If you’re at all familiar with quantum computing, you know it’s a complex and daunting subject. If you’re not, it can seem even more daunting! We decided to talk to one of the experts who deals with quantum computing every day to get an inside look at this exciting branch of technology and learn what it means for us as consumers and developers. Here’s our interview with Jillian; her answers have been shortened and edited slightly for clarity and space, but we’ve tried to preserve the essence of her responses as accurately as possible.
What brought you into the quantum computing industry?
One of my co-workers at my first job said he wanted to start his own quantum computing company. He was right; I’m not sure why people didn’t realize it sooner! It just wasn’t widely known that it was possible to make a Cloud computing technology . It was always these are experiments in labs or universities, but we don’t actually have any practical applications for them yet. But then some researchers in Europe started saying that maybe there were enough real-world applications for quantum computers to start small businesses around them. My coworker and I ended up leaving our jobs to start Quantum Success Solutions LLC, and that started my career as a professional quantum computing developer!
What are some of your proudest moments in the industry?
This is a hard question for me. I’ve had so many proud moments in my career and I’m always very thankful for all of them. However, I can think of one specific time when I was just sitting in my chair at work thinking wow, we’re really changing something here. We had just launched our first quantum computer simulator. This tool will allow any developer to start building applications on top of our platform by enabling their use to test out any program they can imagine running on our hardware before they actually build it (at no cost). That same day we also announced that we have successfully built and tested an adiabatic quantum computer chip (simply put: an enormous step towards general purpose quantum computing). It was just an unbelievable day!
What are some challenges that you’ve faced while working in this field?
If you’re just getting started, stay focused on one or two tools and try to get good at them. The challenge in quantum computing development is that there’s so much to learn, so if you try to learn everything up front it can be hard to stay on track. There are still only about 20-30 developers in the world building quantum software. So if you’re just starting out, find a local quantum developer group or mentor who can help you narrow your focus and set clear goals for what you want to accomplish. As an example, I was able to join Semantic Machines’ quantum computing bootcamp last year when I moved back to California. Having access to experts like Stuart Riffle (pictured below) has been invaluable because he’s been through pretty much every experience I’m going through right now. It’s been awesome being able to bounce questions off him even if he hasn’t always given me all of the answers.
Do you have any advice for other quantum developers?
Now is an exciting time to be working in quantum computing, but it’s also a very challenging time. Quantum computing developers face unique problems and don’t always have access to helpful advice from other programmers. So I’d recommend that any future quantum computing developers start learning all they can about conventional programming languages and consider expanding their horizons into general machine learning. A knowledge of computer science fundamentals will help anyone no matter what direction they choose to go in, regardless of whether or not their final destination is quantum computers or something else entirely. Quantum computers are still largely theoretical, and despite our best efforts, we aren’t able to fully utilize quantum computers just yet. They’re really cool if you ask me though! As for me personally, I’m still trying my hardest each day to figure out how we can harness such powerful technology; mostly I just try find little hacks so that everyone doesn’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of hardware! If you want more info on quantum technologies you should definitely look up Christopher Monroe at University of Maryland! His group is actually one of our biggest customers as they use us for superposition state management. Of course quantum computing is way more complex than building a standard software service because every single step must be taken extremely carefully when dealing with qubits.