Meet Jamie Knight

Paul Boag

I would like you all to meet Jamie Knight. He is an amazing young man who emailed me a while back. He has an astounding mind and an incredible story. In the following (unedited) post he shares a little bit of it with us…

Extract from an email sent by Paul Boag to Jamie Knight:

I am sure it will be great. Just write what you know. I suggest you write about your struggles getting into web design and maybe how aspergers affects how you interact with the web.

Okay reader (or screen listener or bot etc) I do know you normally do not start a blog post with an email someone sent you when they were trying to help you out. But, in my defence I was struggling to figure out how to start this post. That sentence has it all, it tells you I am a web “guy” and it tells you I have aspergers. Now with the hard bit over on with what I am meant to be writing about!

Ever walked into an office… I am sure you have. For one thing or another. You may even work in an office. Well, that’s pretty much how I got into web design. I think you need more details.

It wasn’t just any office, it was a 1st floor office and it had h’s in circles on the window and a funny star on the door. This was the offices of Pentangle. In Thame Oxfordshire. This is where I got into the web design industry.

I think that’s a good way to describe the old pentangle office. I am trying not to mean about it. It was a fantastic little office and we all agreed that the lack of straight lines was a bonus. As it happens I own the door sign of the office now… anyway…back to the blog post

I didn’t just randomly walk through the door either: Well, actually I think I did. Randomly, unannounced without an appointment on various days of the week I would walk into the Pentangle office and go talk to people. Often this meant talking to the wonderful lady in the room next door who ran the local news website. Other times it meant talking to Alun Rowe who runs the show there. The latter was normally far more productive than the forma!

I have mentioned Alun and I have mentioned Sonja… I wish there was a way for me to talk abut how much these people have helped me in the last couple of years… especially with the social skills. And even a roof over my head at one point! Oh well…

Alun and myself (and lion hiding in his bag) use to talk about various aspects of web design. Alun picked up quite quickly that I was a bit different and I started being in the office more and more and actually arrange (Jamie, Arranging stuff never!) times to go see him. After a few weeks I was doing little projects with pentangle and helping out on small projects. Not bad for a 15 year old.

Great, lion got mentioned (my huge plushie friend) and I talked about how i started working for pentangle I also got to talk about how alun understood me form the start. I hope dropping my age in; wasn’t to subtle. I need you guys out there to know that I am not very old so I am hoping dropping my age in there will help.

This worked well. I helped Alun learn his first PHP, and he was showing me web standards and lending me books to destroy read. We also use to talk about all the social stuff. He was good at making sense out of the things which people at my school did, and I must have been useful for something. I think..

Talking about working at pentangle brings backs memories. Like getting stressed at school and going mute and hating to talk to people. MSN conversations at 8 feet anyone? Anyway, I am trying to say that I started finding my role there and I started on the course which made me the web guy I am today. This is quite funny infact. Not many people get there first job by hunting down a web company and walking into their offices weekly till they surprise you and pay you! Shame about my home life

By now I was getting use to working at Pentangle. I was building my skills and I was enjoying my job if not the rest of my life. Alun had become a great friend but his true friendship would not show till much later.

Roll on another 8 months and its 5 months after my 16th birthday I had to return to Somerset because my foster placement fell apart and there was no funding for a new one in Oxfordshire. So I returned to my native Somerset.

I have said about how well pentangle was going, how I was building my skills and how alun’s friendship was helping me. I have also written about the place where I was living falling apart. I hope people realised that this was not my fault but I am not allowed to say what happened (grumpy police).

Fast forward a few more months of constant moving, and a failed attempt at replacement in Oxfordshire I had a huge shutdown. A shutdown is when I get so stressed with my coping mechanisms that they fail and I lose skills in all areas of functioning. As with most shutdowns I lost the more recent skills related skills. Looking at code days old and not understanding it. Remembering writing it but having no recollection of what it does or how it works is the most deflating feeling in the world.

The shutdown was catastrophic. Due to the shutdown and social services placing me at a hell hole my life became extremely crap. But, I still had the support of Alun.

After a few days at the hell hole I managed to contact Alun. I told him about the shutdown, and the skill loss and he told me not to worry. In a matter of weeks I had “acquired” a web connection and started relearning. 4 months later in December when I went to Oxford for an appointment I met with Alun and he Gave me a Very Special Orange @Media bag.

This Bag was amazing. This bag was not only from Alun but from many members of the britpack. It was packed to the full with cool bits of web design related stuff. From books, to t-shirts, mouse mats to bottled water. It was Amazing. To all those out there who put something into that bad THANK YOU, That bag helped me relearn skills and to motivate myself after such dramatic life changes.

I have to admit I do not have a complete list of who donated what. But I know for sure that Jon Hicks donated the @media Bag, at least one of the books came from one of the andys (sorry I don’t remember which) and I am sure a book also came form Ian Lloyd. I wish I could convey how much that bag motivated me to get out there and do something in web design. It was like replacing a starting pistol with a sidewinder missile hitting a megaphone on a soundstage! I really better start getting on…. On this is going to be way to long!

I was at that hell hole for 3 more months until I moved to where I live now.

I am still in Taunton. But I am at a converted hotel who give me support with the things I still find hard. I was trying to raise the money to go to SAE UK in September who offered me a place on their BA course in web design and development but I was unable to raise the money to start the course so I am instead looking at doing some A levels at a local collage while earning “contributions” towards my university fund.

I really want to shout: I am looking for work with a company but no one will employ me because they do not understand me! But it think that is too blunt and people may get offended. I hope I haven’t offended anyone. But I have skills which I know are useful to web design studios just if they would look past my “disability” and actually talk with me! That’s what I am writing about next.