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Employee Spotlight: Colby Fayock on His Path to DevX and His Passion for Helping Developers Succeed

Recently, I sat down with our director of developer experience, Colby Fayock, to learn more about his background, his impressive work here at Cloudinary, and what he thinks about generative AI. From customizing MySpace pages as a teen, to careers in graphic design and web development, there’s seemingly nothing Colby can’t do. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background and what led you to Cloudinary?

Hey, I’m Colby Fayock. I’m the director of developer experience engineering at Cloudinary.

My web career started off in high school where I picked up some basic HTML and CSS customizing MySpace profiles (you read that right) as well as building websites for gaming teams. As my interest grew, I learned more about how to structure pages and add some interactivity with jQuery.

I actually went to school for graphic design, but while I was in school, I became more and more interested in web development and kept teaching myself how to code.

After a part-time e-marketing and full-time design job, I found my first full-time web development job at an event ticketing company where eventually I moved on to other roles like working on large e-commerce websites like ThinkGeek and other projects like satellite/remote sensing dashboards.

Through all of this, I became interested in not only how I could impact people with my work directly, but teaching others to have the same impact as a developer, so I started to write and give talks about my work. This led to me getting my first role in developer relations.

Later I found a home in Cloudinary, which initially impressed me while working at ThinkGeek, and now I can help devs around the world build performant, engaging experiences on the web.

Can you share more about some of the work or projects you’re most excited about?

My work largely revolves around helping developers of all kinds accomplish their goals. That includes the entire life cycle of learning about Cloudinary and web development tools, how to get started using them, and ways they can become more productive with them.

I’m more focused on the code-oriented angles, so I’m mostly heads down working on community-supported SDKs like Next Cloudinary, creating content, adding code examples, and building real-world applications that not only showcase how to use Cloudinary in a full project, but also how we can then use that application to solve people’s problems.

While that’s the majority of my work, I also try to pitch in where I can help other members of the team figure out ecosystem tools, run hackathons, and help to support the developer community through various online channels (Twitter) as well as giving talks and workshops at events.

Can you tell us more about the Image Carbon calculator you created and what inspired you to do so?

Speaking of real-world applications, one of them I built is Image Carbon, which is a website scraping tool that will show your carbon footprint based on the images your page loads.
It works by first trying to find all of the images on the page, both from the initial HTML as well as any images loaded with JavaScript, using Cloudinary to both create an optimized version as well as analyze the image itself, then feeding those details into the Green Foundation’s co2.js to determine the impact.

A lot of web performance tools focus on pure performance and optimizing for it, which is really important for those websites to deliver a better user experience, but my colleague Eric Portis once mentioned a statistic along the lines of “99.88% of images aren’t being sent in the optimal format!” with that data being correlated from the HTTP Archive’s 2022 Web Almanac, and it got me thinking about what can we do to raise awareness and allow people to really show the impact of their website?

And Image Carbon was born.

What has your experience been to date with generative AI tools? How are they making your day-to-day easier and where do you expect they’ll continue to make the most impact?

I think the current iteration of AI tools is pretty hit or miss. I don’t think adding chatbots to every website is the future of AI, which is a lot of what we’ve been seeing in the ecosystem. While I think there’s a place for conversational AI and helping here and there, that’s not it.

What gets me more excited are the tools that help integrate into both technical and non-technical workflows behind the scenes, such as a copywriting application that might spark ideas or provide suggestions, rather than something that writes the copy for you or that you ask questions to. A lot of tools lean on this “write for me” model, which tends to be pretty obviously AI-generated, which isn’t a great reading experience and not so great a look for the “writer.”

GitHub’s Copilot has given me some of this sense. People have overwhelmingly found it helps to have code completions in their IDE. While I personally don’t enjoy the IDE integration, I’ve found their Copilot CLIpretty compelling as someone who needs to be productive in a terminal, but can’t always remember what commands to run.

Not just saying this as an employee, but the AI work that Cloudinary is doing is also really interesting, where we already know manual tools exist for AI-related tasks like image generation, but now you can do it scale with a simple URL parameter that integrates directly into the workflow you’re already using and familiar with. Additionally, the integrated analysis and features like caption generation can give us more intelligent insights into our images and videos as well as help more people experience the web through alternative text.

Fun fact time! Favorite city/country traveled thus far and/or your favorite book?

I’ve been lucky enough to travel with my family around the world, but so far, my absolute favorite is Thailand.

We had the opportunity to explore areas like Krabi which was just absolutely beautiful as well as Chiang Mai, where not only did we have access to some incredible food, we visited an elephant rescue park, which is at the top of my list for life experiences!

It’s the one place we’re probably more excited to visit than any new place, but given how long of a trip it is, time will tell when we’ll get to go back.

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