Interview: Hussein Kassir
How and when did you join Zurich Instruments?
I studied computer science and engineering at EPFL in Lausanne. After completing my master’s degree I joined their PhD program. EPFL offered cutting-edge research and constant engagement with experts in the field, but the work was more theoretical and lacked hands-on experience in building systems. Half-way through my PhD, I realized that I would rather work on current real-world problems and develop products. That’s why I started looking for a hardware development job.
The opportunity at Zurich Instruments fulfilled my expectations. During the interview process I visited the company’s headquarters in Zurich and saw how the company uses hardware to develop new products for quantum computing, one of the hottest research areas in the world I knew this was where I wanted to be. People were welcoming, and everything I saw made my decision to join the company in April 2019 very easy.
What does your job look like, and what is the most important aspect of it?
I am a member of the FPGA and Firmware team. Our team receives new instrument boards designed by the Hardware (HW) team, and we then program the FPGA to give our instruments their features. I now work on the PQSC Programmable Quantum System Controller, which is part of the Quantum Computing Control System (QCCS). The QCCS is what allows our customers to control a quantum chip and measure the chip’s output. We need many instruments to control quantum chips, so the PQSC ensures that all instruments work together with nanosecond precision. In computer engineering, nanosecond-level precision is a challenging requirement that pushes towards the edge of a computer’s operating capabilities.
Our team is growing, and has a flat structure where we all work on design and development: this makes the job very interesting. We are also in constant touch with product managers from the Marketing & Sales team, who are scientists with deep knowledge of the market requirements; this allows us to work together and deliver results for our customers in an Agile fashion.
The most exciting part of my job is when I create a new block or a new feature: this is when I lose track of time, as I know that my colleagues look forward to seeing what I created.
What is the most memorable Zurich Instruments moment that stayed with you?
The most memorable moment was 6-8 months into my job, when we delivered the first PQSC to our customer at Berkeley. We got together as a company, and we celebrated the sale as a team. It felt like everyone who had been involved was celebrated: the HW team who designed the board, the FW team who designed the instrument’s features, the software team who enabled access to the instrument, our sales team and the logistics experts – we all felt we did it together.
How do you spend your free time?
I am a big sports fan: I play football, I go to the gym regularly, I hike when it’s sunny, and I also do pilates. I also love gaming. I mainly play League of Legends online, and I’ve been playing with my friends since the first season: that helped us maintain our friendship across borders.