Quantum technology is a hot topic in the world of science. Companies across the globe are investing in research into quantum computers and other quantum technologies. Many people think the field is too complex or unwelcoming because they do not know what skills they need to venture into quantum technology. Here we summarise what Aggie Branczyk has learned after many years of successful research in the quantum field. Understand What Quantum Skills are needed in today’s marketplace.
Knowledge of quantum physics and computer science is essential to work in a quantum tech startup. You’ll be working with superconducting circuits and lasers, and you need to understand how they work and what they do. But you need more skills to excel.
Aggie Branczyk, a senior Research Scientist at IBM, spoke with 23 people working for 20 different quantum computing companies. The responses could be helpful for folks looking to make a career switch to quantum technology or work in a quantum tech startup.
Quantum Domain Expertise
Domain expertise means a deep understanding of a particular subject and applying your knowledge to new situations. In quantum tech, you need expertise in any of the following areas:
- Quantum error correction
- Fault tolerance
- Quantum algorithms.
- Quantum computer architectures
- Superconducting circuits, Quantum optics, and Ion traps
- Foundational mathematics, e.g., Real/complex analysis, Linear algebra, Statistics, Calculus
- Lab skills
- Machine learning
- Quantum-inspired algorithms
- Financial algorithms
- High-performance computing
A startup founder said, “General certification and experience with D-Wave and IBM Q or other gate computers. Rigetti or Xanadu (would be interesting). Probably one year of exposure and certification is enough. Experience with Qiskit is a massive plus.”
Quantum Programming Skills
If you’re a programmer interested in learning more about quantum computing, brush up on some basic concepts and become excellent at them. From research, most quantum tech firms hire people conversant in the following languages:
Experience with git, GitHub, virtual environments/docker, and software development experience is desirable.
Quantum Communication Skills
Quantum technology has terms peculiar to it, and you must understand them and be able to relate them with others visually, verbally, and in codes. Note that your audience may not always be quantum experts. You should be able to adjust your speech based on the audience; this way, you’ll break boundaries across departments and most likely contribute to an organization’s success.
Communication is crucial for teamwork, especially when working in a startup. As you get to know your co-workers and interact with them regularly, you’ll find that speaking to them becomes less challenging.
Collaboration for Quantum Skills
Collaboration is a critical skill in the workplace today. It’s not just about working together in a physical location; it’s about working together to achieve a common goal.
“Maybe the most important issue is the ability to fit well with the team. For me, that means that they would, on the one hand, get along with others but, on the other hand, be sufficiently different to allow for diversity of opinions and approaches. I like people who can fight for minority opinions and remain friendly.”
Organization And Time Management Skills
Managing your time and organizing your tasks are essential skills in any job. There’s no “work-life balance” at a startup, and everyone is expected to put in long hours and make sacrifices on behalf of the company. That includes weekends and holidays. You’ll need to manage stress, work well under pressure and prioritize your tasks effectively so that nothing falls through the cracks.
Ability To Turn Ideas Into Products
Tech companies are always building products. If you’re working in such a firm, it means being able to write code or design a product.
One CEO noted, “The ability to quickly turn ideas into good-quality code is something of an asset across theory, experiment and software teams. This helps check ideas quickly, work well together and push projects out of the door.”
The Ability To Keep Learning
Many graduates get stuck in life because they stop learning and growing. If you want to apply for a job in a deep tech sector like quantum, you must be ready to learn a new domain with a deep mathematical core.
Most people are great at solving problems in theory but aren’t good at solving practical problems. Problem-solving involves identifying the problem, coming up with solutions, and implementing those solutions. Your ability to offer solutions to societal problems as software or hardware will set you apart in the workplace.
In a startup, everyone’s directly involved in the company’s growth. The goal is to help the company succeed, and you should be able to take responsibility and lead teams.
“There is always the one person who has to be able to tie a lot of these disciplines together and ensure they can translate between disciplines, understand each area’s needs and keep projects moving.” This role “is the hardest to define, but there is no progress without it. It’s like the catalyst.”
Personality traits like integrity, honesty, and confidence can help you succeed at work. So if you’re looking for a new job or want to make the most of your current situation, it’s time to take a closer look at yourself and how you interact with others.
“If your team can teach/learn without ego, then you are going places. In my experience, PhDs are terrible at this — the system makes them this way — very protective of ideas, big ego, need ‘loving'”
A good leader doesn’t try and do everything themselves but instead assigns tasks to other people who have been chosen for their ability to get things done.
About Aggie Branczyk
Aggie is a scientist who specializes in quantum technology. She is an IBM senior Research Scientist who leads a team that creates software prototypes to bring IBM Quantum’s cutting-edge research into the hands of people as soon as feasible. Aggie writes on careers in the quantum sector is worth following if you want to understand everything from how to get started to how to advance your skills and career in the quantum space! Aggie’s no slouch when it comes to research and she focuses on quantum optics, which she applies mainly to quantum information, biology, and relativity. So you’re getting real experience from a leader in quantum field.