Women of Quantum Technology: Amanda Chew of Horizon Quantum Computing
For many individuals with backgrounds in computer science, it is a natural next step to explore the field of quantum computing. That’s what happened to Amanda Chew, the VP of Product at quantum computing company Horizon Quantum Computing. With computer science and mathematics degrees from Brown University, Chew’s interest in information science naturally drew her to learning about quantum computing. “I thought it was a very bright idea to ask the fundamental question of what if we can build computers using the laws of quantum mechanics, then it really increases computational power,” Chew stated. “I always thought it was very intriguing.”
After graduating from Brown, Chew transitioned into working at Microsoft as Senior Program Manager in their Visual Studio App Center. “I worked in the Developer Tools division, Visual Studio App Center,” she added. “As I was doing it, and building products for developers like me, it felt very fulfilling to build tools I would use, as I’m building them for people like me. I felt I understood developers, when I talked to the users, I understood what they were going through, and it just made going to work every day more fun and meaningful.” With Google announcing their quantum supremacy results in 2019, Chew found the Valley abuzz with quantum computing. “It was then that I seriously considered going deeper into quantum computing,” said Chew. “From an outsider’s point of view, it made me realize this might be a unique point where if you join, you could contribute and make a small impact in the history of quantum computing.”
While Chew didn’t act on her curiosity just yet, she left Microsoft in 2020 to travel the world. She thought about getting a Master’s or Ph.D. in quantum computing after returning from her journey. However, with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chew found herself stuck in her home country of Singapore, with few options. “I was staying in Singapore, and I think I spent about nine months there, evaluating my career and further researching quantum computing,” elaborated Chew. “I thought it was really at the point where there were many problems in the quantum computing field, and they needed more people.” To better understand the budding ecosystem, Chew attended various quantum-related conferences virtually, meeting some of the key figures and organizations in the industry. During this time, Chew met Dr. Joe Fitzsimons, the CEO of Horizon Quantum Computing. “I reached out to him asking for a chat,” Chew added. “And it turned out that he had a job opening for a product manager.” After a successful interview, Chew officially joined the team at Horizon Quantum Computing in November 2020, excited to get hands-on experience in quantum computing.
At Horizon Quantum Computing, Chew finds herself working on many of the same goals that she once had at Microsoft by thinking about programmers and developer tools. “I lead the product strategy, and vision for our software development tools to program quantum computers,” Chew explained. “So what Horizon Quantum Computing does is build developer tools to make programming quantum computers easier. We do that by building a toolchain that goes from classical code to a quantum circuit. For example, users can write their program in C, MATLAB, or Python, and our software compiles the code down to a quantum circuit, without the user needing to know about quantum computing.” With this tool, Chew and her team hope to enable millions of developers to program quantum computers easily. “Our long-term goal is to give developers a full path from classical code to quantum hardware without needing to learn a new language or needing to spend many years learning quantum mechanics,” she added. To successfully do this, Chew collaborates with the various teams within Horizon Quantum Computing, from the software development team to marketing to HR. She enjoys learning more about her coworkers and finds these collaborations incredibly fulfilling.
As one of the top female leaders within Horizon Quantum Computing, Chew also understands that she is influential in helping to make the quantum ecosystem more inclusive for other women. As Chew explained: “I think representation is very important. When people see role models highlighted or published somewhere, it encourages aspiring individuals who want to contribute to the field not to be deterred.” But Chew believes that inclusivity can also come from building products that better represent the world. As the VP of Product, she believes that inclusive product design, with all individuals in mind, can help encourage more diversity in the industry. “Because when you have people at the decision-making table representing different perspectives and from different gender, ethnic or socioeconomic backgrounds, you have people who will hopefully build better products,” she added. “Then, when you use these products, you feel more included because the product has thoughtfully considered your needs. It makes a difference.”
Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is a staff writer at Inside Quantum Technology and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). Her writing beats include deep tech, quantum computing, and AI. Her work has been featured in Scientific American, New Scientist, Discover Magazine, Ars Technica, and more.