Based in: Surrey
Got into the web aged: As a casual user, 15. As a designer, around 18
Areas of expertise: Web design, frontend development, illustration and icons

.net: How did you get into web stuff?
LK: I've been into art and drawing for as long as I can remember, and from an early age I wanted to be a graphic designer. As I started studying graphic design in further education, I discovered web design. I loved the freedom that the web afforded designers and users alike. I also fell in love with the sharing community that went out of its way to help newcomers. For the last eight years or so, I've stayed infatuated with the web.

.net: What have you been working recently?
LK: I'm always juggling two or three projects at a time. I've recently finished working on the Hotels.com Hotels Price Index mini site with 33 Digital. They'd designed a beautiful print document and I was tasked with turning it into the first web version of the document, and making it responsive. This was full of unique challenges, such as making it still has that print-quality feel, ensuring the graphs and infographics are still easy to digest on smaller viewports, and all while being under a tight deadline. We had to be realistic about what we could achieve.

I've also been running a mentoring project with three fantastic students. It's really made me examine the way I work, trying to understand why I use particular processes and tools, because, as a freelancer, I rarely have to justify these decisions in depth to other people.

.net: What are your proudest achievements of the last year or so?
LK: The highlight of my year so far has been speaking at Responsive Day Out in Brighton. It was also probably the most terrifying as there were people there who taught me the first things I learnt about web development, as well as many other people I love and respect.

Angelina Fabbro

Online: @angelinamagnum
Job: Technical lead/software engineer at Steamclock Software
Based in: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Got into the web aged: 8. I made my first website when I was about 10 on Angelfire. It extolled the virtues of my favourite animal at the time: the dolphin
Areas of expertise: Full stack web development with an emphasis on front end implementation, user experience design and programmer education

.net: How did you get into web stuff?
AF: The internet was the place I felt the most comfortable spending time as I was growing up, and so I thought I should build myself a place to hang my hat. The idea of a building a website to a very young Angelina was like building my own home. I did just that and I've stuck around ever since.

.net: What have you been working on recently?
AF: I just spent five weeks working for a Fortune 500 company building a PhoneGap proof-of-concept app to explore the technology and see if it was a good fit for them to invest in on a large project. It was five weeks of glorious JavaScript and gave me the opportunity to finally work with Backbone.js.

Just before that, I was working with on an iOS app in Objective C (working on native once in a while provides an important paradigm contrast that I think all web developers should experience at some point) where I had to figure out how to build a toy traceroute implementation without access to raw sockets, in order to generate a visual traceroute for a 3D map of the internet.

.net: What are your proudest achievements of the last year or so?

  • FH: I've spoken at JSConf EU, CascadiaJS, Copenhagen JS, and Firefox OS Hack days about emerging web technologies like Shadow DOM and web components, teaching and encouraging developers toward new application design patterns. I'm slated to speak at JSConf US in May, as well as a few other conferences that haven't released the speaker lists yet.
  • My talk from JSConf EU has helped a lot of developers learn about Shadow DOM - it's been the most popular talk from the conference on YouTube.
  • I convinced the company I work for to open source some of our code. Now we're going to open source more of it!
  • I organised the Vancouver chapter of the International Space Apps Challenge to great success.
  • I volunteered to help run The Polyglot (Un)Conference. This year I am helping organise the tutorial sessions leading up to the conference.
  • I've been teaching JavaScript, HTML and CSS for Ladies Learning Code and mentoring for pretty much every other event that I can make it to. I'm teaching for Simon Fraser University's Continuing Studies program in April.
  • I became the co-organiser of VanJS, the Vancouver JavaScript meetup.
  • I was invited to write for the Pastry Box Project, you can catch my thoughts each month near the end of the month.
  • I had my first technical article published on the web with .net on frontend encapsulation.
  • I learned how to be a better listener.

... and, of course, I was nominated for this award. Thank you, I'm very grateful for your support to have made it this far.

Jack Franklin

Online: jackfranklin.co.uk, @Jack_Franklin
Job: Software engineer, Kainos
Based in: London
Got into the web aged: 14
Areas of expertise: JavaScript, in particular jQuery, although I do a lot of work with libraries like Backbone, and a lot of Ruby too

.net: How did you get into web stuff?
JF: The football club I played for when I was 14 needed a website - and my dad volunteered! I then learned HTML & CSS with him and from then got into PHP before really getting stuck into JavaScript. It shortly became apparent that was what I enjoyed the most.

