If you have ever taken any training modules or learned something new by going through the official documentation, the material you used was probably written or co-authored by one or many contributors. These individuals often are volunteers who offer their time and expertiseto cover knowledge gaps in our portfolio or to keep the existing content current.
In this series, we’ll be interviewing repeat contributors to the Microsoft Learn platform to get to know them better and to learn what motivates them to keep contributing.
Today, we're thrilled to introduce you to Brandon Cowen, a Senior Cloud Solution Architect (CSA) at Microsoft, who brings a wealth of experience and expertise to his role. As an AI Specialized CSA (formerly AI Rangers), Brandon has a deep understanding of natural language processing (NLP), making him a valuable asset to the team.
Brandon's diverse career background is impressive, having worked in various industries and roles. He started in supersonic flight research, where he contributed to cutting-edge projects that challenged the limits of aerodynamics. His experience in this field honed his ability to approach problems with a rigorous, data-driven mindset, a skill that he has applied throughout his career.
Transitioning to industry, Brandon worked as a data scientist at Gartner, a leading market research firm. He gained valuable insights and developed new data-driven approaches to solving complex problems there. He then served in the data and analytics innovation lab at Deloitte, where he developed machine learning models that provided solutions for intricate business challenges.
Brandon Cowen has been nominated for a spotlight interview by the Azure Architecture Center content team for his leadership of the AI group responsible for maintaining and reviewing the platform's AI content. His efforts in reviewing and validating new AI content have contributed to the platform's success as a reliable source of information for those seeking knowledge in AI.
Brandon Cowen - Senior Cloud Solution Architect at Microsoft
Meet Brandon Cowen
Sherry: Hi, Brandon. Thanks for joining us today. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your expertise and experience.
Brandon: Hi, Sherry. Thanks for having me. I’m a Senior Cloud Solution Architect at Microsoft. My work primarily involves helping customers architect and pilot their Natural Language Processing (NLP) pipelines. In addition to that, I lead the AI/ML Architecture Review Board, am the DRI lead for Tech Feedback in North America for Azure Machine Learning, and I'm also a member of the OpenAI v-team for field tech enablement.
Sherry: That's quite an impressive list of responsibilities. Can you tell us more about your role as the leader of the AI Architecture Review Board?
Brandon: Sure, the AI Architecture Review Board is responsible for reviewing and approving AI-related content that's published on the Azure Architecture Center. We also ensure that the content adheres to industry best practices and Microsoft's internal guidelines. As the leader of this team, I work closely with my colleagues to maintain the quality and accuracy of the AI content on the platform.
Sherry: That's really important work. You mentioned that you're also a member of the OpenAI v-team for field tech enablement. What does that involve?
Brandon: Yes, I'm part of a team that works with our OpenAI Commercialization Team to enable Microsoft field engineers and technical specialists to better support customers using OpenAI technologies. We collaborate with our Commercialization Team to develop training materials and resources that can help our teams understand and deploy these technologies effectively, as well as lead more technically-focused, global training seminars.
Sherry: Very interesting. I also noticed that you were the lead for Azure Machine Learning Features (TFT) for North America and a North American Manufacturing OU Corp Buddy. Can you tell us more about those roles?
Brandon:As the Directly Responsible Individual (DRI) lead for Azure Machine Learning Features, I was responsible for tracking and helping prioritize customer requests for new features and capabilities within the Azure Machine Learning platform. It was a challenging role, but it allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the needs and priorities of our customers.
As a North American Manufacturing OU Corp Buddy, I work closely with our colleagues in the manufacturing industry to provide technical support and guidance. It's a rewarding role that allows me to use my expertise to help our customers succeed, as well as learn a ton about how are Manufacturing customers are using our AI/ML products in the industry. Plus, the CSU North American Manufacturing BU has quite a few talented AI focused CSAs to learn from!
Sherry: It sounds like you have a lot of valuable experience and expertise. Thanks for sharing that with us, Brandon. Speaking of your contributions, you're recognized as one of the top contributors in the AI/ML documentation repository. What inspired you to start contributing, and what motivates you to keep going?
Brandon: Thank you, Sherry. Although my focus is primarily in NLP, being a part of the AI Architecture Review Board has provided me with an excellent opportunity to learn and grow in the AI/ML space. It has allowed me to broaden my horizons beyond my area of expertise when I first joined Microsoft and provided a safe environment for learning about capabilities across different industries and use cases.
Being a member and leader of the AI ARB team has allowed me to contribute in multiple ways. I have authored and contributed to several articles and architectures, which has allowed me to showcase my skills and expertise, while also broadening my network for collaborating with others in the organization who may need help with NLP and LLMs.
Being part of a thought-leading team has also allowed me to ensure best practices and insights are shared across the organization. This has improved my personal delivery, allowing me to make better-informed decisions and accelerate development and delivery. Finally, being a top contributor has also helped me to hone my personal expertise, which has allowed me to grow as a contributor to my core team.
I can say it's been a rewarding experience that has inspired me to keep contributing and learning while I continue to grow in my career at Microsoft.
And keep an eye out for more publications to come, specifically in the Azure OpenAI space. I have several draft architectures covering LLMs, LangChain, content moderation, chain-of-thought prompting, external memory management across multiple LLMs, and more! ; )
Sherry: That's great to hear. What advice would you give to those who are interested in contributing to open-source content but are unsure of where to start?
Brandon: My advice would be to start bychoosing an area that you're passionate about and jump right in. There are plenty of templates, resources and the contributor guide available to help you get started. And, more importantly, there are plenty of community members who are willing and eager to help.
Remember, everyone is there to learn and grow together!
Sherry: Thanks for sharing your insights on contributing to open-source content. On a different note, could you tell us about your hobbies or interests outside of work?
Brandon: Sure! Living in Washington DC, I love taking advantage of all the free events, from visiting one of the 19 museums (the well known are on the National Mall, but there’s many more spread throughout the city!) to attending lectures hosted by non-profit, and governmental organizations alike. It's a great way to stay engaged with the community and continue learning outside of work. I'm also an avid NBA fan and enjoy playing basketball in my free time. Plus, I am a bit of a foodie, and DC has much to offer there. Oh, and traveling. So far this year I’ve been able to make it to Bogota, Colombia, Thailand, and The Maldives!
Sherry: Thank you so much, Brandon, for taking the time to speak with us today. It's clear that you are passionate about your work and dedicated to helping others learn and grow in the field. Thank you again for sharing your experiences and advice with us.