John Paul Farmer

Director of Technology & Civic Innovation

John Paul Farmer
Meet John
John Paul Farmer believes in the combined power of technology and cross-sector collaboration to drive positive change throughout society. As the Director of Microsoft’s Technology & Civic Innovation team in New York City, John leads hands-on engagement with governments, non-profits, for-profits, academic institutions, startups, and civic hackers so that they can do more good together than they could apart. Previously, John served as the Senior Advisor for Innovation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he spearheaded the President’s innovation agenda. Under President Barack Obama, he co-founded and led the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which attracts top innovators and entrepreneurs from the private sector for focused tours of duty in government, in order to make game-changing progress on projects of national importance. He also served in the Administration as Senior Advisor for Healthcare Reform, working on healthcare information technology such as Blue Button, delivery system reform and economic analyses. Previously, John worked in the investment industry for Credit Suisse and Lehman Brothers, where he built a new business unit from the ground up. He played professional baseball as a shortstop in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves minor league systems, compiling a .344 career batting average. John holds an MBA with honors from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University and an AB with honors from Harvard University. He grew up in Pittsburgh before moving to Manhattan over a decade ago.

Trees Count! Count Yourself In


What kind of data lives in cities? Beyond government, census, and financials, you’d be surprised to find that data lives in every corner. In fact, data can truly live: in our “concrete jungle,” we have a number of plantlife that tells its own story. New York’s trees are important — not just for our livelihood, but for our history. That’s why New York’s tree data is so important. In the past 20 years — in 1995, 2005, and 2015 — NYC has conducted three composite inventories of our city’s trees, improving NYC Park’s ability to manage our urban forest. With 20 years of data, we have plenty to explore and to experiment with. And we want you to join us.

On Saturday, June 4th, NYC Parks and BetaNYC will unveil NYC’s latest urban forest dataset, the most spatially accurate map of New York City’s street trees ever created. Join NYC Parks, TreesCount! partners, and tree care volunteers to learn about the urban forest and its impact on our daily lives.

We’re looking for the city’s civic technologist, data specialists, design experts, and other passionate New Yorkers to help translate our tree data into actionable insights.

Join us now: RSVP here

Staff Spotlight: Ally Wharton

AwhartonName: Ally Wharton

Hometown: Hermon, Maine

Job: Sr. Operations Specialist

Years at Microsoft: 2

Favorite Local Restaurant: How does one answer this if they live in NYC!? If I must, a favorite in my neighborhood is AG Kitchen

Last thing you searched on Bing: JetBlue flash sale

Something cool you’ve worked on recently: We’re in the midst of our recruiting season, I love learning about the diverse candidates and chatting with them about their unique experiences.

What inspires you about technology? I find it exciting and inspiring that one day technology will be within the reach of every human being, in every country. My hope is that this will provide equal opportunities for citizens around the globe.

What is one problem you’d like to see technology solve?  Grocery shopping! I would love for technology to be able to complete all aspects of grocery shopping for me – order based on my preferences, select items to make meals throughout the week and even pick out a new beer or wine I might like. Of course, this would also include delivery.

Microsoft and Boot Campaign Host Pushup Event for Long-Term, High-paying jobs for our Veterans

Today, as part of National Military Appreciation Month, Microsoft hosted Pushups For Charity at the Microsoft Flagship Store in New York City.

The challenge featured some hard core fitness gurus, including: Staff Sergeant (Ret.) Johnny “Joey” Jones, Boot Campaign COO; J.W. Cortes, Marine veteran and actor on FOX TV’s “Gotham”; Steve Weatherford, Super Bowl Champion, 10-year NFL player; Chris Ryan, top fitness model and trainer on NBC’s “STRONG,” and our own Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) graduate Jose Cruz. They will competed face-to-face to determine who can do the most pushups in 90 seconds.

Thank you to Wes Anderson, VP of U.S. Services, for hosting the LIVE event. The final 90-second challenge can be found on the Microsoft Military Affairs Facebook page.

Celebrating Tech Jobs Academy

Tech Jobs Academy

This week, 23 incredible New Yorkers and their families gathered at Civic Hall to celebrate an accomplishment that would have been impossible just months ago. But, like most overnight successes, this one was actually years in the making.  

Here is how it came about.

