Episode 10: Dr Araceli Venegas-Gomez

October 24, 2022 insideQuantum Season 1 Episode 10
Episode 10: Dr Araceli Venegas-Gomez
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Episode 10: Dr Araceli Venegas-Gomez
Oct 24, 2022 Season 1 Episode 10

How can industry learn how to speak the language of quantum physics, and where will businesses of the future find people to work in the rapidly growing number of quantum technology jobs? Take a listen to Episode 10 of insideQuantum to find out! 

This week we're featuring Dr Araceli Venegas-Gomez, the founder of Quantum Resources and Careers (QURECA), a company focused on bridging the gap between quantum physics in academia and industry. Dr Venegas-Gomez was originally an aerospace engineer before deciding to study quantum physics. She obtained her PhD from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, and started the company QURECA immediately afterwards. 

Show Notes Transcript

How can industry learn how to speak the language of quantum physics, and where will businesses of the future find people to work in the rapidly growing number of quantum technology jobs? Take a listen to Episode 10 of insideQuantum to find out! 

This week we're featuring Dr Araceli Venegas-Gomez, the founder of Quantum Resources and Careers (QURECA), a company focused on bridging the gap between quantum physics in academia and industry. Dr Venegas-Gomez was originally an aerospace engineer before deciding to study quantum physics. She obtained her PhD from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, and started the company QURECA immediately afterwards. 

🟢 Steven Thomson (00:06): Hi there, and welcome to insideQuantum, the podcast telling the human stories behind the latest developments in quantum technologies. I’m Dr. Steven Thomson, and as usual, I’ll be your host for this episode. In previous episodes, we focused mostly on the academic side of quantum physics, but the demand for quantum physicists in industry is accelerating and currently outstrips the supply of people with the required skills. Given the rapid growth of the quantum industry, the current situation doesn’t seem sustainable. So where is the future quantum technology industry going to find all the people needed to build a flourishing quantum ecosystem? Today’s guest is the founder of a company aiming to solve this problem. It’s a pleasure to welcome Dr. Araceli Venegas-Gomez the founder and CEO of QURECA (Quantum Resources and Careers.) Thank you so much for joining us today, Araceli.

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (00:56): Pleasure to be here. Thanks, Steven.

🟢 Steven Thomson (00:57): Normally I begin these episodes by asking guests what got them into quantum physics, but you’ve had a really interesting career before you even got into he quantum landscape. So before you started QURECA, which we’ll talk about in a moment, you got a PhD from the University of Strathclyde, but even before that, you were working for Airbus as an aerospace engineer. So can you tell us a bit more about what made you take this career trajectory? It sounds like you’ve had a super interesting journey to get here.

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (01:38): Sure, yeah. This probably could take the whole podcast, but I will try to be brief. So when I was working for Airbus an aerospace engineer, I was quite successful. I was getting, you know, this career path into management, everything was going well, but I guess that I always wanted to learn more about physics and science in general. So I decided to take a Masters in medical physics. Why? It was the only thing that I could find that I could do while I was working full time and where I could learn kind of a different field in science. And when I was doing this Masters in my free time, I came a little bit across Magnetic Resonance Imaging and quantum physics. And then I learned this Hilbert space that I never heard before and I wanted to learn about it.

(02:28): So, in my free time after my full-time job and my Masters in medical physics, I wanted to learn quantum physics. So that was for really long time. And what happened is that I was taking holidays and free time out of my work to go to conferences and to learn more about quantum physics. So at one point, and I’m gonna give you the details now, I went to Mexico for a trip. And when I was coming back from this trip, I had some spare pesos to spend at the airport, and I bought a book, and I’m mentioning this because that book changed my life. And the book said, “Do what you want and the money will follow”. And it’s really a lot of stories about people that…they were quite successful in their careers - lawyers, teachers, whatever - but they wanted to do something else.

(03:17): And that was really the point that I kind of sit down and ask myself, what do I want to do with my life? And I don’t know if it was the crisis of turning 30 or really that book, but the answer to that question for me was learning quantum physics. So yeah, I was a little bit a geek, I guess. And I said, “That’s my goal. I want to go a PhD in quantum physics”. So I started to apply. And to be honest, I got a lot of rejection because people were saying things like, “You are an engineer, you don’t know anything about mathematics”. Well, I can tell you a lot of stories of rejection, but thanks to networking and an online course that I got from some university in the US and connections, I ended up moving to Scotland where I got the opportunity. So this took years, to be honest. And I finally moved to Glasgow where I had a Masters of Research at the University of Strathclyde and then my PhD. So it was really the, I guess the passion about learning and the time to sit down and reflect what I wanted to do with my career.

