Q-CTRL has been in business for almost a year now. And as we prepare to hit go on BLACK OPAL - our first commercial product - we have brought in a key member of the team: our Head of Product.
Marcin Czyzyk joined us this month to oversee the introduction of systems at Q-CTRL that will allow us to scale up as we meet global demand, delivering quantum control solutions for everyone who needs them. This includes tech giants like IBM, quantum start-ups, and researchers and their students.
Marcin comes with an outstanding background as a commercial product manager in his native Poland, in the UK and more recently in Australia.
I sat down with Marcin and Chief Technology Officer Robert Love who had responsibility for the recruitment process.
Demand for Expertise
Robert Love (RL): The combination of deep expertise in quantum control with a robust professional engineering team is a point of differentiation for Q-CTRL. From the outset we have very much been a product-focused company, rather than a commercial research outfit, so our Head of Product is a key hire. Q-CTRL is now at a stage of maturity where we need we need tighter product management processes and that’s where Marcin comes in.
Marcin Czyzyk (MC): Working for a quantum technology company is completely new to me. I asked [CEO and founder] Mike [Biercuk] and Robert if they were sure they wanted a commercial product guy, and they said, yes, that’s exactly what we want.
A moment comes in the life of a startup company where it is established enough to have a dedicated Head of Product. When you want to move away from a scenario where anyone can turn up to an ad hoc staff meeting, you need processes in place. And building that framework is my role.
I’ve been working in commercial product delivery for more than 12 years, but this is the first time I’ve been part of a team featuring expert scientific researchers. In our company we have scientists, engineers, designers; in order to grow, we need to build processes and a framework for all of us to collaborate to assist the customer.
We’re now at the exciting stage where we need to start building the infrastructure to enable Q-CTRL to scale up in order to meet the demand the team is seeing for their expertise.
RL: Marcin’s role will be to add rigour around how we translate techniques for the control of quantum devices operating at the edge of human capability into functional products. At the outset we hired a very senior team, so they could operate very autonomously.
But meeting customer demand means we have to expand our ability to deliver new features as quickly as possible. As we grow we’ll hire more broadly and having robust processes for product development will be critical to the team’s success.
The Head of Product is ultimately responsible for ensuring the return on investment for the products we build.
What to build is prioritized by the Head of Product in the context of the CEO’s strategic plan. From there, Marcin will work with the quantum research team, engineers, and designers to make that product a reality that customers will love.
MC: My role is not only to be facilitator but decision-maker, too.
At present everyone works across multiple tasks, which is right for a small start-up. But my job now will be to take on responsibilities for shepherding products to completion, allowing members of the team to focus on their strengths. This even extends to senior leadership roles who will be better positioned to focus on future strategy and high-level client relationships.
Product and Client are King
RL: Our approach is to build a very high-quality experience for our customers. Consistent with our core value to Be Revered, we focus on the details that can truly transform the customer experience. We want to bring an Apple-like ‘unboxing’ to quantum computing; our products need to be intuitive and enjoyable to use from the moment a client encounters them.
MC: This extends beyond the first-touch through to the complications that inevitably arise when customers engage heavily with the product. A lot of companies talk about being customer-centric but many truly lack follow-through.
You really need customer support when the client encounters problems that don’t fit in with the expected. More than just a willingness to help, you need people responsible for product who can act. Q-CTRL’s willingness to invest in a Head of Product at such an early stage is a testament to the company’s focus on delivering for clients.
RL: We are a small company, so at this stage we can’t have a 24/7 hotline. But we can use technology to empower our customers to quickly overcome obstacles they encounter and then directly assist when needed.
At help.q-ctrl.com we have produced a series of detailed user guides for BLACK OPAL, ranging from a step-by-step Getting Started workflow through to detailed guidance on advanced topics. And we can continually build new information into these based on customer feedback.
We also have our full technical document library at docs.q-ctrl.com where customers can access the detailed mathematical formalism behind our solutions. And, of course, customers can always chat with us directly through the product or customer support.
MC: Our company is ambitious. Q-CTRL aims to be the trusted provider of control solutions for all quantum technologies.
As we go global we will focus on approaches to ensure our solutions align directly with the needs of our customers. Q-CTRL will work with established technology giants, like IBM, but also provide support to PhD researchers.
RL: Our commitment to putting the customer first is apparent in the architecture of our products. We start with Black Opal Basic, aimed at helping young researchers and students gain intuition about quantum control. This is extended by Black Opal Premium, which is designed to provide the key functionality demanded by more established researchers.
Automation and integration come through the forthcoming Boulder Opal suite; professional developers will find API access and development tools in Boulder Opal Professional, while the exacting demands of hardware manufacturers for embedded solutions will be met through Boulder Opal Enterprise.
The customer drives everything we build. And Marcin will ensure what we deliver continues to provide maximum value