Quantum Talent – Shortages and Tactics

By Brian Lenahan, Founder & Chair – Quantum Strategy Institute

      The quantum industry is experiencing the successes and growing pains faced by so many other past technologies. Momentum however remains on quantum’s side in 2021, so consider the positives. According to a 2021 IDC survey, “The number of organizations [commercial end users or CEU’s] allocating more than 17% of their annual IT budgets for this technology [quantum] are expected to rise from 7% in 2021 to an estimated 19% in 2023.” A 2021 Hyperion Research (Hyperion) survey of 415 participants (69% were CIO, CTO or innovation leads) found that 70% had some form of in-house quantum program. Industries leading the charge according to Hyperion include software, internet, computing and finance with many others following closely. Over US $1 billion was invested in quantum in the first 9 months of 2021 by venture capital companies – a tripling of the previous full year.      

      Is the situation all rosy, then, for quantum? Many argue the industry is significantly hyped, immature, under-funded and so early-stage that revenues remain hard to come by. Yet one priority to solve does not involve money or technology but people. Talent shortages are a significant barrier to quantum industry growth.

      In 2019, MIT Professor William Oliver declared “a lack of available quantum scientists and engineers may be an inhibitor of the technology’s growth”. This shortage of talent remains today two years later as the quantum industry experiences strong growth. Last month, the U.S. National Science and Technology Council’s report – The Role of International Talent in Quantum Information Science (QIS) – argued there‘s a shortage of domestic talent to satisfy QIS workforce needs and thus will need to search out foreign-born talent.

      Does a talent shortage really rank high on the list of current barriers including to implementation? A 2021 Quantum.Tech/Honeywell Quantum Solutions survey found that “a lack of talent” ranked third overall in barriers to implementation. So what type of talent are we talking about? PhD’s with decades of quantum physics, advanced mathematics and computing science experience? Is there a large set of these individuals widely available? Not so, according to Universal Quantum’s Head of Talent, Samantha Edmundson in a recent ZDNet interview. “It is incredibly small…you’re looking at a small handful of academic groups across the world that you can really pick from.

We need all the brain power we can get to address the phenomenal changes ahead.

Esperanza Cuenca Gomez, Head of Change Management at the Quantum Strategy Institute

      The Quantum Economic Development Consortium’s (QED-C) August 2021 report elaborated on which specific skills were needed for quantum. Take for example quantum superconducting hardware which may demand a physics and computing background combined with a knowledge of cryogenics. The QED-C report, however, also emphasized that many QIS industry jobs won’t necessarily require degreed applicants. Diversity of talent will be the order of the day. As Esperanza Cuenca Gomez, Head of Change Management at the Quantum Strategy Institute (QSI) says, “we need all the brain power we can get to address the phenomenal changes ahead“. Business developers on the path to quantum revenues, marketing types to share the quantum message in a common language manner, conventional computer scientists who can create seamless integration with quantum, human resource staff to fill the growing number of roles – all crucial to the achievement of quantum success.

With more investment, comes more interest, with more interest comes more competition.

Connor Teague, Quantum Futures

      Is attracting talent to quantum roles so unique to other technologies? As a participant in the artificial intelligence field, I witnessed a technology being adopted once it gained practical use case traction. Quantum theory, research, breakthroughs, and investment is moving at an even faster pace than AI once did, is a significantly more complex group of technologies, is not a straightforward transition from classical technologies, and has experienced a faster trajectory of new vendors in the last two years competing for scarce talent. Connor Teague of Quantum Futures, a UK based firm, argues “With more investment, comes more interest, with more interest comes more competition. Recruiting these individuals… it’s not a one size fits all solution. People need to realize that as the market becomes more competitive time is of the essence on moving on candidates.

      And new roles are evolving, just to keep quantum recruiters on their toes. Error Correction Scientists and Quantum Algorithm Developers are in demand as well as the more “traditional” data scientists and computer software programmers.

