Podcast with Connor Teague, President at Quantum Futures

My guest today is Connor Teague, President at Quantum Futures, a quantum computing talent agency. Connor and I talk about the shortage in quantum talent, when should employees apply for a job, what should students do to prepare themselves for the quantum market, and much more.

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Yuval: Hello, Connor. And thanks for joining me today.

Connor: Great to be here, Yuval.

Yuval: So who are you and what do you do?

Connor: My name is Connor Teague. I’m president at Quantum Futures. We’re a specialist quantum computing talent partner, and what that means and our mission is pretty simple. It’s to help and support the quantum computing ecosystem grow and scale their talent through the acquisition of our services. So we work with VC and PE-backed startups, government-funded businesses, global enterprises, well, one, one or two at the moment, and we enable them to build and scale their quantum computing teams in their chosen timeframes. So we help resolve the talent acquisition challenges by working closely in partnership with them to determine the best way for them to reach their desired outcomes. Apart from that, with the acquisition side, we also work with them on their retention piece as well, which is because coming more and more of a challenge, especially with the competition coming through the ranks. And yeah, it’s something I’m working closely with our, with a few of our clients at the moment.

As far as my role in the business, I work closely both with our candidates and our clients, making sure we’re understanding what our client’s challenges are facing, with them searching for the right talent, why haven’t they been managed to find the right person come into the business, but also working closely with our candidates, understanding what they’re looking for next. I think a lot of the time, quantum computing businesses just focus in on their requirements rather than what the requirements are for the candidates.

And that’s where I really like to paint the picture of what the people we’re working with on a candidate side of what they’re looking for, really trying to find that out and then positioning their profile in a way to maybe prospective clients or clients we’re already working with to say, “Look, this person’s looking for this in a position. Do you have something that you could potentially open up right now or is that something in your roadmap?” Because then we’re getting a little bit more of a … not one size fits all piece, basically.

Yuval: If you read the newspapers, there seems to be a talent shortage in quantum computers. I saw a McKinsey estimation that in a few years, it’s going to be almost a two to one ratio between open positions and people who are available to fill these positions. So is it real news or fake news? What are you seeing? Is there a talent shortage?

Connor: It’s definitely real news that there is a shortage. Two to one, I guess that looks and sounds right at the moment. There’s going to be more of a demand of different functions of a quantum computing business, more demands in terms of expanding their product, expanding their marketing functions, their financial, their admins/office managers. I believe there’s going to be a trend in finding people with traditional data science background coming into it as well. So I think once businesses start to lean this way, then I think the talent shortages may decrease, but the fundamentals of trying to find individuals within the quantum mechanics algorithms, quantum hardware, I still feel there’s going to be a gap, a significant gap in the market for a while.

Yuval: I believe your company operates in multiple continents. So do you see the shortage as primarily in Europe or primarily in the US, is it focused on hardware or software or marketing? Could you give me a little bit of a sense of where you see the most acute shortage?

Connor: Yeah, we operate in North America, the UK, and in Europe. In Europe, we work across the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. Speaking to a few members of the team, it’s pretty robust that we’re all finding it tough on certain positions. As a kind of case study, seven months ago we couldn’t find the people within the quantum hardware side to it, the people who are experimenting on the devices, building devices. Huge, huge shortage, and there was a bit of a demand from our clients finding this. And I don’t think we placed one position in about three months on it. Fast forward to October, November, December time, it was our best for three months in placing people on the hardware side. We tried to work out what it was, why the increase in people looking for positions, couldn’t put a finger on it.

It was just how the market goes, just how it’s just pivoted in a way where that phase is just happened. And that also comes down to, we did a salary benchmarking guide. We found there was just a 15% decrease on salary for our hardware folk and a 15% increase on our quantum algorithms roles that we’re working on. And we did that back in, going to where the data was formed around, July, August time. Then it was released a few months after and already that data was pretty out of date. The hardware people were already catching up and their level of salary expectations, what were being met to the quantum algorithm side to it, which was good to see.

