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Rigetti Computing

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Rigetti Computing

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Employee Review

  1. 2.0
    Former Employee, more than 1 year

    An Introduction to Rigetti Computing

    Aug 22, 2019 - Quantum Engineer in Berkeley, CA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Catered lunch every day and sometimes for dinner. It could be worse!

    Cons

    I'm going to try here to give a comprehensive review of the Rigetti experience from my perspective as a technical contributor during my ~2 years there. It's the kind of information I would like to have if I was considering joining Rigetti today. From a technical perspective, a lot of it is as an outside expert might expect--barely measurable progress on a path that arguably doesn't go anywhere of value, i.e., "noisy near-term devices". Chad disagrees, and operates under the assumption we can achieve the AWS of quantum, with valuable near-term applications running on Rigetti low-noise NISQ chips. The promise of noisy near term applications are the lifeblood of Rigetti and the company is driven both financially and in execution by the crazy hype and inapplicable VC growth metrics that value "growth" at all costs. This quest is underwritten by a hollow, questionably motivated intelligentsia (a la academia)--I refer here to the full spectrum of deception, from claims of "QC is now just an engineering problem" to misrepresentation and omissions of unfavorable research results, quantum computers reversing time, running smart cities, and all the other sensations funding-seekers have been peddling. If value creating technology is going to come of QC, then some new and very deep hardware breakthroughs will be required--e.g., an enabler of scalably fault-tolerant systems. From what I've seen it would need to be a massive step change in our capabilities and approach, akin to the realization of the integrated transistor in terms of enablement, and I can't imagine it looking like anything folks are working on currently at Rigetti. Some people take a middle ground, acknowledging little to no value in near term devices but believing the path from NISQ to fault tolerance will be incremental and sufficiently smooth, therefore requiring little upfront investment in error correction--but regardless, a startup is certainly not the place to take that journey. That sort of work belongs in government (or possibly big corporate funded research) where doing decades of technical-risk type research and never directly capturing value can be tolerated. The engineering experience at Rigetti can be understood by analogy if you look at the first attempt to build the transatlantic telegraph cable--a good enough understanding of the high-level physics to know how the thing is supposed to work but hopelessly incompetent with the realities of materials, fabrication, etc. Now scale the complexity up by orders of magnitude--working in this environment was definitely a very humbling experience in this age of techno hubris. I won't trouble you with endless examples of 2nd order problems like software, hardware, and systems engineering that are often unappreciated by folks at Rigetti without industry experience--the reason this naivety is not a first order problem is thanks to the incredibly immaturity of the devices themselves. However, the "graduate research lab" feel can make for a pretty unsatisfying work environment for seasoned engineers--these respectable adults are largely thrust into Engineering-as-a-service roles extending instrument functionality in service of young experimenters. The resulting "full-stack" technology is really just custom built laboratory measurement hardware and experiment-automation software allowing users to run novelty experiments (quite pointless ones) remotely over the internet. In terms of execution, the inexperience and volatility of leadership is a continual source of entropy dumping into the engineering org. Millions of dollars and countless hours spent on execution toward hype-generating but non-value add objectives (read: bigger qubit counts, quantum cloud, advantage prize, etc...), only for those objectives to 180 on a whim and a lot of the consumed capital unable to be repurposed. Being "full-stack", Rigetti works in a vacuum and has very few of the practical constraints and reality checks other companies deal with (partners, suppliers, vendors, customers, etc...), but also doesn't benefit from purchasing solutions from folks with core competency and many years investment behind them or the focus of having real customers. As a result, almost everything done at Rigetti is done poorly despite hiring bright young people. Culturally, Rigetti was a mixed bag--the catered lunches and other startup type perks were really great. I also had a lot of stimulating conversations with some really great folks, but the core of Rigetti culture is all that it's eponymous naming implies. As sole founder, and with hundreds of millions under his belt, Chad is quite unhinged and enjoys the privilege of indefinitely suspending reality. Lots of massive egos and politics abound in Rigetti's stratosphere, with little relevant experience or leadership to back it up. Tons of turnover in Chad's inner circle--most notably the departure of the CTO earlier this year, but in the past has included various VP's and directors in engineering and HR (often multiple refreshes for the same position). The collateral damage of this politicking and founder whimsy has a ripple effect in the organization with the result that whole departments experience a phoenix lifecycle--completely dismantled (sometimes down to the last individual contributor) and rebuilt every 12-18 months. The workforce is mostly a collective of very young post-docs extending their own meandering research experiences under the guise of "engineering", or with the promise of solving climate change or cancer through chemical simulations, etc.--an application of shrewd survival skills gained writing creative grant applications in academia. In the couple years I worked there, IC's were always said to have been dismissed (suddenly) due to performance reasons during these refresh cycles. The dismissals were frequently hostile--"the black bag treatment"--with valued coworkers disappearing overnight and formal announcements that they were underperformers and that we would replace them with "better people" (Chad's words at a "town hall"). Chad and the managers frequently claimed this was typical "startup" retention, but it is messy, outsized (occasionally 5-10% of employees), and unkind. Despite his wife Susan Fowler's (of Uber fame) vocal pronouncements that ending forced arbitration is the single best thing companies can do to change hostile corporate cultures for the better, people who are cast out are obliged by Rigetti to sign the same arbitration agreements and extensive non-disparagement clauses, which include gag orders against posting on glassdoor, etc... I saw several of these cycles during my time there. For those newly hired at Rigetti, has there been any curiosity where all the engineers that built the lab went? The company was started in 2013, how many today have been there 2+ years? I too thought this was curious when I joined... The work environment can be lonely and isolating if you think differently (i.e., wrongly). My first experience of disillusionment in this respect was when an immigration attorney was brought in to chat with foreign workers and Chad drove the talk briefly but enthusiastically toward the possibility of California's secession from the US, amid continual proclamations that Rigetti is not a US company but a global company (it's actually a Delaware company like all the other double-talkers out here in the bay). Some of the employees are shockingly progressive, so much so that I don't feel comfortable sharing anecdotes that would incriminate them (not even talking about drugs). The bulk of the explicit culture at Rigetti--the look and feel of management/HR so to speak--is the usual silicon valley overdose of virtue signaling, buzzwords, self-righteous finger wagging, race/gender obsession, etc... As a testament to our virtue, we spent money traveling to historically black colleges that didn't have relevant technical programs, but these distractions can be avoided for the most part if you manage to sidestep the D&I meetings, political slack channels, and militant trouble starters. There are a lot of bright, hardworking, and normalish people at Rigetti, but somehow those folks aren't the ones that get highlighted and trophied about. Chad's hubris is mutually reinforcing here--since we are building a new "industry" from the ground up, we have the power to mandate the gender and racial makeup of this workforce of the future. It's like the WeWork of quantum... but less value-add.

