Working in Quantum. Insights and behind-the-scenes with ParityQC’s Gabriella Szeltner
Our Working in Quantum interview series puts the spotlight on the people that are part of the flourishing quantum computing industry. Our latest interview is with Gabriella Szeltner, Grant Manager at ParityQC. Gabriella is originally from Hungary, but she’s lived for several years in Austria, developing her career in the financial field. Here she talks about the path that led her to her current position, her deep-dive into quantum computing, and the experience of managing the finances of a quickly growing company like ParityQC.
What’s your role at ParityQC?
I’m a grant manager, responsible for grants and finances. I do a lot of reporting, I take care of the finances, and I also take part in grant writing processes.
How did your career path lead you to working in ParityQC, and what skills and mindset have you developed previously that became useful in this role?
Back in Hungary I studied international studies, and my main focus was on European policies. That includes all the instruments that the European Union offers to different regions, different companies, as well as for education and research. This definitely became useful for my current role. Afterwards, I was awarded different grants myself, and during that process I was able to manage my own grant applications as a student. Regarding finance, I did a second degree here in Austria at the MCI (Management Center Innsbruck) where I studied business and management with a focus on controlling and finance. What I learned at the MCI was useful for me to understand all the financial documents and reports that we receive, and it helps me to deal with the day-to-day activities. And also, I previously worked in the financial department of a big company. This was an important experience which helped me better understand process management. Now at ParityQC I’m not only dealing with day-to-day activities, but I’m trying to build a process, from the moment we receive an invoice onwards.
How was the experience of being catapulted in such a novel and complex industry?
It was very intense. I joined the company during the first reporting phase for one of our projects, a grant of the FFG Basisprogramm. From the first day I had this really big task to work on, which was completely new to me. It was a deep dive into reporting and into quantum computing at the same time. I also really enjoyed it from day one, because you get the feeling that your work is really valuable for the company, and that you’re contributing to something important. It feels important both for the company and for my own personal development.
A lot of your work has to do with collaborative projects supported by the governments of Germany and Austria. Was it surprising to see this level of support from the government for an experimental industry as well as mutual support among different companies?
On one side it wasn’t surprising that the EU – and Germany and Austria in particular – are investing in this, because I already knew that all around the world innovation and technical developments are viewed as something fundamental to invest in. But learning about the entire industry itself and how it developed was something unexpected. It’s a very structured industry, and as we can see in Germany there is a lot of cooperation between different institutions, companies, and different stakeholders, which is something that will bring the industry forward. It was surprising to me that this kind of cooperation can work this well.
How does one hone their skills working in the financial department of a company? How did you work on improving yourself for becoming better and more efficient in high-concentration tasks?
Because I studied business and management with a focus on finance, I reviewed a lot of my old books and notes. For me it is also very helpful that Magdalena is always clear about the goals that need to be achieved. I am generally a very self-motivated person, so motivation was never a problem for me. I had to improve myself in the finance part though, especially the creation of reports in Excel. This was not about basic plus and minuses, but something next-level. I also did some online courses on budgeting, because we are working on preparing very accurate budgets and forecasts, and I did some reading on topics such as the financial markets. Once Magdalena sets a goal I have to adapt, so if there is a competency I’m lacking, I always try to learn and improve myself.
Can you talk of the challenges and rewards of managing the financial aspect of a quickly growing company like ParityQC?
The biggest challenge is the deadlines for sure! It’s something that you really don’t have control on, sometimes you have 3 deadlines in a week and then there will be a month of no deadlines at all. But it’s super helpful in this case to have great team work, I receive a lot of support from everyone. Regarding the rewards, it’s great to have a job in which there are a lot of different tasks and activities, a huge variety “on the menu”, so it never gets boring. It’s not the kind of job in which you read the same emails every day or you do the same tasks every day. Every single day is different. I also like the fact that once we are told the goals, we can freely find our own way to work towards them.
What has the experience of working at ParityQC taught you so far?
Definitely team work, especially in the age of home office. Working with people that are far away and still managing to be a strong team. But also working with scientists who have a completely different background and attitude than me has taught me to be patient and adaptable. And even if people around me are a lot smarter than I am, it’s good to know that I give my contribution to the common success 🙂
What inspires you to come to the ParityQC office (or log in) every day?
Coming to the office, it’s definitely the people. Logging in, the feeling that my job is important and brings an important contribution to the company. But I also like the feeling that we are “creating the future”. The quantum computing industry is extremely interesting and you never know where the path is leading. If we really achieve quantum advantage, it will be amazing to have the feeling that “wow, I was part of this”.
Finally, what’s one thing you love the most about living in Austria?
The mountains! Even if you have a bad day, you just have to look around you, go for a hike, or go for a bike ride, and it’s just like heaven.