Interview: Tobias Thiele
How and when did you join Zurich Instruments?
I grew up in Zurich and studied physics at ETH. I carried out my master’s thesis project in atomic physics at Oxford University, and then did an internship at the California Institute of Technology. Following that, I obtained my PhD at ETH on a hybrid experiment with atoms and superconducting circuits. After my PhD, I worked as a postdoc at the Joint Institute of Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA, CU Boulder) on hybrid atomic/photonic systems, atomic quantum computing and magnetometry. All these different research projects now help me understand the needs of our customers.
I joined Zurich Instruments in November 2019 as an Application Scientist.
As I came directly from academia, this was a huge shift for me – but one definitely worth it. I wanted to come back to Europe from the USA, and I stumbled across a Zurich Instruments job advert on the European Quantum Flagship website. The reason I was interested in the opening was that the job description was a great fit, as it allowed me to apply my broad technical background to various fields; to me it seemed like a rare case where a postdoc in fundamental physics would be directly useful in an industry setting, and it was great for me to get a chance to continue working on quantum technologies, the field I like and know.
What does your job look like, and what is the most important aspect of it?
I work as an Application Scientist for Quantum Technologies, and have recently become a Product Manager for the SHFQA Quantum Analyzer. Currently, I am working on two main projects. The first focuses on the product management of the SHFQA, a new instrument offering a new way of reading out large numbers of qubits. My main task here is to help shape the instrument with market insights and inputs from potential customers, but also based on market demands and market evolution. The other project is related to business development in the quantum technology area in the US, finding new business opportunities thanks to my understanding of the different research activities there. I collaborate closely with our US office.
One of the challenges of this job is that there are many interesting ideas and projects that you can explore, and you have to select them properly and find the right balance. What I really like about my job is that I have the freedom to do what interests me and can work independently. At the same time, there is great team support and team spirit: everyone is motivated and willing to push ideas and projects forward so that the company can truly excel, especially in this new field of quantum technologies.
What is the most memorable Zurich Instruments moment that stayed with you?
I had a great welcome and received a lot of support from the team. As I am still quite new to the company and the COVID-19 outbreak kept us locked at home, I couldn’t attend many social events with my colleagues. However, I won’t forget our yearly company gathering and workshops as well as the company’s fondue evening, which was great fun. My first interactions with our customers (such as my first trip to the US) were also very rewarding – for example, when together with a customer we put our instruments to work and measured Rabi oscillations on 6 qubits in parallel.
How do you spend your free time?
One of my pastime activities is playing the cello. I also enjoy spending time with my family, especially while exploring new outdoors places.