Yuval: When I look at the job postings, and we certainly have been posting our own jobs, sometimes it’s hard to find candidates that fill the entire set of requirements. So companies have turned into, well, how can we train people? And my question is, for instance on the software side, would you prefer finding a really good software engineer and teaching them about quantum computing? Or would you prefer a PhD in quantum information science or a PhD in physics and say, “We’ll teach you how to program.” Is that a real question? Is that a relevant question for companies that you’re seeing?

Connor: It is a relevant question. It comes down to how much time do you have to train this individual. Are they going into an environment where they can upskill themselves in this? And if so, great, go for the person that is a great software developer, and then teach them, put them in a group of people who have been working within the quantum computing space and learn on the job. I’m a massive believer of that. If you’ve got someone who doesn’t really understand the market and well, the kind of the technical aspect, and you’re putting them on a team where they can’t learn, can’t develop, then that’s when you start working out, is that best for that candidate? No, it’s not. Let’s find a different role for this person where they can actually start doing this.

Back to the point on when people are looking at job specifications and you’re looking at the list of requirements here, I encourage everyone that I work with to, if they can hit three of those ten bullet points, apply for that position. Because if you can already feel you can do the job already, what’s the point of doing it again? What are you going to learn there? How are you going to develop in your career if you’re already doing that job? Do not be disheartened and put off by a list of responsibilities that you feel that you can’t do. Just hit 30% of them, and then you’ll be able to learn on the job.

Yuval: Many things have changed in our world over the last two years, but obviously one of them is that more people are working remotely. And sometimes they find that that’s their calling in life. They prefer to continue working from home, even when they can go back to the offices. I’m wondering, it seems that remote working may be easier or easier for software engineers, but what are you seeing about hardware engineers that might want to continue to work remotely? Is that an option? How should companies be thinking about that?

Connor: Yeah. Great question. Remote working and of course, everything that’s happened recently, it’s a topical conversation which comes up more and more. You have your quantum computer businesses who have been born out of creating hardware devices and building the machines. They’ve set a culture and set an environment where people are expected to go into the office and into the lab. They enjoy that environment, and now these companies are looking to expand and bring their own in-house application and algorithm and software teams in house, rather than partnering with someone else.

This is where we’re going to see a culture shift, because the people they’re going to be bringing in, especially if they’re expecting them to have some experience within industry may already be used to remote working or flexible working. So are businesses going to miss out by not offering remote working? 100% yes, they will do. It’s until the leaders of these businesses and founders maybe understand that they could be hindering themselves by not offer remote working, and slightly having to change their culture to adapt to what their competitors are doing.

Yuval: When you look at the types of companies in quantum computing, as in other industries, you have big established companies like IBM or Honeywell, now Continuum, but then you have university spinoffs, a bunch of professors that says, “Well, this is really cool. We’re going to take a few of our grad students and start a company.” When you advise candidates, what do you advise them to look for? What do you advise them to prepare and conversely, should the companies be behaving differently when they try to recruit these hard to find candidates?

Connor: I do. I’ve seen where businesses have stemmed from their universities and labs. And yet they still act like an extension of that lab and they still rest on their laurels of saying, “Well, you should work for us because we have 54 years of combined experience of our professors who have founded this company. This is what we’re going to be doing.” Rather than trying to work out what the market wants, what the individual wants in a position and in a role, that’s where I really start, like I mentioned earlier, to get this painted picture from our candidates of working out what they want.

Because I relay this data back to our clients and say, “Look, I think you’re slightly missing the mark here. Our technical engineers working on these devices want some exposure to a more collaborative environment with the research scientists. Is that something that you can offer?”

“No, we’ve never really thought of that, Connor.”

“Well, this is what I’m seeing in the market. So I think this is something you need to start looking at.” That’s what I’ve been seeing and I think it’s, again, another problem to address.