In 2014, I joined Microsoft to launch our Technology & Civic Innovation team in New York City, working with the community to identify and address opportunities to use technology for public good.  Later that year, our team began brainstorming with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Tech Talent Pipeline on how the company might best work to spread tech skills and opportunity more broadly.  Ideas started to take shape, particularly the importance of being responsive to the hiring demands of companies in the tech ecosystem and working backwards to bring precisely those skills to people in need.

In 2015, President Obama announced the TechHire Initiative to create pathways to quality, well-paying tech jobs nationwide.  In the associated White House announcement, the Tech Jobs Academy concept was identified as a model.  Later that year, 282 New Yorkers applied to participate in the first-ever cohort of Tech Jobs Academy.  

Finally, in 2016, Microsoft, the Mayor’s Tech Talent Pipeline, and the New York City College of Technology (commonly known as City Tech) delivered the intensive 16 week pilot program, empowering people with in-demand, life-changing tech skills.  Over the past handful of months, participants – none of whom had 4-year college degrees, but all of whom had ability – studied cloud and server administration and supplemented those technical skills with career development and interpersonal training.  The technical learning model for Tech Jobs Academy was adapted from one developed by Microsoft to help transitioning service members and veterans compete for jobs in the technology sector. The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy operates on three military bases and is projected to expand to nine regions servicing 14 bases across the U.S. in the coming year.  In addition, Microsoft has worked with the State of Washington and the U.S. Department of Labor to develop a workforce development apprenticeship model that can be replicated other states.  The latter program, the Registered Apprenticeship Program, aims to build a larger homegrown talent pool by training those currently underrepresented in the tech sector.  It seemed clear to us that Tech Jobs Academy fit in perfectly with Microsoft’s expressed interest in developing innovative upskilling models to spread tech skills more broadly.

After nearly two years of work behind the scenes, dozens of people directly involved, and having identified, trained, and supported the nearly two dozen graduates, last night was a celebration of success.  We were especially honored to have three keynote speakers, each representing one of the partners behind Tech Jobs Academy.  

From Microsoft, Corporate Vice President Dan’l Lewin described the history of the microprocessor and the dawn of the computing age, putting the current day’s changes in the context of prior revolutions in how work gets done.

From the City of New York, Chief Technology Officer Minerva Tantoco provided an overview of praiseworthy work happening in New York City to empower New Yorkers with tech skills.  She wrapped her remarks by reminding the graduates that each now had a “superpower” as well as a duty to use it.

From City Tech, President Russell Hotzler described the important work that City Tech does in educating thousands of New Yorkers every year.  He also noted the sense of community and the role that families played in making such accomplishments possible.

Following the keynotes and providing perhaps the most emotional moments of the evening were three speakers from the cohort itself – John Spruill, Carl Boisson, and Makini Osson – who delivered remarks that were thoughtful, heartfelt, and inspiring.  To cap off the celebration the graduates filed onstage to receive, one-by-one, their certificates of completion.

One of the most striking aspects of the program was that those involved – from the graduates to the organizations to the staff – felt such strong bonds with one another and collaborated so effectively.  In just a few months, these strangers came together to individually and collectively accomplish what most would have thought improbable if not impossible: becoming Microsoft-certified IT professionals with clear job prospects and the potential to provide themselves and their families with substantially better lives.

An undertaking like Tech Jobs Academy is no easy feat to carry off.  It took great teamwork from people within Microsoft as well as across the Mayor’s Tech Talent Pipeline and City Tech.  It took dedicated, passionate people eager to gain new skills…with families and friends supporting them along the way.

And like nearly every overnight success, it was years in the making.

Microsoft celebrates National Small Business Week with programs and deals for local businesses

Small business is the heart of the U.S. economy: The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year. Microsoft is celebrating National Small Business Week May 1-7 with events, panel discussions, videos, and in-store offers at Microsoft Stores designed to help small businesses grow and succeed. Get daily updates at the Microsoft Sway page for National Small Business Week.

Boosting IT security for small businesses

On Monday morning, the United States Institute of Peace hosted a panel discussion focused on the importance of cybersecurity for small businesses, which are becoming a key target for cybercriminals seeking to access financial and personal data. Attackers assume that small businesses have limited resources for IT security; experts from Microsoft, ADP and ESET joined SBA Deputy Administrator Doug Kramer to offer solutions and resources that will help small businesses fight back. You can watch a replay of the discussion and follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DreamSmallBiz.