🟢 Steven Thomson (04:24): It’s interesting that you say you found it hard to get into quantum physics after that career, because I would’ve thought, well, as an aerospace engineer, you must already know quite a lot of maths, quite a lot of physics. Sure, it’s maybe not quantum, but it seems to me like there must be a lot of transferable skills and you’d probably bring quite a unique, different perspective. I’m surprised that more people didn’t value that more strongly.

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (04:48): I think is the fact that a lot of academics feel that if you are not a physicist, then you don’t understand physics, which doesn’t make sense because really when you are an engineer, anything that has to do with STEM and sciences and technical skills, you will learn, you know, calculus, you will learn linear algebra. So the basis is there. Probably, yeah, I didn’t know the details of working with Hilbert spaces and Hamiltonians but yeah, the basic skills were there, but…I guess that more and more academics should realize about that.

🟢 Steven Thomson (05:24): Yeah. I mean, it always feels to me like the thing that you really need if you’re going to do a PhD or research career is the willingness to learn, not necessarily having the knowledge already, because I mean, PhDs are about original research, right? So you have to learn and you have to create the knowledge if it doesn’t exist. So yeah, it seems to me like if you’re switching careers, you’re bringing a really valuable skill set potentially that people should value more.

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (05:53): Yeah. And I think that’s what my supervisor, my PhD supervisor Andrew Daley saw, and in this opportunity for both of us, it was the fact that I was coming from a completely different field. Also the motivation, he told me - because I actually spent a week in Glasgow where he was sending me some problems. I have the time to spend at the university because I didn’t know really what it, what to be a researcher looked like. So he said, Just come over, and spend a week here. And he said, “I never saw anyone so motivated to learn quantum physics as you”.

🟢 Steven Thomson (06:27): So you did your PhD, then, in quantum physics, and was it everything you hoped for? Did you find quantum physics as interesting as you thought you would once you got into the research life?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (06:38): You know - as you know - when you do a PhD, it kind of turns into not any more kind of a learning quantum physics, that’s very general. You really focus, you go really, really deep into a specific project, a specific topic. And I think I am a person that I really like to know a lot about…having this overview, so for me was really interesting. But I also realized during my PhD that maybe being a researcher was not made for me. I knew what were my skills. And during the time of my PhD, I also worked a lot in outreach activities, networking…I was kind of everywhere. I just wanted to catch up because I was feeling that I was much older and I knew much less than all the others. I was just trying to be everywhere. I attended different conferences, I realized that there were so many other things that I could do that it was not necessary just being an academic. So yeah, I guess you realize more about what you want. And also during the PhD, you know, there are always these ups and downs. Yeah, I love the research. No, I hate research , but yeah, I think all PhDs have these times.

🟢 Steven Thomson (07:54): So if you hadn’t decided to go down the quantum route, what do you think you would’ve done instead? Would you have remained at Airbus or do you think you were always going to make some kind of big career change? You always wanted to learn something different, do something new?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (08:07): That’s a very good question. I don’t know. I suppose that I would have stayed in Airbus and I would just go up in the ladder into the management and who knows? I could be one of the big guys. I’m saying big guys, you know why, because normally they’re all guys. So, yeah, but I knew that if I was not happy with the career move, I could always come back. So I knew that that door was always open.

🟢 Steven Thomson (08:37): I see. So you had a, a bit of a safety net.

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (08:40): Yeah.

🟢 Steven Thomson (08:41): I see, I see. So then having had quite an interesting career in doing a lot of different things, is there any part of your career so far that stands out to you as something that you are the most proud of?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (08:53): Uf, I really, I would say a lot of them. I was proud of…I had a job in Germany, finishing just my degree, my aerospace engineering degree. Without no knowledge. I didn’t know any German. So that was, that was for me, like, wow, well done. And then the fact that I could enter just into the academia and without being a physicist, that was another wow. And of course, once I finished my PhD, that was really like, I made it, you see! And the fact that everything that I kind of learned over the years during the PhD, and understanding what I wanted to do and what I was good at made me create QURECA, and that was really like, wow. Who knew that I was gonna become an entrepreneur? So, yeah, I think it’s always this kind of a…I always tell people when I present this about career paths and everything, I tell people, think about small milestones. What is your goal in the short term? Probably you have one in the long term, but what is the next one? And all those goals are gonna make you proud.