    64 people found this review helpful

Other Employee Reviews

  1. 5.0
    Current Employee, more than 1 year

    A great team of motivated people!

    Oct 22, 2021 - Anonymous Employee in Berkeley, CA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Intelligent colleagues, exciting field, learn something new every day, not a single boring moment at work, working with some of the brightest and the best in this field. Lots of opportunities for career development in a small company, work culture is amazing.

    Cons

    Deadlines can be short and the work can be challenging. Quantum is not a settled field, so you need to be very dynamic to strive in this atmosphere.

    Continue reading
    1 person found this review helpful
  2. 5.0
    Current Employee

    Amazing Place to Work - Best Coworkers & Innovative Thinkers

    Jul 9, 2021 - Business Development in Washington, DC
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    - By far the best people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Incredible intelligence coupled with kindness and respect. People are very generous with their time and truly respect everyone's expertise, without looking down on anyone who may not have a PhD. - Mission-motivated: The people at Rigetti truly believe in the mission of quantum computing and are internally drive to make the world a better place through our technology - Rapid growth - in the ~2 years I have been here, we have seen an an incredible amount of growth and maturity, not only in technology, but business solutions, business development, and working to solve real problems of real customers. The sky is the limit for Rigetti. - Rigetti has really learned to differentiate itself from competitors with its scalable approach, commitment to national security, captive fab, and hybrid quantum-classical architecture. I think this will be a good recipe for success in a field with many tech giants

    Cons

    - Learning curve is very steep working in this industry because quantum computing is such a challenging subject

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Rigetti Computing photo of: Panel at Advantage 2020
Rigetti Computing photo of: Fab-1, Rigetti's captive quantum integrated circuit foundry
Rigetti Computing photo of: Rigetti QPU
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