Finding and Nurturing Talent in the Quantum Era: An Interview with Herman Collins, CEO of StrategicQC

In a recent interview with Quantum Xchange, Herman Collins, CEO of StrategicQC, shared his insight into job opportunities in the quantum industry. Collins brings more than 25 years of recruitment, talent acquisition, and HR leadership to this quantum-focused recruitment firm assembled in mid-2019 and launching this month. StrategicQC provides responsive recruiting and custom talent strategies to organizations needing scientists, researchers, senior engineers, and executive leadership. For dedicated professionals who want to be part of the emerging quantum ecosystem, Collins and his team offer a career path to maximize potential through impactful projects and timely advice.

With connections across the board in quantum, Collins works directly with industry leaders, universities and government agencies to recruit scientists, researchers, senior engineers, and executives that help these initiatives grow. Here’s what else he had to say:

What skill sets are needed for a job in the quantum field? What are the main prerequisites most jobs in the quantum job market have if any?

Collins:  Generally some strength in or exposure to physics math, computer science, quantum mechanics and linear algebra is quite helpful. Programming skills can be very useful, in Python for example.

Also consider, while lab environments have great appeal to those with an aptitude for the sciences, quantum is also attractive to people with varied skills — business development, marketing, product management, finance, legal, etc. — prospects excited to bring their skills to this burgeoning industry and market. All have a rapidly expanding value in Quantum-focused businesses.

What are the best degrees to develop someone in this field?

Collins: During our research, we found that overall 58% of jobs in the field strongly request an advanced degree in either  Physics, Math, Computer Science, Engineering or a related field. 43% of the jobs require a very strong preference for a Ph.D. and 15% require a Masters.*.

Quantum computing has been a bit of a blend that melds together several fields of study and different combinations can make a person even more sought after. For example, combining a quantum skill set with experience in machine learning or artificial intelligence would be an excellent and highly valued blend.

What does the future of the quantum job market look like in the next 5-10 years?

Collins: It’ll be highly competitive and more sought-after than even now. Candidates will have the upper hand as most businesses will likely be behind on manpower amid the shortage of relevant talent. Those that do have the right credentials will have tremendous leverage in the job market with a battle surging between huge tech companies, private industry, government and universities all clamoring for skilled workers.

Companies and government agencies should already be aggressively planning, hiring, and training tech workers and others in related fields that can easily pick-up the skills required by quantum.

Which countries are also developing expertise and competitive candidates for quantum-related jobs in the U.S.?

Collins: Other countries don’t like to feel that they’re just a training ground for the US job market. There are many countries that are investing considerable resources into the quantum future: UK, Canada, China, Germany, Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, France, Switzerland, and the list goes on. Quantum is not a technology that any country wants to be left behind on. Think of it as a burning building, you don’t have to be the very first person out of the building, but you don’t want to be far behind.

What are the main challenges in finding qualified people?

Collins: The main challenge with companies is the shortage of people. There’s no getting around that reality. Whether you be a startup or large organization, success in finding the right people requires thinking and planning ahead. I strongly recommend beginning your search with a domain expert recruiter that can help you tap into the market and successfully navigate its nuances. This relationship can be invaluable to you.

I also recommend attending industry conferences and meeting up with people who can elevate the exposure of what your organization has to offer. This is a great way to involve yourself in the quantum community and get the word out that you’re hiring and what you’re looking for.

Involvement in academic conferences is another way to raise the profile of what you’re doing. If you’re geographically close to a university with quantum computing activities, invest in what they’re doing and partner with them. Hire some of their students as interns. This is a great way to geographically close candidates. Its no coincidence that lots of quantum startups are located very close to the best university programs.

Then, it gets down to compensation. Large companies have deeper pockets and they can boast about higher starting compensation and facilities. However, startup companies, non-profits and government agencies can, among other things, highlight the ability to do interesting work that could impact generations to come,

What type of work does a quantum job entail?

Collins: Our findings show that 50% of the quantum open positions are for researchers and scientists, including university faculty. Another 30% is comprised of positions for software and hardware engineering roles; and the remaining positions are across the board in sales, marketing, management, executive, tech support, HR, manufacturing, and operations.*

Are there security concerns that will impact the direction quantum computing is going, and therefore the types of jobs available?

Collins: Absolutely. Even though a commercial quantum computer isn’t available today, countries are preparing for the day when it can break modern encryption. This means anything password protected will be vulnerable to attack by nefarious actors and nation states. In the U.S. efforts to prepare for, and guard against, the quantum threat are spearheaded by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). A startup ecosystem is also emerging, one where private industry is attacking these problems head-on, and in the process, creating the jobs of tomorrow. The quantum threat will have a dramatic impact on the cybersecurity industry — forcing companies to rethink their existing security posture.  As a result, new companies will emerge, new products will be created, new business units will launch — all contributing to the greatly expanding jobs pool.

Where are most quantum jobs located (if there is a concentration anywhere)?

Collins: Job growth in the field of quantum computing has been increasing 100% year-to-year over the last couple of years. While there are openings in many areas of the country, we find the majority of quantum jobs are located near or around the established tech hubs or universities with advanced quantum studies. The majority of these tech centers are found where you might expect — places like Silicon Valley, New York State, DC Metro Boston, Raleigh, Seattle, and in or around government research labs.

According to our independent research, 54% of the open jobs in the quantum industry are being offered by commercial companies (startups, emerging and large, global enterprises); while university and government-sponsored research labs to make up the next largest category.*

*Note: These stats are pulled from proprietary data compiled by StrategicQC and are U.S. focused only. The firm will be sharing global results in its quantum jobs report to be published  in March. The results above have a +/- error possibility of a few percentage points.


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