.net: What have you been working on recently?
JF: I'm forever fighting the battle for fresh content on my blog, JavaScript Playground. This is a blog I launched back in April 2012 and has been going strong ever since. I've a lot of articles in the backlog that just need polishing before I can get them out there. My side project for 2013 is Upfront Podcast, a weekly web development podcast with myself, co-host Ben Howdle and also a guest. So far we've recorded nine episodes, and have yet to miss a Friday release day. The feedback has been fantastic too. I've also been running workshops with Event Handler and have so far run one workshop on command line tools, with more to follow in the coming months, specifically looking at various Node.js-related things.

.net: What are your proudest achievements of the last year or so?
JF: Back in July 2012, I was approached to write a book, and back in February that book, Beginning jQuery, was published! It's a book for those who have never done JavaScript or jQuery, but written in my own style, which a lot of people seem to like on my blog articles. I wanted it to flow like a series of articles and I hope it does. I also made an attempt to cover vanilla JavaScript alongside jQuery a little, to give people more knowledge of the underlying language on which jQuery is built. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done and it did lead to a few late nights of writing and giving up some weekends, but it was certainly worth it.

Ethan Resnick

Online: www.ethanresnick.com, @studip101
Job: Freelance designer and developer, student at NYU. Most recently working for the Huffington Post
Based in: New York
Got into the web aged: 14
Areas of expertise: UX design, content strategy, frontend programming

.net: How did you get into web stuff?
ER: I started tinkering with HTML/CSS because of my general interest in computers. But as my skills improved, working with the web quickly became fun for more than just the technology, it offered a way for me to bring my project ideas to life, and there was nothing more rewarding than watching as something I'd imagined grow in front of me. I was hooked. After that, it just became about making the best site possible.

.net: What have you been working recently?
ER: School, mostly; I'm studying design at NYU. But I'm also leading a design workshop series to help others get into UX. Other than that, this year has been mainly about wrapping up old loose ends and organising my thoughts. In that vein, I just launched a preliminary redesign of my site, where I'm playing with some new ideas for implementing responsive layouts, and I'm trying to do more writing.

.net: What are your proudest achievements of the last year or so?
ER: I'm very proud of the work I did for the Huffington Post, under the supervision of the talented Robert Gorell. We redesigned the interface that 30,000 HP bloggers use to submit their articles. The new interface, which should be launching soon, is much faster and more pleasant for the bloggers, and it encourages them to write better posts. It should also save the Huffington Post editors and tech support team from repetitious work by preempting common blogger questions/concerns/confusion through improved microcopy and UI design.

Tiago Pedras

Online: tiagopedras.com, @tiagopedras
Job: Web designer/teacher
Based in: Porto, Portugal
Got into the web aged: 16
Areas of expertise: Interface design, frontend development, backend development, startup advisor/mentor

.net: How did you get into web stuff?
TP: The first time I got to see the web working, it felt like magic to me. I must've been 14 or something. And I'm not sure what my motivations where but when a couple of years later my dad got me my first modem, I started exploring the few websites I knew. And I just had to find out how it worked. I remember using Frontpage with the nifty side-by-side design and code view that allowed me to understand what a tag was and what it meant. From then I started exploring Flash 4 and after a while, CSS came along and changed the way I used to work. It wasn't until later that I created my first website under the alias 'artikboy' (which I'm not particularly proud of these days).

.net: What have you been working recently?
TP: I've been working on several client projects at the same time. I can't disclose some of them but we've been handling those kind of projects that truly deserve a 'before/after' kind of analysis. And that makes me really proud. One of them (stil a work-in-progress) is Feel At Home In Lisbon.

.net: What are your proudest achievements of the last year or so?
TP: The moments that made me proudest happened earlier this year in January. First I got to see my postgraduate students present their work to the world, packing three very well executed web apps that might really become a thing (that is if they finish developing the last bells and whistles in a near future).

The second was my premiere at a big conference, New Adventures. It was an enormous pleasure to have meet Simon Collinson last year and you can imagine what an honour it was for being invited to the latest edition of such a beloved conference on our area. It also felt like a moment of enlightenment to have had such great feedback as a way of validating everything I've been working on so far when it comes to education.

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