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James Birnie has been working on commercial software since the late 1990s. Back then TDD was something you studied but never did, pipelines were something that carried oil and agile and lean were words used to describe gymnasts. In 2006 he joined a startup and worked there for 9 years which included at least 3 major rewrites, cloud migrations and an Agile transformation.

In 2015 he joined ThoughtWorks and he’ve since worked on several major projects on several very different technology stacks. Every day in his job he sees things that surprise, shock, disappoint and sometimes delight him!

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Talk: What is the point of Quantum?

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Q. Tell us a bit about yourself. What are your hobbies and interests?

I like to spend time with my two girls. I love snowboarding and they are learning to love skiing. When I’m not with the girls I like to keep fit by running. I’ve done 4 marathons now and I’ll be doing the London Marathon for the third time this April.


Q. Why did you select this topic for your session at Voxxed Days Bucharest 2019?

I’ve been researching Quantum Computers for about a year now, since I saw a talk last spring and realised that we are close to having real, useful quantum computers. Since then I’ve learnt more than I ever thought I would organised quantum hack days and workshops and been asked to curate the ThoughtWorks quantum strategy. The plan is to raise awareness generally and to get ThoughtWorks into a place where we already have expertise in quantum computer programming when the hardware to run the algorithms becomes commercially viable. Speaking at conferences about quantum is part of this overall strategy.


Q. Who should attend your session? 

Anybody interested in cool new technology; don’t make the mistake of thinking it will as easy to learn quantum as it is to learn a new language, that assumption hurt me badly! If you care about keeping data secure there is also an important message for you in this talk.


Q. What are the key things attendees will take away from your session? 

What will quantum computers be good for, how I can program them now and why I should care about post quantum cryptography right now. 


Q. Aside from speaking at Voxxed Days Bucharest, what are your other plans for this year?

I’ll be speaking at a few more conferences around Europe. There will be a couple of other Voxxed / Devoxx conferences, Codemotion, NDC, Lead Developer (London) and probably some others I don’t know about yet.

Outside of conference speaking it is my goal to get the word of quantum spread sufficiently that I am allowed to start some kind of Future Business Development group within ThoughtWorks focusing on quantum.

Outside of work, I’d like to get fit again! Two years ago I ran the London Marathon under 3 hours but in January 2018 I injured my back snowboarding. I’ve only just managed to run without back pain and this year’s race will come too soon for me to prepare properly. Hopefully I can run in one of the autumn marathons, perhaps Berlin, and regain my automatic London qualification time.


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