🟢 Steven Thomson (10:02): It’s interesting that one thing you mentioned there is about recognizing the skills that you’re good at. And I feel like that’s something…you know, a lot of people are good at a lot of things, but they don’t always recognize that, and they don’t always sort of translate that into a, into a career path. So I guess being able to recognize what you’re good at and then forge a career around those skills, that in itself is probably quite a unique perspective to have.

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (10:28): Yeah, I always tell people think about what you’re good at, what you like to do, because you can be good at, I don’t know, jumping, but if you hate it…I realized that I couldn’t be coding all day. I was also not the best one on doing that. I could do it, I could probably continue doing research or working in that field, but do I want to do that? Am I really good at that? And I think answering those questions are so hard, and that’s why there are so many people that you meet over and over again that are not happy with their jobs, is that they just go with the flow and they never realize and answer those questions about themselves.

🟢 Steven Thomson (11:10): Yeah, definitely. I think that’s maybe another reason why having people in research groups who come from very different backgrounds and different career paths is good. Because I guess a lot of people who are, let’s say PhD level, you’ve done your undergrad, you’ve maybe done a Masters, you’ve done your PhD. There’s a path ahead of you that’s kind of getting narrower and narrower and much more difficult. And it’s not always easy to see that there are other opportunities because everyone, you know, everyone you work with, everyone you talk to, they’ve all followed the same academic path. And there’s this kind of tunnel vision that I guess a lot of academics have. And you know, we talk about leaving academia sometimes, like it’s, oh, it’s such a big deal. Like it’s a big kind of life changing moment to, to leave academia. But actually, you know, it ’s less about leaving academia and I guess more about joining the rest of the world outside of it.

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (11:57): Correct. Yeah. And I always remember one thing during the PhD, there were some…I don’t remember the names exactly, but they were like some weeks where the university provided these kind of advice on soft skills, like CV screening, things like that. And I was telling the other PhD students, “Why don’t you go, this is gonna be super useful for the future”. And they couldn’t see the need because they were like, “No, I need to do my research. It’s just like MY research”. And they couldn’t see beyond that. And then I saw those people finishing the PhDs and then asking the question, “What do I want to do with my life?” Or, “Oh, it’s the first time I need to do my CV”. So sometimes they find that they are a little bit older than other people, and they are starting like, at the same, you know, step into the careers. Like, now I need to write a CV, now I’m gonna do the first interview. So I think realizing that these things are gonna always be useful even if you go into the academic path, because you need to understand who you are, you need to have those interview experiences.

🟢 Steven Thomson (13:04): Exactly. Yeah. So how did this then translate into you starting the company QURECA and what does the company actually do?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (13:13): Yes. So as I mentioned before, I had the feeling that I wanted to catch up. So I was just reading everything about quantum everywhere. And it was also the beginning of quantum technologies as an emerging field where I was seeing quantum as not any more just some academic field, something really research specific, but more industry and business. And I was seeing all these academics that they were starting to get involved into business, but they never did any business. They never worked in industry. So I started to feel that I was in a kind of a middle position or strategic position where I could understand people that were coming from industry trying to understand quantum, and people coming from academia who were trying to understand business. So what I did, every time that I was in an event, a conference or anything, I was asking people, “What do you think that is missing on this kind of emerging field?”

(14:07): So I was just gathering information. I was starting to get really active into social media. So I was…pretty much any news that I was seeing on quantum technologies, I was discussing in Twitter. So I kind of started to get known in the field. So I created a big network. I went to the launch of quantum technologies, national initiatives in the UK, in Europe, in the US. So all those kind of activities came out, I was asking myself what can I do with all these, right? Because I was like, either I become an academic or I go back to industry. But then, I met very clever and amazing people who said, “Why don’t you create something new?” And I was like, I would love to do that. I was thinking maybe to join one of these national initiatives and programs, but to create something new, how could I do that?

(15:01): I had no idea. So I got the advice to apply for a Fellowship. I did that and I won the Fellowship - that was from the Optical Society, the Milton and Rosalind Chang Pivoting Fellowship - it was really focused on people who wanted to change their careers and create something new, not really going into industry or creating something really research focused. It was something new. And I was the first one applying, and I got it. And thanks to that Fellowship I created QURECA and that’s how everything started. And really why I created QURECA, that is Quantum Resources and Careers, it was to answer all those questions and needs that I found that people were saying, “We need this and that”. And I said, I’m going to provide those resources in to the quantum community and careers because I thought that this emerging field needed people to understand how their skills have to be applied into quantum, how they could really find their dream job.

