Lessons from The NEW Community Manager Handbook is a limited-run podcast series, featuring the 21 community leaders showcased in the Handbook in conversation with Anne Mbugua.
Episode 9 features Alex Blanton, Principal Community Program Manager, Office of the CTO / AI & ML Community
In the Spring of 2020, Alex Blanton was faced with the same dilemma as so many community builders: “Looks like our annual event won’t happen in person.”
Alex started planning events at Microsoft in 2010, and he has significant experience building online experiences for employees who weren’t onsite in the Redmond, WA headquarters. “When I started managing the machine learning community in 2014, about half of our membership was outside Redmond. So we did 50% of our events in person and 50% virtually.”
When challenged to move their annual Machine Learning, AI, and Data Science Conference in 2020, he realized what a different undertaking it would be. Listen in as Alex and Anne discuss ways plan and execute successful virtual and hybrid events.
Listen as Alex Blanton Shares Advice for Virtual Events
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About Alex Blanton
I am co-lead for Microsoft’s internal AI & ML Community. I create opportunities for a worldwide community of 10,000+ data scientists, machine learning engineers, architects, consultants, and other ML practitioners within the company to learn, connect, share information, and improve their practice of ML, AI, and data science.
I work across the company in collaboration with members of product groups, marketing, sales, services, and staffing and recruiting to foster and build this community.
Every 6 months we hold the Machine Learning, AI & Data Science Conference, which serves more than 3,500 attendees with dozens of talks, tutorials, self-paced labs, demos, meetups, and more. I am the primary organizer and manage a network of more than 100 volunteers and 150 presenters–as well as logistics vendor–to make the event happen.
In between the conference, I run 50-60 individual events per year, including talks, workshops, webinars, hackathons, demo sessions, Ask Me Anythings, challenges, and other community activities that create shared experiences and a shared sense of mission among ML practitioners.
I also manage a small group of subject-matter experts to provide timely on-demand advice within the community, a central knowledge base for ML information, and other efforts to help our community members build skills and stay current.
Many of our stand-out community members end up representing Microsoft publicly in first-party and third-party events and taskforces.
Every company has a mission. What’s ours? To empower every person and every organization to achieve more. We believe technology can and should be a force for good and that meaningful innovation contributes to a brighter world in the future and today. Our culture doesn’t just encourage curiosity; it embraces it. Each day we make progress together by showing up as our authentic selves. We show up with a learn-it-all mentality. We show up cheering on others, knowing their success doesn’t diminish our own. We show up every day open to learning our own biases, changing our behavior, and inviting in differences. When we show up, we achieve more together. Microsoft operates in 190 countries and is made up of more than 220,000 passionate employees worldwide.
About The NEW Community Manager Handbook
The NEW Community Manager Handbook features 21 profiles of community leaders sharing advice and ideas on everything from accessibility, hiring, strategy, gamification, defining the digital workplace, technology, and more. Each profile is paired with research from the State of Community Management reports and includes tactical advice for implementing what you’ve learned.
Learn from community management experts at Easterseals, Glencore, Microsoft, UKG, the World Bank Group, Analog Devices, Inc., AAMC, Zapier, Doctors Without Borders, and more.