Yuval: I get a good bit of college students that approach me on LinkedIn or email. They may have heard a podcast episode or read a blog or just seen me at an event. And they usually ask something like this. “I’m a third year student, whether computer science or physics. I want to get into quantum computing. What kind of courses should I be taking to best prepare me for a career in quantum computing?” And same also happens when I could speak with a marketing person or software engineer from an adjacent field, in machine in learning or something like that. What would your advice be to candidates that want to prepare themselves to be the best they can be for the quantum computing companies that you represent and that you see candidates for?

Connor: Yeah, good question. I’ve not really come across that many courses that I’ve seen benefit my candidates from takin that has given them a better opportunity going into a role. I’ve not had a client say to me, “Oh, they’ve done that course great. We really admire people doing that.” I’ve not had one person come back and say that to me. What I do recommend and some advice that I was given was from a director of quantum algorithms at a very large business. When he looks at college applications or needs to give advice to them, he wants to go to your GitHub or go to any kind of platform similar to that.

I want to see it a little bit messy, want to see a little bit bloody, wants to see your mistakes, where you’ve gone wrong, your consistency or how many times you are trying to upskill yourself in this. If you can take numerous courses, then great, you’ve done it. You’ve gone through reading the books. You’ve not really applied it to anything yet. The likes of GitHub, you can actually see just what you’re doing, where you’ve gone wrong, how you’ve tried to adapt. And that’s what they looked out for. So that’s the advice I would give on that.

With the different types of functions such as marketing coming in, LinkedIn’s a powerful tool. Get yourself speaking to people, get yourself networking. I wouldn’t say go to as many online events because again, it’s a lot of the same these days. It’s a lot of the same hype you hear. There may be a different industry they’re speaking about, but it was just trying to pick your battles, say once a month of going to these, just to trying to understand what’s going on. But just having conversations with the likes of myself, more than happy to provide what I’m seeing in industry. I know there are a lot of people out there doing the same on that front as well, and just looking to share their knowledge.

Yuval: I’ve been asking a lot about quantum computing, but now sort of catching myself, there’s certainly also quantum sensing and quantum communications and quantum security. Do you find that one field is harder than another in terms of the number of open jobs or the thirst to get qualified candidates into that? Or are they pretty much equal?

Connor: I think in so terms of the size of the market across the sensing communication and the size of the companies, I think it matches the needs to a much larger kind of quantum computing company. If they have a hundred open roles, because they have 250 employees, kind of a QKD company having 10 open roles because they have 50 employees. I think there’s a good balance at the moment. I don’t see one taking over right now. On the quantum security side to it, it’s something we’ve not really touched upon that much in terms of looking as a market. It’s something that’s on our radar, because we see that that kind of bolstering onto the quantum computing industry and it’s something that we’re going to be taking a deeper look into.

Yuval: Very good. So Connor, how can people get in touch with you to learn more about your company, open positions, advice, anything, and about your work?

Connor: Yeah, of course. So I just had to look at our Twitter handle, but yeah, people can reach me @ConnorQuantum on LinkedIn, more than happy to connect with people. It’s just Connor Teague and you see it come up as Quantum Futures, email handle is Connor@Quantum-Futures.com. More than happy to set up a call, a meeting. If anyone’s going to the Quantum Beach Conference in Miami, in the middle of February, then I’d love to set up a meeting and go for a coffee there as well.

Yuval: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for joining me today.

Connor: Thank you very much.‍

About “The Qubit Guy’s Podcast”

Hosted by The Qubit Guy (Yuval Boger, our Chief Marketing Officer), the podcast hosts thought leaders in quantum computing to discuss business and technical questions that impact the quantum computing ecosystem. Our guests provide interesting insights about quantum computer software and algorithm, quantum computer hardware, key applications for quantum computing, market studies of the quantum industry and more.

If you would like to suggest a guest for the podcast, please contact us.

Originally published at https://www.classiq.io.

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Yuval Boger (M.Sc. Physics), a.k.a. Qubit Guy, is the CMO of Classiq, provider of a software platform that helps design previously-impossible quantum circuits

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Yuval Boger

Yuval Boger

Yuval Boger (M.Sc. Physics), a.k.a. Qubit Guy, is the CMO of Classiq, provider of a software platform that helps design previously-impossible quantum circuits

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