(16:05): And also to work with companies on finding his talent. That’s how everything translated into what we do. That is different consulting activities like business development with quantum companies. We organize events. We do a lot of community building. For example, it’s about looking at the ecosystem and seeing where there are gaps. If you look at regions, there are some regions where there’s no much public funding. For example, in Latin America, we realized that there was a strong community of research in quantum, but it was not cohesive. So we launched Quantum Latino, and that was really successful. And we are gonna have the third edition next year in Mexico. It will be an hybrid event. So things about, again, seeing those gaps in the ecosystem, and really the focus is about skills and creating the workforce. And for that, we focus on education and recruitment. So as you see, we do a lot of different things. We work globally, and it’s really about having this strategic position in the middle of the ecosystem.

🟢 Steven Thomson (17:07): Yeah, That’s amazing how many different things the company does. Did this start gradually, like you did one thing and then that led to another and it led to another? Or did you always have the idea that you wanted to try and fill as many of these gaps as possible?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (17:23): So everything started as we are going to speak the language, we speak quantum. That’s what we have in our slogan. At the beginning, the idea was to focus on recruitment. I was like, I want to do…yeah, I was organizing a lot of careers events during the PhD and everything, and I was like, this is really cool, but I have a PhD, I have a lot of experience in industry. I think I can do much more. And also, I knew what the ecosystem needed because I was asking those questions. So kind of everything translated into, okay, everything that has to do with speaking the language, educating people about quantum and everything that has to do about careers, what else is missing that can be linked to all these resources? And yeah, so one thing kind of led to another. At the beginning it was more focused on recruitment, but recruitment kind of was really linked to education. And then we realized that we could do more, much more. And that’s how it’s happening now that we receive projects and, and people are coming to us with completely different ideas and needs. And that’s something very, very cool. It’s like our job and our activities are very different from one day to another.

🟢 Steven Thomson (18:35): Yeah, that sounds really interesting. How big is the company now these days? I guess it’s not just you - you have a staff as well. How many people do you have?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (18:43): Yeah, so our company is not a massive company. What we do is we work together with other companies in specific projects. So right now we are like six people. And then we have a group of consultants and instructors that work with us, depending on the project or what we do. But a lot of things that we do is really working with another company that have another set of skills, and together we provide specific resources or a specific service. So a lot of collaborations with people around the world as well.

🟢 Steven Thomson (19:13): Right. Yeah, that was going to be my question…all the different things you’ve got, they sound like they require different skills so there’s a business recruitment side, the education side, all these different things. And yeah, I was going to ask - either you have a small team of people who are all incredibly good at so many things or a very large team of specialists or something in between, but okay, I guess that makes sense. So you…you know where to find the skills that you require for any given job, and then you just go there and leads between the different people and make everything happen, I guess.

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (19:41): Correct. On the education side, it’s like…of course we are not the experts on everything, it’s trying to find who could be the expert that together we can build the content that the community needs. And that’s what we are trying to do. Focusing on specific use cases or markets like for example, the financial market, what could be the quantum applications for finance? We have been also focusing on specific languages. So our website is in English, Spanish, and French, and we are gonna launch courses in Spanish. And we have some in Japanese and in Portuguese.

🟢 Steven Thomson (20:18): Wow.

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (20:19): 

🟢 Steven Thomson (20:21): So in setting up this company and identifying this kind of gap between industry and academia, you’ve kind of invented a whole new career for yourself that didn’t already exist. Did this feel like you were taking a big risk or were you always confident that this was a service that was required and that there would be demand for this company?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (20:45): You know, every day, you are scared that things might fall, and it’s like, “What can I do tomorrow? What can, could be the, then the next move?” But I think, once you realize about your skills, then you can be confident that if something doesn’t work the way you want, that you can go in any other direction. So I think that makes me kind of breathe. But it’s really the, I guess when, when I talk to people, and they said, “Wow, what you do really makes sense. Yeah, there is a need.” And it’s kind of that confirmation that yes, this is actually something that people need, that is really the best feeling to say, “Okay, the risk is there always there. But yeah, this, it is working well and we are growing and there are things coming up”. So yeah, just today we knew about another big thing coming and it’s like we can say that we are gonna be there in the next years, and that’s really very important.

