For those struggling to break into the quantum workforce...
First of all, I'm sorry and that sucks.
The last thing I want from this and future blogs is to sound preachy. I am but one person in the field with a lot of opinions that you can take or leave. However, I have seen quite a bit during my time in this industry, reviewed many resumes and hired a few folks. This is my advice.
I recommend thinking seriously about why you are interested in this industry in the first place.
Maybe you learned about it in college and found it fascinating. Maybe you are graduating with your PhD and this is the natural next step. Those are both awesome. There are infinite good reasons, however, there are also some not-so-good reasons I come across more often than I would have guessed. Some of these questionable reasons include:
- people think they can make a lot of money
- people heard it's a hot industry with lots of jobs, thus, it will be easy to get a job
- they felt like it was their life calling (yet have no actual, tangible experience)
- something something quantum+crypto is the future
Anyways, you probably get the idea. And look, I'm not saying it's wrong to discover the subject, fall in love with it and want to pursue it further, but if you think it's your life calling to work on quantum machine learning without ever having attempted anything to do with QML, you should try it and see what it's really like. Here is a summary of an actual conversation I had with a young professional recently:
Young Professional: hi olivia, could you tell me how to get into quantum computing? I have no experiencing in quantum nor computing
Olivia: Umm well I would recommend getting some experience in those
YP: No thanks, where can I apply to jobs?
^ anyway basically just don't do this
2. Applying blind sadly just doesn't work
I see lots of stories from young people who tell me they studied physics/math/comp sci in undergrad and have applied to tons of quantum-related positions without hearing back. I sympathize if you are in this position. One common misconception people have regarding this industry is that since there are tons of jobs in it right now it will be easy to get a job. This has not been my experience. There ARE tons of jobs open in quantum, however, hiring committees are still looking for top talent across the board. One of the reason there are so many open positions right now is because it's very challenging to find someone with an ideal background or experience.
Instead of applying blind (meaning without a personal connection, recommendation or insight) to numerous roles, I recommend focusing on a few jobs of particular interest. Now you certainly don't need to have every desired skill on a job posting, this is a common misconception. But getting a rec from an internal employee is extremely valuable. There are numerous ways to do this and I might try to address them in a future post.
In addition, unsurprisingly, keywords are key. Your resume often needs to be tailored to a specific posting to get past automatic filters. I know this sounds ridiculous, but job postings these days can get hundreds of applications, especially for entry level positions. I don't know what the magic words are, but as an example, if you are applying to a Qiskit developer job and your resume doesn't say 'Qiskit' on it anywhere (and other peoples do) it could get filtered out. Now this is not permission to lie on your resume. Don't say you have experience in something you don't. Just please don't do it. It won't end well, I promise.
3. Gain attention before applying
You can also try to gain a teams attention by contributing to their open source projects, competing in their online challenges, or engaging with community members on social networks. I have found great employees and interns through all of these aforementioned methods. At IBM we have numerous challenges and online competitions you can easily find out about by following Qiskit on Twitter. Becoming an intern at a company is a great path towards a full time role, and those applying for internships can follow much of the same advice above.
However, as with all interactions on social media, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Use common sense. Try hard not to come across as angry, rude, entitled, or worse. Use proper titles if you do not have a personal relationship with them. If someone is a PhD refer to them as doctor. I'm not just saying this for my benefit, but you never know who you're reaching out to and how they feel about this type of thing. You never want to exclude yourself from an opportunity for a silly reason like pissing them off by not giving them proper respect in your opening.
4. Consider further education
You don't need a PhD to work in quantum computing! But if you want to work on something like theoretical quantum algorithms, or something extremely technical, you will probably need more than a bachelors degree. I'm sure there are exceptions, but if you dream is working in a quantum lab and have never stepped foot in a lab, for example, you should probably give that a go first.
Now this next part might sound like a contradiction but bear with me. I would say if you are going to go to grad school or get a doctorate you need to keep in mind that the state of the field might be totally different in 6-8 years when you graduate. Now it might not, it might be even better, but nothing is guaranteed. Getting a PhD so you can get one specific job is quite risky in my opinion. I would say it is necessary (but not sufficient) to not only love learning, but to gather transferable skills just in case the role you dream of no longer exists when you're ready for it. Always keep your options open by increasing your skillset broadly. Don't just learn how to become a great algorithm developer, but also learn how to become a good writer, a good speaker, communicator, and programmer. None of these will ever hurt you :)
That's all I have for now. If you made it to the end, hey, thanks for reading. As you might have guessed, this field, like the world, is complicated. I hope this was at least slightly helpful but if you still have questions, get in touch!