Office Small Business Academy Live Expert Q&A

On Thursday, May 5, at 7 p.m. EDT, the Office Small Business Academy webcast series is hosting a live event, “Small Businesses, Big Ideas,” from the flagship Microsoft Store in New York. Featured speakers Carol Roth, Ramon Ray and Rieva Lesonsky will field entrepreneurs’ questions about building and growing a small business, from managing employees to connecting with customers. As a bonus, attendees will be eligible to get two months free with an annual Office 365 Business Premium plan.

Special offers for small businesses at the Microsoft Store

Microsoft Stores are designed to support the needs of small businesses with products and solutions, events, support and training. For National Small Business Week, we’re presenting programs to help entrepreneurs achieve more and offering discounts to help you get the most out of your investments. Check out the store nearest you for special workshops and offers.

Get Inside the Game with Playcrafting this May


Something is in the water in New York. No, it’s not alligators, or that secret ingredient that makes bagels taste so darn good. It’s technology. Every year, we’re seeing more and more bright minds coming into the city ready to learn tech skills and put them to good use. And Playcrafting is thrilled to be part of that.

Our organization likes to wear many hats. While we support local game developers and host events where gamers can play to their hearts content, we also make sure that the next generation of game developers stays in New York. Our standalone classes and 8-week courses are designed to make sure that anyone who wants to create their own game can.

Here’s what we have in store to kick off the summer — join us, won’t you?

May 4

100 games. 700 players. 1 night. And pizza! Our Spring Playcrafting expo takes place this Wednesday with more games than ever.

May 16

Dive into the realm of virtual reality. Microsoft is sponsoring a class on gaming with Unity’s VR tech, taught by Adina Shanholtz. Microsoft is the flagship global sponsor of Playcrafting, hosting events and education in NYC, SF & Boston as well as our annual Global Game Jam site!

May 25

See what the next generation of developers are creating! We’re hosting games created by students from local colleges and university at our PC Demo & Play Night.


Our 8-week courses kick off this June. Want to learn more? Join our info session on June 1 to get the full scoop.

And there’s so much more. Follow us on Twitter @PlaycraftingNYC or subscribe to our newsletter here to stay up-to-date on all our Playcrafting happenings.

Towards a taxonomy of civic technology


What is civic technology?

It’s a question we’re asked often. As Microsoft’s team behind Technology and Civic Engagement, there’s no one “real” answer. We take care of a broad spectrum of civic issues — from education to employment to government and more — and we want to make sure that the term “civic tech” becomes part of the public lexicon.

This week, Matt Stempeck, Director of Civic Technology, is in Barcelona at TICTeC to help spread the word of civic tech and explain what it is exactly that we do. With peers from around the globe, this team is tackling issues with civic tech, defining it, and putting it to good use.

Read more about civic tech — and Matt’s work in Barcelona — at Microsoft on the Issues.

Recap — Machine Eatable with Warren Reed

Last week, we continued our monthly Machine Eatable series with DataKind, a lunchtime talk that focuses on central issues and growth in the tech community. This month, we were honored to host Warren Reed, Data Scientist at the Office of Financial Research, DataKind volunteer, and team member of the Dangerous Speech Project, who discussed his inspiring path into the data science field and the fascinating way he’s used machine learning to help counter harmful speech online.

Here are some of the top tweets from last week’s event:


Microsoft announces teacher-inspired updates for Windows, Office, ‘Minecraft’

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At Microsoft, we’re all in on education!

Our company mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. In education, it’s to empower every student. Today, we’re proud to share the latest on what’s coming to New York for Back-to-School 2016/2017.

Introducing Microsoft Classroom and Microsoft Forms, OneNote Class Notebook now with Learning Management System (LMS) integration, new experiences for Windows 10 and the dawn of “Minecraft: Education Edition” – Get ready!

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First, we are announcing all new education features coming in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, features specifically inspired by teachers and focused on students.   

Faster, easier set-up:

Shared devices in the classroom are the norm – in the U.S., nearly 90 percent of schools report using shared devices. We also know that nearly 50 percent of teachers serve as their own tech support in their classroom. Until now, setting these devices up has been complex and getting students productive often takes too long.  

With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update we are introducing a ”Set Up School PCs” app that allows teachers to set up a device themselves in a simple three-step process in minutes. We’ve also made significant performance improvements for affordable devices. We expect the average first login to take 26 seconds, with subsequent logins of 6 seconds when the student uses that machine again.   

