For many interested in quantum physics, there is a tint of nostalgia about the science due to learning about it at university. This is true for Carina Kießling, who works as a Manager and Quantum Leader at Ernst & Young LLP (EY). Kießling has a background in physics, specifically quantum physics, and found her university studies continue to inspire her current work. “In 2012, I had a professor who was doing research on quantum computing,” she explained. “And he offered us the chance to go into his laboratories. Once there, he explained all about quantum technology and what it can bring us in the future. I was hooked. I started studying quantum physics. I had, of course, heard of the term quantum, but I wasn’t so aware of where we were going in the near future. Hearing my professor really inspired me and seeing that laboratory, I thought, well, it’s not so far ahead.” Since then, Kießling has worked to make sure that many people can utilize this technology that seems to be from the future.
In her early career, Kießling transitioned from government research into consulting for technology companies. She found this change to be more fulfilling and enjoyable, allowing her to work closely with individuals who were just as passionate about the technology as she was. “I thought, if not consulting where else can I learn the most about the market? In that consulting role, I can work with all the big players, and find new ones. That inspired me. So, I reached out to several consultancies and found my passion with EY.” Beginning her job at EY in 2018, Kießling emphasized her passion for quantum technology. She was one of three people that the company had designated to work on quantum technology. EY is a market leader in innovating technical solutions and advancements, so the company jumped into quantum technology quite early. As the industry grew, so did Kießling’s department, from three people to over 230. “That makes me really proud of our team for where we have come from and where we are going. And now four years later, I wouldn’t have expected that, and makes me really proud seeing that progress,” she added.
As Manager and Quantum Leader, Kießling works to grow the industry. “I mainly focus on building capabilities inside the firm and for clients in the quantum field. Because obviously, from today to tomorrow, we won’t have a bunch of quantum physicists that will help clients and also most of the firms out there. We need to create an awareness of the topic that doesn’t require years of research.” EY has similar goals, as they have recently released internal quantum education modules to their 330,000 employees. “These are really great training modules, like lessons by IBM, where they can get certified for learning quantum languages, or lectures by professors from MIT,” Kießling explained. She also works on forging alliances within the industry. As Kießling added: “EY does not have their own quantum computer, as do most of our clients. But the future is in the cloud and digital business. So, we can access quantum computers already today over the cloud. We can do that on Microsoft systems, D-Wave systems, and IBM systems and all of those firms are actually also partners of EY. So, my work looks at, for example, with IBM or Microsoft, which client can we serve together?” Because of these collaborations, Kießling feels fulfilled in being able to work closely with key players, but also make sure that her clients get exactly what they need.
As one of the women leaders within EY, and with her background in research, Kießling has experienced the lack of diversity within the industry first-hand. “When I started studying, my program had 60 men and one woman, that was me. If we don’t bring smaller children to find a passion for science, they won’t study those topics, causing problems later on. They won’t go into university, and they won’t do physics. So, we need to start young, in building awareness of technologies such as quantum computing.” But the industry is slowly getting better, thanks to many efforts to educate the next generation of the quantum workforce. According to Kießling: “What I see right now, if I go into universities, and I do that a lot because it’s really something important to me; is I see that there are not 60 men and one woman, but maybe there are five or six women sitting there. And that makes me happy because I see that something’s changing.” Kießling knows that progress can still be made, but she believes that quite a bit of it can be on an individual level, especially for those interested in quantum technology. “You have the possibility to educate yourself and also to support everyone and to start small,” she added. “It doesn’t always have to be the big steps.”