Cultural currents power mechanical engineer’s success at NextEra Energy
Aug 4, 2023
The days his parents brought home their family's first television, telephone and refrigerator are ones Dr. Krishnakumar Venkataraman said he will never forget.
 
Growing up in a middle-class family in Chennai, India without many of the creature comforts that Americans take for granted today, Venkataraman could not have imagined where his life would take him.
 

“I think about it a lot,” said Venkataraman, who holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University. “Especially when I see how my kids are growing up. Where I was versus where I am now.”
 
Today, Dr. Venkataraman has 24 patents under his name. He’s a leader in the power generation industry for his inventions and engine designs and is responsible for delivering engineering and operational support to all NextEra Energy Resources' and Florida Power & Light Company's generating facilities, including the nuclear fleet's secondary side.
 
“It gives me great satisfaction to see my ideas come to life overseeing NextEra Energy’s Engineering Operations Support Services business unit. The collaborative and innovative atmosphere at NextEra enabled my ideas for improvements to our Dania Beach Clean Energy Center to become patents,” said Venkataraman, who goes by “KK.”
 

He credits his career success and improved standard of living to following the values his parents instilled in him as a child, something he is still grateful to them for today.
 
“We knew the way up in India was all through education,” Venkataraman said. “From a very young age, my parents were very clear on the importance of a thirst for knowledge.”
 
He graduated from high school in his hometown and completed his undergraduate studies in mechanical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology before moving to the United States to finish his doctorate degree at Penn State.
 
While academic success came easy, Venkataraman said his biggest learning curve was finding his voice.
 
“Respect for authority was a big deal in my culture where I was growing up, but in America I found comfort in speaking up, questioning things and advocating for myself,” said KK. “Learning to speak up, building a brand and taking risks are the three things I would say really helped me get to where I am today.”
 
His favorite risk: taking a job at NextEra Energy as a staff engineer after leaving a 17-year career at General Electric as a product management executive. While some may have viewed this as a step back, KK saw this as an investment in his future.
“I chose NextEra because it’s a technology-forward organization with opportunities to branch into renewables. My expectation was that this would be a place where I could launch my second career and that I would have fun doing it,” he said while pausing to smile. “It has paid off.”
 

In less than five years with the company, Dr. Venkataraman was promoted multiple times leading up to his current role as vice president of engineering & operations support services. Though his career path hasn’t been a linear one, his cultural ties remain unbent.
 
“It’s something that grounds me in the midst of everything,” said Venkataraman. “I go back to my Indian roots more and more the older I get.”
 
Sharing the art of Bharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance form, is when Venkataraman says he and his wife, Sivakami, feel most connected to their culture.
 
Before moving to South Florida, the couple owned their own dance studio in Greenville, South Carolina and now regularly travel back and forth to teach classes. As he and his wife have become busier in their personal and professional lives, Venkataraman has gravitated from performing to emceeing Indian classical performances.
 
“Bharatanatyam is a very stylized art form with a combination of rhythmic and narrative aspects. For a lay person, it can be very difficult to follow and that is where my role as an emcee comes in,” said Venkataraman, who has been dancing for the last four decades. “It gives me a lot of satisfaction because people who watch can be better connected to Indian culture.”
 
From storytelling on stage through the art of dance to being the guest speaker for important energy industry events, Venkataraman takes every opportunity he can to share his heritage and unique perspective.
 

He even mentors a younger Indian employee at the company, Shachi Mangoli, who moved to the U.S. with her family at 6-years-old.
 
“Balancing the best aspects of Indian and American culture is not the easiest thing to do, but in Venkataraman, I can find a role model that prioritizes both,” said Mangoli. “He pushes others to be more diverse and does so by exemplifying diversity himself.”
 
“Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity” is the national theme chosen by The Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) for the observance of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
 
“I’m proud to be a part of nationwide celebration of the many accomplishments and contributions of Asian Americans throughout the month of May,” Venkataraman said. “I’m filled with pride looking at all we have achieved.”
 
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