      In the face of these unique challenges, how can quantum talent demand be met? This question is on the minds of many in 2021. Producers (those vendors creating quantum hardware, software and services) and CEU’s alike seeking quantum talent must consider multiple options in attracting skilled individuals.  John Barnes, quantum careersmith from Entangled Positions states “There is a vast amount of brilliant enthusiastic people becoming quantum ready. It’s crucial within such a nascent sector that this diverse global ecosystem receives careful nurturing from academia, government, industry, and voluntary groups if it’s going to supply the incredible demands that are and will continue to be placed upon it.

      So how can producers and CEU’s address the demands?

Talent Shortage Tactics

We’ve segmented the tactics into 5 key areas below some of which are also represented on the above infographic as “10 Ways to Address Talent Shortages in the Quantum Field.

  1. Education
    • Educate your Human Resource staff on the differences between people who are ‘quantum aware’ versus ‘quantum experts’; both are important resources
    • Interview and train internal resources who are quantum-curious/passionate
    • Train non-technical people to a sufficient level; quantum demands multiple skills
    • Reskill conventional software programmers
    • Balance on-the-job learning with external education
  2. Network 
    • Engage in quantum internships and sponsor PhD’s prior to graduation
    • Develop LinkedIn networks adding diverse role connections
    • Establish relationships with quantum educational organizations/universities
    • Establish relationships with quantum recruiting organizations
    • Find talent from other jurisdictions and countries
    • Observe potential recruits on quantum podcasts, webinars, conferences
  3. Promote Quantum as a Career
    • Highlight new roles and career paths
    • Balance the need for quantum aware versus quantum experts
    • Identify champions within the organization
    • Find ways to describe quantum in common language and practical examples
    • Include quantum in Human Resources strategies
  4. Engage C-Suite and Other Decision Makers
    • Elevator speeches, sound bites, success stories
    • Share the value of hybrid technologies; ensure staffing is a combination of classical and quantum
  5. Play the Long Game
    • Create a quantum pipeline of talent
    • Be an organization of the world; talent has no boundaries

      The list of tangible examples is growing. IBM’s goal to educate 30 million people by 2030, and launching its first quantum developer certification program are examples of the industry filling the need for quantum education. It’s happening. Globally. Recruiting organizations like Quantum Futures, Entangled Positions, and Pace Recruiting actively engage in supporting the quantum candidate pool. The Quantum Strategy Institute offers insights into new roles like quantum engineers and quantum leaders.

      Some companies are already deep in the fight to find quantum talent. Google’s description to entice quantum candidates reads as follows: “Google Quantum AI‘s operations are based in sunny Southern California. Our quantum data center and hardware laboratory are in Santa Barbara, and our quantum computer science team is in Los Angeles. But we think and act globally. We have team members and collaborators all over the world. We are always on the lookout for creative research scientists and engineers to help us drive this field forward, wherever they happen to be.” Sound attractive?

      However, individuals are attracted to the field, they will be required in large numbers (whether 3 months or 3 years from now) as investments and research fuel the quantum excitement. Competing for talented individuals seems inevitable, so producers and CEU’s need targeted strategies to attract, retain and develop quantum talent on a sustained basis.

Check out articles on http://www.quantumstrategyinstitute.com to learn more about what companies can do to prepare rationally and in a timely manner.

Brian Lenahan is the Founder & Chair of the Quantum Strategy Institute, a global think tank whose mission is to support the acceleration of the adoption of quantum technologies. He is the author of four Amazon-published books on artificial intelligence including the Bestseller “Artificial Intelligence: Foundations for Business Leaders and Consultants”. Brian is a former executive in a Top 10 North American bank, and mentors innovative companies in the Halton and Hamilton areas. Brian’s training in quantum computers comes from CERN/University of Oviedo, and Technische Universiteit Delft, and he writes extensively on the subject. His latest book “Quantum Boost: Using Quantum Computing to Supercharge Your Business”, another Amazon bestseller, was released in May 2021.

Aquitaine Innovation Advisors: www.aquitaineinnovationadvisors.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brian-lenahan-innovation/

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