According to the The Quantum Insider, investment in the quantum industry has skyrocketed from about $17 million (U.S.) to about $3 billion today. This exponential growth in the quantum industry is creating an immediate need for a motivated and skilled workforce.
Talent more associated with the field, such as physicists and engineers, is obviously in demand, however the quantum industry presents many opportunities for candidates with non-traditional backgrounds as well.
TQI decided to take a deep dive into a day–in–the–life at ColdQuanta, a quantum computing and technology company. We interviewed their staff members to give our readers, especially career-seeking readers, a sense of what makes working in the quantum industry — and ColdQuanta, specifically — different from other careers and companies.
While benefits that attract workers to companies in general — competitive pay, plenty of flexibility, etc. — are also part of ColdQuanta’s package, a key differentiator is the company’s intangible benefits. These include a deep sense of mission, a willingness to break out of organizational silos, and the creation of a culture that embraces trying new things, even when it leads to mistakes. These benefits are often rare in other industries.
There’s also a celebratory shot of Scotch for failures that is totally unlike anything we’ve come across in corporate benefits packages. But we’ll get to that shot in a minute.
Founded in 2007, ColdQuanta is a pioneering quantum computing and technology company based in Boulder, Colorado. ColdQuanta employs about 130 people tasked with building out the industry’s ecosystem which includes the company’s extensive product line, ranging from atomic clocks and quantum sensors — to quantum computing, which includes its own quantum computer, Hilbert, along with quantum computing-as-a-service technology.
Two ColdQuanta team members, Ian Bloomfield and Marie Grubb, spoke to us about their impressions of working in the quantum industry and at ColdQuanta.
Marie Grubb, who has been at the company for six years, is a technical support specialist for ColdQuanta. She says that the company culture is different because there is a willingness to embrace skills that might rest outside of the traditional ones in science and technology.
For example, Grubb is a cake decorator, a skill not always championed in STEM. ColdQuanta recognized that this skill translated easily to soldering incredibly precise electronic components, she said. Grubb sees this type of recognition of the importance of nontraditional skills and arts across the enterprise.
“The company looks past your resume to see deeper into
what you can achieve and how that can help move the company forward,” said Grubb. “It’s cool to see how different people’s interests and skills translate into the quantum community.”
ColdQuanta also encourages personalized coaching that helps translate those talents into quantum skills, Grubb added.
“I’ve been fortunate to work closely with ColdQuanta co-founder Dr. Dana Anderson,” said Grubb. “Dana provided me with one–on–one personalized training on surface mount soldering, and the company has continued to mentor me as I advanced my skillset.”
Big companies tend to minimize a worker’s entrepreneurial drive in favor of reflexive execution. At ColdQuanta, employees are encouraged to embrace risk and follow their entrepreneurial instincts.
Ian Bloomfield, Opto-Mechanical Engineer at ColdQuanta, said this entrepreneurial embrace lured him into the company.
“It was the right time in my career to be part of something that’s really exciting and, frankly, brand new. We’re doing things that just haven’t been done before,” said Bloomfield.
Unlike other companies, ColdQuanta takes a spirit of embracing uncertainty and accepting the need to make mistakes a step further. There is no failure at ColdQuanta; there are only learning experiences. This is something that ColdQuanta celebrates — sometimes with a celebratory shot of expensive Scotch.
According to Grubb, for those who imbibe and who make a mistake, colleagues offer them a shot of top-notch Scotch that the company keeps on hand to celebrate these learning experiences.
She explains, “When I started there, the shot was reserved for epic failures and it was almost like getting into a club.”
Grubb added there’s a method to this madness. It represents an understanding that people make mistakes when they try new things and that those mistakes are well-earned stepping stones on the pathway to practical quantum computing. She said this is an absolutely vital cultural trait of a company exploring the complex, somewhat contrarian world of quantum science.
“I love how we embrace that we had a failure. Now we get a chance to learn from that experience and move forward to make something better and bigger and more amazing. I love that about ColdQuanta.”
Passion for Quantum
The ColdQuanta staff also suggested that passion — and, specifically, a passion for quantum science — is an all-important driver of culture.
“Everyone at ColdQuanta is highly passionate about what we do,” said Bloomfield. “There are a lot of people here who would say quantum is their life’s work. They’re here because they want to work on quantum. It’s not just the job, they really do believe in this work, and are deeply interested in the technical challenges that they see day to day.”
They are also passionate about the good that quantum computing can unlock for science and society.
“The benefits of quantum computing are something that we consistently discuss,” said Grubb. “We talk about future uses and what we are going to do with quantum computers. For example, quantum computing will enable the modeling of drugs. From a personal perspective, I have multiple sclerosis, and the potential to use quantum to find a cure for diseases like mine is astronomical and very exciting.”
Nurturing The Quantum Workforce
With exponential growth, intense investment activity and elevated interest in universities and research institutions, quantum computing and quantum technology companies will undoubtedly attract some of the world’s smartest, best trained recruits. But, as ColdQuanta shows, the key to growing and maintaining a talented workforce will require a combination of tangible benefits – salary, healthcare, etc. — and intangible ones – the feeling of community, the understanding of being part of something bigger, the acknowledgement of inclusion and diversity, etc.
Companies that thrive in the quantum space will be companies that move from merely hiring workers to recruiting and nurturing partners in what may create solutions that usher in the next wave of technological innovation and lead to breakthroughs in both medical and scientific fields.