Rene: Welcome to QuBites! Your bite- sized pieces of quantum computing. My name is Rene from Valorem Reply and today we're going to talk about the quantum workforce of the future. And for this, I'm very honored to have a special expert guest today Araceli Venegas-Gomez. Hi Araceli and welcome to show. How are you today?
Araceli: Hi Rene! Thank you very much for having me today. I'm very excited about this and I'm very happy because it's sunny and warm in Glasgow.
Rene: Yeah, we also have the sun coming out here! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background as it relates to quantum computing?
Araceli: Oh, this can be a very long story, but I’ll try to make it short. So I’m actually an aerospace engineer and I was working in Germany in industry, I was working for Airbus building helicopters, can you believe it? And I did kind of this career from engineering to management, a little bit more tech management, resource management. Sounds really good and exciting but you know in my free time, what I was doing is, what everybody would do. What do you do when you have free time? Learning quantum physics. So, that's what I did.
I did a master’s in medical physics and thanks to that I started to learn about quantum. And I realized that either I had a problem, or I had to switch my career. So, I decided that maybe the second option could be well, let's see how things turnout. So, I decided that I wanted to do a PhD in Quantum Physics. It took a really long time until somebody actually gave me the opportunity to do that. But I moved from Germany to Glasgow, in Scotland, and I did a one year masters and then the PhD. And that's how I ended up into quantum and quantum technologies. And well, you know, coming from industry to academia is completely different than what most people do. And actually, I realized [there is strength in my skills], in understanding business, understanding industry and trying to bridge the gap between that and the actual research, the fundamental academia mindset. And that's how I ended up creating QURECA a couple of years ago.
Rene: That's awesome, great story actually. So, you [took] some different paths basically, to get to your quantum computing knowledge, right? And so, that's really interesting because I keep hearing there's this skills gap when it comes to quantum computing, right? What is your opinion? Are there, at the moment, too [few] skilled people for, the let's say, the second quantum computing revolution? Are there too [few] people that have the knowledge that is required?
Araceli: That's a very good question. I think we should try to understand how the existing system is being built. So, if we look at 2-3 years ago, even now, most of the science is still in the early phase. In the very early development phase of this, it’s basically research. So, the science and the fundamental research is what most companies are still focusing on. Of course, you need to develop a product, you need to develop the commercial availability of what you are creating. But the fact that you focus more on the research side, you are looking for researchers. And this is what I have [seen] happening in the last years. Now, with this development of the technology, it [becomes recognizable] that you need new skills. And what happens is these new skills are not created, have not [been] created so far. So right now, you have a lot of PhDs that have been focusing [on] something very, very specific [in quantum] but it doesn't mean that all companies will need that specific skill set. So, you have a very huge gap between what is available from the research side, from the people with different kind of experiences, and what is needed from the industry side. So yes, there is a gap but the gap- what I want to say is that the gap is changing because the skills needed are changing.
Rene: So, it's coming more from the research hubs and from the pure scientific research into like applied quantum computing, right, and making actually impact today. And that's also what we're seeing at Reply here, where we're working with clients to solve real challenges today with quantum-inspired computing in particular. And you can create real business value already, so I totally see what you're saying. It's not moving into the market and so the skill sets are also kind of changing. Of course, you still have a big need for like, let's say [the] super super small [population of] PhDs, like you right, in quantum computing and all of it. But there's also still more of a [need on the] business side of things, right? So what are, well we already touched a little bit on it, but what are some of the skills that are required [to work in quantum]? Is it purely a PhD in Physics, or what kind of expertise is required? Could it also be, I don't know, some more like engineering? Programming of course, like you know, software development. But also, on the business side of things, you know business analysts and all of that. What are some of the needed skills actually to get into quantum?
Araceli: Yeah, it varies a lot depending of course as well on the company and what they are developing. But yeah, PhDs are still needed everywhere to develop the technology, because we are in this early phase, like very early stages of the of the development. Then on [the] engineering side, there are so many engineers needed, electronics engineering, electrical engineering, software developers are another big [need]. So, it's really about having this engineering background, or even more important, engineering experience and then adding a layer of quantum if you have it. If you know what I mean. So, this is something that I see a lot of now and more and more engineers are needed. And on the business side, there a lot of companies looking for businesspeople who understand quantum. And guess what? There are not so many. Which is not surprising because well, that's how I started all this some years ago actually. And it's really about how to retrain people, either if they come from business into quantum or if they come from quantum into business. It is really like, what are the skills that they are missing on either side and trying to look for them.
Rene: That makes a lot of sense, but do we have to wait for education to catch up in universities? Or, what can companies do today to solve the skills gap right? Are there some like, let's say, learning paths or online curriculum, or some private schools? Or what's going on in that field? Do we have to rely on universities?
Araceli: I don't think we can just rely on the universe right now. And one [reason] is most of the people at universities are researchers. They have another mindset and they haven't been working in business and they cannot teach that mindset that is needed right now. And that's why there's a big gap as well between people from pure research, for pure science, trying to go in into business. Which you would say, yeah, this is normal from any kind of field, but here quantum is kind of special. And that's why we love it I guess. But what is available right now, there are more and more universities trying to push forward this kind of masters in quantum technologies. This is one solution. What I always say, right now, it doesn't mean that if you do a masters in quantum technology that you are going to have, guaranteed, a job in [the quantum] industry. Because again, it really depends [on] what are [the] skills you have and what is the experience you have?
I can give you an example of product management. This is something that I see more and more companies looking for. This is pure engineering, pure experience that probably 95% of people have been working [on] in another sector. So, these people probably will need to re-skill themselves to understand a little bit more about quantum technologies. And for that, they shouldn't go to a university. So, one [alternative] is what we're doing at QURECA, for example. We have an online platform for training, so online courses, where we try to focus on different business sectors. We have started with finance; we're going to work now on space and quantum communication. We want to kind of provide this additional layer that I was mentioning before, for people with [existing] experience and skill sets that are fixed and they want to steer into quantum technologies. And I always say if someone is looking for something very specific, I'm happy to discuss and trying to provide any guidance. Because yeah, I changed my career, so I’m happy to help others to do the same.
Rene: You're a great example of that, right? So, trying to replicate that basically for other people as well, and that's great. Where can people get started? Can you say the website again, where your services are [located]?
Araceli: Yeah, the company is QURECA. Q-U-R-E-C-A: Quantum Resources and Careers, QUERECA. The website is qureca.com. So yeah, if they find me there, they can find me anywhere, I can discuss with anyone [their] particular [situation]. I love to talk to individuals because anyone can surprise [themselves] with a fantastic career path. You never know!
Rene: Yeah, absolutely. And we will also put a link in the transcript of the video for sure, so that people can just click on it. So yeah, thank you so much for sharing all these insights. Really an interesting journey also, from your personal side of things, and how you turned that into something to help other people in the end to do similar things and basically learn and get into quantum computing. Again, thank you so much, very much appreciated.
Araceli: Thank you Rene, see ya.
Rene: And thanks everyone for joining us today for another episode of QuBites, your bite-size pieces of quantum computing. Watch our blog, follow our social media channels, to hear all about the next episodes. Take care and see you soon. Bye, bye!