🟢 Steven Thomson (21:43): Can you tell us a bit more about any of the current or ongoing projects that you’ve got coming up? Is there anything you can share about this?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (21:52): I guess you could be one of the first ones to know about some of these projects we are thinking about. On the education side, we want to launch really cool activities for high school students and undergrad. So it’s really more on the outreach side, but thinking about how can we bring these difficult concepts of quantum computing, quantum technologies to teachers that they never heard it, or students, scholars and children. So we are thinking about creating very, very interesting activities for that. Another cool project is kind of creating an educational program for people in industry. So current professionals, how can they become quantum ready and how can they get into that? Kind of answering the question, what do I want to do? Well, you know, I can go into quantum. So we are, we are starting to create something into that direction.

(22:53): You see, I’m telling you not many details, but you get the gist of it. And then more on the event side, we realize that it’s a lot about, again, seeing where are these gaps into the ecosystem, where can we create something, organize something there. So we have more and more events coming. But yeah, very, very interesting projects because they are always…we work with people all over the world at different levels in different countries, and with different needs. And I think that’s really interesting.

🟢 Steven Thomson (23:26): So it seems at the moment, you know, I’m someone in academia, and I’m seeing a lot of companies starting up and a lot of interest in quantum technology. It seems like there’s a lot of demand in industry these days for people who know quantum physics and in particular for people who have PhDs in quantum physics. But given the fraction of the population that actually have PhDs, this doesn’t seem like it’s going to be sustainable long term. So how do you see this landscape evolving? I guess the quantum industry can’t survive if it’s only going to hire PhD graduates. What’s gonna have to change in the next few years to make this into a more sustainable industry?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (24:04): First really a curious data was that when you look at in the geography, you see that in Europe, people are really looking for PhDs. And so there is a high demand for individuals with PhDs. Whereas if you look at North America, they are kind of happy with a person with a Bachelors or a Masters and then industrial experience. So the culture, you know, the background on where you are looking for a job might also have a big impact and on the workforce that is creating. So answering your question, what we see is that in the last years it was really PhDs and even now, I dunno, 75% of what people are looking for, they are looking for a PhD. What is happening is one, now they are looking for PhDs that aren’t going to do not only science, but you know, rather than just being in the lab or programming, they are looking for people with a PhD in quantum that can do other things like marketing, writing, sales.

(25:10): And this is not easy because a lot of people that have been going to PhD level, they want to continue doing science as you told, you know, And then on the other hand, as you mentioned before, they are not so many PhDs at the end of the day, and we have more and more quantum startups, we have at least now I think 700 startups all over the world. So if all these startups continue growing, you can imagine how the job market is gonna grow. We actually estimated this growth and it’s gonna be exponential. So right now it’s kind of a organically growing year by year, but in the next 20 years, this is gonna be exploding, you can’t expect that everyone is gonna go into PhD level. So what is happening is that there are more and more Masters launched for quantum technologies.

(25:53): People are getting this Master. And the truth is not everyone with a Masters in quantum technologies is ready to get a job in quantum because we are still in the infancy of the technology and we are looking for people with this kind of high level of expertise, but this is changing. I see this rather quickly…in a period of three months, I see more and more job offers that they are saying, “I am actually okay if the person has a Masters and is willing to work on this and that”. But again, that kind of a skill that is important. But I think the ideal candidate right now, which is what people call the unicorn because it’s so hard to find, is a person that has a PhD in quantum physics, that has industry experience and that is also willing to do all the things that working, you know, in the lab or programming, so things that are not only technical. So this is where we are. What I see as well is a lot of senior people that they see an opportunity of pivoting into quantum. And I don’t think the market is open quite yet to kind of, welcoming so many people with a lot of experience without that kind of a level of expertise in quantum. But it’s changing a lot.

🟢 Steven Thomson (27:17): Do you see a difference between the sort of large established companies who are kind of opening quantum divisions versus small startups? Is there any difference in the type of candidate that they prefer or the type of experience that they’re looking for?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (27:32): Hmm. That’s, that’s a very good question. I feel that some, some companies, some big companies might be okay if they have people with maybe a Masters in Physics that they can demonstrate that they can work individually and independently and grow the quantum knowledge of the company, if they are really new to quantum as a company. If they’re a startup and they are launching their own product, they want to develop their IP, of course they really rely on experts. And when I say experts, it is, it’s really people with a PhD in that specific field. It’s not like, you know, you have done a PhD in experimental physics, in experimental quantum physics working on a specific platform. It’s not that that means that you can work everywhere. So it’s really, it depends a lot on, on the company, on the country, or on the role.