Secure assessments:

Testing is going digital — teachers consistently tell us they want a simple way to set up quizzes or standardized tests digitally. The Windows 10 Anniversary Update brings a new ‘Take a Test’ app – simple and more secure standardized testing for the whole classroom or the whole school, where teachers or IT can lock down the testing environment, or enable simple quizzing.

Education-ready Windows Store:

Nearly 60 percent of teachers purchase and load apps themselves. With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the Windows Store will enable teachers to access thousands of apps, and schools can purchase and deploy them in bulk.

Free upgrade and affordable devices:

More and more, educators are asking us about affordable devices. We have a great portfolio of affordable, durable and innovative Windows 10 devices starting at $199, designed for the demands of education.  

So you can see, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update brings a huge range of education-specific features that teachers and students are going to love. Learn even more about these new updates, and more, over on the Windows blog!

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Second, we are announcing some big improvements to Office 365 Education. 

Today we are announcing Microsoft Classroom a new experience in Office 365 Education. Microsoft Classroom is designed to be the one place students and teachers come to manage their day from Class Notebooks, assignments and grades to conversations, calendars and to announcements!

We’re piloting this with Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska. Let me just share with you what they had to say . . .

“It simplifies our digital classroom management and frees up our teachers so they can spend more time with students and less time managing administrative access to class materials.” Rob Dickson, Executive Director, Information Management Services of Omaha Public Schools.

A key piece of Microsoft Classroom is OneNote, a tool currently used in classrooms around the world to provide students with an immersive and inclusive learning experience. Visit here to learn how OneNote is transforming a special education classroom at Holly Springs Elementary School in Georgia.

Today we are also announcing Microsoft School Data Sync (SDS) – a powerful complement for Microsoft Classroom. SDS connects Microsoft Classroom to a School Information System (SIS), so teacher, student and classes information is automatically populated in Microsoft Classroom and OneNote Class Notebooks. School Data Sync will be included in Office 365 Education.  Think of it as a super simple process that quickly provisions a set of classes and rosters from many School Information Systems already used.

Also being announced: Microsoft Forms – a simple way to quickly assess student progress and get feedback with easy-to-create surveys and quizzes. It’s in public preview starting today for Office 365 Education here.

OneNote Class Notebooks are the heart of our education experience and they just keep getting better and better. We have seen incredible momentum – with millions of student notebooks created just this school year – and currently running over 10,000 a day!

To hear one educator describe it: “It’s your whole classroom (lesson plans, materials, assignments and student work) in a digital binder with tools for communication and collaboration!” 

We’re also announcing Class Notebook assignment and grading integration is now available with more than 25 Learning Management System partners – including leaders like Canvas, Edmodo, Schoology, Brightspace and Moodle. Learn more here.

We’re really excited about all of these improvements for Office 365 Education coming for the new school year! Learn more about all of the updates to Office happening for education – check out the Office blog here.

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Finally, we’ve got some great news about “Minecraft: Education Edition! June begins an early access program of “Minecraft: Education Edition.” It will be available for any educator to download and try for free on Windows 10 and OS X El Capitan.    

This program is a great way for educators and administrators who are interested in “Minecraft: Education Edition” to give it a test run in the summer months and give us more feedback and suggestions.  

If you are new to “Minecraft” in the classroom, check out for resources to help prepare, including lesson plans and a new “Minecraft” mentors program to connect with amazing teachers already using “Minecraft.”

What’s the next step? Upgrade your devices to Windows 10 or OS X El Capitan, and sign up for an Office 365 Education account.

To learn more about “Minecraft: Education Edition” and the upcoming early access program, check out our blog.

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The culture at Microsoft is customer-obsessed and we’ve been hard at work listening to teachers and students. We hope you love what’s coming this summer and we look forward to your continued feedback and hearing about the amazing things happening in your classroom. Let me know what you think on Twitter – @microsoft_edu @tony_prophet #MSFTEDU.

DigiGirlz Make What’s Next in NYC

DigiGirlz on Minecraft

On Friday, April 8, hundreds of STEM-leading students headed to Microsoft’s Times Square office for a DigiGirlz day. This program highlights diversity, empowerment, and more in tech, bringing girls (and boys!) together for a day filled with programming, tech skills training, and exciting demos.

We started off the day with an inspiring video from our International Women’s Day Campaign #MAKEWHATSNEXT GIRLSDOSCIENCE.  The video’s goal is to inspire young women around the globe to get interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math), and Computer Science in particular, as a path for advancing their education and as a way to empower them to achieve more.

Here are some of our favorite tweets from the day: