Training the Quantum Workforce: An In-Depth Chat With D-Wave’s Training Expert

D-Wave
7 min readDec 15, 2023

Quantum computing technology offers a powerful set of computing tools for solving complex problems that are increasingly out of reach for classical computing approaches. These tools have the potential to transform many industries, including manufacturing, logistics, life sciences, and finance. To capitalize on this emerging technology, it is critical to have a workforce that has quantum computing expertise. According to a survey conducted by Hyperion Research, early adopters of quantum computing identified the “lack of in-house quantum computing expertise and domain knowledge” as a major hurdle in adopting quantum computing in their businesses. The good news, however, is that increased access to quantum experts and education is enabling a quantum-ready workforce, with abundant academic and enterprise learning opportunities.

Understanding what effective training resources are available is key to success, regardless of whether you are a graduate student, a professional looking to upskill for career advancement, or a CIO preparing your team to develop production-ready quantum applications. To explore how D-Wave’s quantum training offerings can benefit businesses and individuals, we recently spoke with D-Wave’s Senior Manager of Learning Solutions, Kelly Novic.

Training in Furthering Quantum Adoption

Incorporating quantum into IT infrastructure is becoming increasingly important for organizations looking to maintain competitiveness, fuel efficiencies, and cut costs.

“D-Wave’s annealing quantum computers are being used every day to solve real-world, enterprise-scale problems,” Novic said. “Those companies that understand how this technology can be used to their advantage are the ones most likely to stay ahead of their competitors.”

She emphasized that quantum computing technology is showing tangible value in logistics, manufacturing, life sciences, and beyond. Pattison Food Group, SavantX, Interpublic Group, VINCI Energies, Davidson Technologies, and many other companies have found success in using D-Wave’s quantum solutions. You can read more about the many quantum applications and use cases on the D-Wave website.

“Our current Quantum Programming Core course,” Novic added, “focuses on examples of those real-world problems and equips learners with hands-on skills to formulate problems and directly use annealing quantum computing to find viable solutions.”

As you consider adopting quantum computing into your organization, understanding the value of training your team is important. Novic explained that “for businesses looking to develop a production application, investing in training for internal team members reduces the time it takes to develop a proof-of-concept and to put a working application into production.” She emphasized that taking proactive steps today allows your business to grow an in-house team of experts that will ensure your operations don’t miss the business opportunities offered by quantum.

“When internal team members understand the capabilities of annealing quantum computers, and can work with them effectively, you’re more likely to see that return on investment,” said Novic.

For individuals not yet in roles where quantum computing is part of their daily responsibilities, quantum training can provide a career boost. “This is the perfect time for individuals to learn skills in quantum computing and gain an advantage in their career,” Novic said. “The quantum computing industry is growing, more enterprises are recognizing the value of quantum computing to solve their problems, and, at the same time, there is a shortage of skilled talent that can work with annealing quantum computers.”

Novic explained that D-Wave’s training will help those seeking employment in quantum, offering a pathway to cultivate the skills needed to leverage annealing quantum computers. Individuals can feel empowered to bridge talent gaps within enterprises seeking quantum expertise. “You can set yourself up to be quite marketable in the quantum computing space.”

Quantum Training: It’s Not Just for Physics Majors

Many people assume that learning to program quantum computers requires an advanced degree in physics. While this is a common misapprehension, Novic explained that D-Wave’s training courses enable you to learn to leverage annealing quantum computers without necessarily having a background in the hard sciences.

“You don’t need a physics background to work with D-Wave’s annealing quantum solutions,” she said. “In fact, our Quantum Programming Core course doesn’t teach physics at all. Instead, it focuses on math and programming skills that allow you to submit problems to the quantum computers on day one.”

Making quantum computing accessible for beginners is a key mission for the D-Wave training team, and they do this by minimizing the barriers of formal prerequisites. “However,” Novic adds, “we do recommend that learners have intermediate Python programming experience, comfort working with math equations and graphs, and basic familiarity with matrix operations. This ensures a learner can complete the training in the one-week timeframe and focus on the unique aspects of programming an annealing quantum system.”

Although these prerequisites are widely accessible, it’s perfectly normal to feel concerned about lacking these recommended skills. Novic expressed that “we want all our learners to succeed, so we try to accommodate requests for additional office hours and support resources.” She also shared some of the best practices learners take to advance through the course. “We’ve had individuals successfully complete the course with no programming skills and very basic math skills,” she said. “They took advantage of office hours, asked questions in discussion boards, worked asynchronously with the instructor on their code submissions, and were able to earn their certificate.”

Additionally, Novic highlighted the varied backgrounds of the individuals who attend D-Wave’s training courses. “We often have learners from finance, tech, healthcare, manufacturing, and other industries, all in the same training session.” This is one of the reasons she loves instructor office hours, “because you get these diverse perspectives in one virtual room where they can share ideas and problem-solve together.”

“I sometimes hear learners really focused on their own industry,” Novic said, “and they search for examples and ideas only within that industry. But the problems faced by one industry are often applicable to a wider audience, and it’s helpful to see how others are approaching their problems.” To elaborate on the value of collaboration, Novic highlighted a recent example from one of her students: “A learner in the healthcare industry was stumped on how to approach her optimization problem. Another learner working in the finance industry was able to help unblock her by sharing a novel way to simplify things.”

Hands-On, Guided Training Accelerates Learning

As the world’s first commercial quantum computing company, D-Wave draws on experts with real-life experience across diverse fields that have seen quantum computing success. Novic emphasized that unlike other training courses that concentrate on the theory and principles of quantum physics and computing, her team focuses on equipping learners with the knowledge and skills to formulate problems and interpret results using D-Wave’s annealing quantum computing solutions. “This approach offers you the precise education needed to start working hands-on with annealing quantum computing as quickly and easily as possible,” she said.

Since learners are seeking practical training, Novic explained the benefits of D-Wave’s course structure. “Most of our learners are busy working professionals who want to complete training while still supporting their full-time responsibilities. Our Quantum Programming Core course is designed to be completed in one week, not a full semester as required for some other training courses.”

Within this week, flexible approaches to learning help students meet their objectives. Novic explains: “Quantum Programming Core is entirely online. On average, most learners complete the course in about 30 hours. You can set your own schedule in terms of when you go through content and work on assignments.” These assignments come in the form of video presentations, informative papers, and hands-on programming challenges.

While much of the learning is self-directed, the course is also supported by a live instructor available during office hours at least once per day during the training week. “These office hours are a great way to get instructor support and allow you to meet other learners interested in quantum computing,” Novic said. “After that first week, we offer an additional grace period week for learners to complete assignments. Instructors are still available to help via discussion boards and emails, and we’ve even scheduled additional office hours during this time by request. Upon successful completion of the training, learners receive a certificate that can be downloaded and shared on LinkedIn.”

Finally, Novic shared background on her team and their expertise: “A nice advantage in taking a D-Wave training course is that you don’t just get the support of one instructor. We often pull in other team members to support learner questions and brainstorming. Just like our learners, our instructors have diverse backgrounds and skillsets: Sara has a doctorate in applied mathematics and has a background in teaching; Ken has a doctorate in physics with a background in gate-model quantum computers; Victoria has a doctorate in discrete mathematics with a background in machine learning. And this is just a short list of individuals who may support our learners through office hours, discussion boards, emails, and phone calls.”

To learn more about D-Wave’s training offerings, including Quantum Programming Core and the QuickStart upgrade, which provides unlimited quantum cloud access for an entire month on top of the Core training, see the D-Wave website: https://www.dwavesys.com/learn/training/

When you’re ready to enroll, visit our course catalog: https://learn.dwavesys.com/catalog

“We look forward to meeting you in training!”

— Kelly Novic

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