(28:29): That’s why every time that we are looking for a specific talent for a specific role or we talk to an individual, the first question to the individual is, “What do you want to do?”. And then we try to analyze the skill set and how this can translate into the roles that we have opened. Because it’s not just like, “Oh, it seems that these CVs match with this role” and that’s it. No, it’s about understanding. That’s why it’s a lot…the recruitment that we are doing, and I think it, it’s the only way to do the kind of recruitment in this emerging market. It’s very, very personal and it’s very individual, and you have to go to one by one case and understanding where the match can be done.

🟢 Steven Thomson (29:15): Well, talking about the people involved in doing the work, that leads me onto a question that I always like to ask every guest on the podcast, which is that historically speaking, physics has always been a very male dominated field, and particularly, a very white, cisgender male dominated field for a very long time. It feels like things are changing albeit far too slowly. And normally I like to ask guests how they see the diversity landscape evolving and how it has evolved over their career. But actually your career has been really interesting because you’ve worked in several different fields and now you’re also working on the recruitment side. So I’m curious, over the different fields that you’ve worked in, have you seen different attitudes towards diversity? And as someone who’s involved in recruitment now, how do you approach diversity in ensuring that we do have a well-balanced and diverse workforce?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (30:12): Very good question indeed. So if I go back when I was in aerospace engineering, my studies, I think in my field we were like 10% women. So for me it was kind of a normal being in the minority. And when I moved into industry, it was kind of a similar numbers. But for me, you have to imagine it was not just the fact that I was a woman. It was a…I was young, and coming from engineering, so on the technical side, I was in a country where I didn’t speak the language. So I kind of had all this against me. So I had the feeling that anything that I was doing, I had to demonstrate twice in comparison with a male, maybe the same age, and from the nation where I was working.

(30:59): So it was a first time actually that I got involved into, I don’t even remember exactly the name, but it was like a women network in the company. And I was like, “Why not? You know, there are not so many”. But I started to see that sometimes things were going into the wrong direction, so too much into favor of women instead of thinking about equity and diversity that in the end is really what we, what we wanted. So that was kind of where I was. And then when I move into - I’m going like step by step - when I move into academia, I was so surprised to see that in undergrad physics, it was like 50-50. I was like, there are so many girls here! I was really surprised. Not in my group. In my group, I think we were like two out of, again, probably 10% or something like that.

(31:55): But there were a lot of undergrads. And then it was when there was, a group, again, Women in Physics or something, where we started to analyze what was happening. And it was this kind of what people call the leaking pipe. And that is like, yeah, you have a lot of women in undergrads, but then not so many women actually go to postgraduate in like a PhD, and then continue into the academic path. And that was kind of a curious thing. And I wanted to understand why, but that was also the time where I got involved into the quantum technologies ecosystem and understanding more about what people were doing all around the world. And I got involved into the gender equity group from the European flagship. So it was really, most were academics and it was about diversity and gender equity.

(32:47): But I think there were two male…I think it was at the beginning, one man out of, I don’t know how many people, maybe 15 in total, so that was not really diverse. But I was getting kind of, starting to get more involved into these activities because I was fine, I didn’t realize that there was a problem until the information was kind of brought to me, because for me it was kind of normal. That’s how I got involved into outreach activities where I was going to schools in Scotland and and even remotely with Spain. And I was explaining, “Hey, you can be an engineer, you can be a researcher, you can study physics”. And I remember, I need to mention this because it comes to my mind right now.

(33:30): I was in an activity where I went to three classes, I think it was like seven years old, nine years old, and thirteen, like kind of different levels. And I was always asking at the end, “Who wants to be an engineer or a scientist?” Always the young ladies, the young girls, they were like, “Yeah, me!” When you go to the kind of a teenager phase, there were not so many ladies anymore who wanted to be, you know, engineers or a scientist. And I was like, what is going on? So there is this leaking pipe, already at that level. But then if you think about academia and the level where we are now, what is happening is that there are not so many, um, how can I say…the opportunities in academia for female academics are not well established if they want to do other things with their life, as we know.

