Hytham Alihassan is a Firmware Developer at Atlas Wearables who is responsible for developing the code that keeps all the parts inside the Atlas module talking and working together. After getting a degree in Computer Engineering and Architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he went to work for Emerson Electric designing hardware. Soon, though, he was drawn into the world of firmware as a way of troubleshooting hardware designs and never looked back. This has taken him all the way to the Philippines and back, working on everything from cell phone towers to headphones. When he isn't writing firmware, you can usually find Hytham out biking or drinking craft beer.
What was it like working over in the Philippines?
The Philippines was my first real experience living in a warmer climate environment. I stayed in Eastwood, a business district in Quezon City just outside of Manila, and although it was nice to hop across the street of my apartment to work and for drinks, food, and movies, I did miss biking around and roaming the city by myself. Half of the coworkers in my office were from Cebu (where the popular language is Cebuanos), so English became the primary language of the office not because it was their native language but because it was easier for everyone than Tagalog. The best part of my time in the Philippines was traveling with my coworkers to their native islands; the white beaches and coral reefs was a nice break from the hustle and exhaust fumes of Manila.
You usually ride your bike to work, but occasionally you drive your Chevy Volt in. What inspired you to get that car?
I’ve always been excited about the prospect of owning a vehicle that could be powered solely off the grid. The Volt was the first commercially available vehicle to sport a series hybrid design, which means that it has an all-electric drive with a gas motor as a backup generator; by contrast, the Prius is a parallel hybrid, which means the gas engine runs with an electric assist. The Chevy Volt was the largest gadget purchase I have ever made, and I love that I can visit any big city and leave my car behind at a charging station while I roam downtown or grab a bite with friends.
Austin is quite a change from Wisconsin. What do you like most about Austin?
Austin actually reminds me a lot of Madison and Milwaukee. Madison is the capital of Wisconsin, and the Isthmus imposes a dense population surrounding the campus and central capitol building, which provides a great environment for walking and running, commuting on bicycle and bus, and enjoying the lake views, farmers market, music events and State Street. However, I grew up in Milwaukee and missed the big city life; at 350,000 people, the college capital started to feel small for me, and it is nice to be near a downtown that overwhelms you with people, activities, and culture. Ultimately, I find both of these lifestyles in Austin, so I have more time to enjoy the outdoors while also going to concerts and meeting fun and interesting people every day, all the while living in a growing tech city.