(34:21): And answering your question now about recruitment, a lot of companies, they come to us and say, “We are looking for this profile. And if it’s from, you know, if it’s a woman, if it comes from a minority background, please, it’s much better because we want diversity”. It’s so hard. We know that there is a talent shortage in quantum already. So now imagine if it’s hard to find a person just that it can tick all the boxes, how hard could be a person from, you know, a minority group that can tick all the boxes? It’s just really, really hard. So I think diversity is in the front line of everyone at the moment in academia and in industry in quantum. It’s just, yeah, trying to find the needle in the hay stack that is already hard to find.

🟢 Steven Thomson (35:08): It’ll be interesting to see I guess, how this evolves in the future if industry starts taking people who are not necessarily PhD graduates but starts looking for people who have Masters or undergrads. Because as you say, it seems like as people go forward through the academic career the field just seems to get more and more male, at least in physics. And it, yeah, I guess it will be interesting as we sort of sort of go backwards through this leaky pipeline to where things are a little more equal and start recruiting from there. If that’s going to be enough to lead to a change in industry. I guess one can hope that it would, but it’ll be very interesting to see how this field actually evolves over the next few years and whether this becomes a reality or not.

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (35:49): Yeah, I think statistics are really, really important. We try to get also already in some events like conferences, how many female people presented, and every time that there is a panel and there’s no woman, why there’s…no. Not a woman, let’s not put it like “why there is not a woman there?”. It’s like why there’s not a diverse panel. I like to to mention that always. It’s not like you need to find a woman because you need to find one, no, it’s like you want diversity in whatever you do. That’s important.

🟢 Steven Thomson (36:20): And the other point you mentioned there about being part of the working group on diversity and saying that there are almost no men involved. Is this a symptom of, basically the people who are working to improve diversity are also the people who are most strongly affected by the lack of it? Where kind of the burden of fixing the problem is being placed - it seems - on the people who are most affected by the problem and the ones who are unaffected by the problem, well, they don’t want to spend any of their time fixing it. Would that be a fair statement or would that reflects the experiences that you’ve had?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (36:53): Yeah, people who are not affected, they don’t see the problem. Right. But I’m gonna tell you something. I’ve seen, just for this group that I mentioned about gender equity. I have seen men joining the group that, I guess from the whole group, are some of the people that are more enthusiastic and motivated for diversity in quantum so you can find it. They are not directly affected by it but they see the problem. And one of the things that we did actually that was really welcome and even today people are coming - that was in 2019. And even today, people are coming and say, “Oh, you were the one who did this talk, who talk about diversity in quantum” because we actually, we had a poll where in that room - I don’t know how many people were there, but we asked people to vote and answered those questions and I think it was the first time that people are again laid back and asked the question to and said, “Ah, yeah, it’s easier for men to do this. Oh yes, there’s a problem there.” So it’s always, I think the reflection time that we don’t have. And this is really what we are trying to do. Like for example, the unconscious bias training. People say that, “Yeah, I know about that”, but actually when they do this small training, they realize about all the things that they wouldn’t, they were never conscious about because they were not affected by it.

🟢 Steven Thomson (38:15): Yeah, absolutely. Okay. One final question to wrap up then. So you’ve had a, a really interesting career working in a whole range of different things, but if you could go back in time and give yourself just one piece of advice from this whole career, what would it be?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (38:34): I think what I tell a lot of people is like, never regret not doing something. So it is better to regret trying something than not trying. So I would say just do it. Everything will be okay.

🟢 Steven Thomson (38:48): Fantastic. I think that’s a good note to end on. So if our audience would like to learn a little bit more about you or about your company, can you tell us where they can find you on the internet and on social media?

🟣 Araceli Venegas-Gomez (39:01): Yeah, we are kind of everywhere at our website, You can find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, and you can always send any email. If you have any questions about anything in quantum, just drop us an email to

🟢 Steven Thomson (39:21): Okay, perfect. We’ll make sure to leave some links to your website and social media profiles on our own website when we put this podcast out. So thank you very much, Dr. Araceli Venegas-Gomez for your time today. Thank you also to the Unitary Fund for supporting this podcast. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, please consider liking, sharing and subscribing wherever you like to listen to your podcast. It really helps us to get our guest’s stories out to as wide an audience as possible. I hope you’ll join us again for our next episode. And until then, this has been insideQuantum. I’ve been Dr. Steven Thomson and thank you very much for listening. Goodbye!