Alumni Magazine Fall 2016 - page 8-9

Fall 2016
Fall 2016
By Suzanne F. Smith
degrees at Clarkson, Candee was hired
by the Chicago-based Harza Engineering
Company (now MWH Global), a leader in
hydroelectric power.
“They needed someone to go to
Alaska and model the ice-covered rivers,”
he says. “That sounded great to me.”
But by the time Candee showed up in
Chicago, the Alaska project was awarded
to another firm and so his Alaskan
adventure never materialized.
“My boss asked me what I’d like to do
and I said I wanted to travel,” he recalls.
“But their response was ‘we don’t send
people overseas until they have a little
gray hair.’”
While that shut down any immediate
travel plans, it did nothing to stifle his
wanderlust. Nine months later, when
another opportunity presented itself,
Candee was ready.
“My supervisor was scheduled to go
to Venezuela for a project the company was
involved in there. Two days before he was
to leave, he packed up his office and left the
firm. No warning. He was just gone.”
It was the 23-year-old Candee who
got on the plane to Venezuela instead. “I
was the only other person who knew the
design,” he recalls.
He was supposed to stay for five
weeks. Instead, he stayed for five years.
Candee learned a valuable lesson
that would serve him well throughout
his career: “When you are given an
opportunity, grab it for all it is worth.”
Eventually oil revenues dropped in
Venezuela andmoney for the project dried up.
To keep it going, Venezuelan officials needed
to raise $350 million. When they asked the
firmwho was experienced in financing, the
answer they received was “Candee.”
“I had never been involved in financing
before,” he says. “Not ever. But I got on a plane.
I visited banks and learned about international
finance. I managed to successfully secure the
loan and the project was completed.”
He was 27 years old.
“That time in Venezuela was the best of
my life,” he says. “But I was worried that if I
stayed too long, my career would stagnate.
So I left the company and took a position
with Syracuse-based MCK Building
Candee was responsible for starting
up a new division in Ithaca. When the
company was opening an office in Mexico,
Candee supervised that as well, commuting
between Mexico and central New York.
Seven years later, in 1995, he returned to
Harza as the vice president of international
investments and hydroelectric planning.
The well-trained engineer had built up
experience and additional capabilities in
development, finance, risk assessment and
construction management. Now he traveled
the world —more than a dozen countries in
all — investing in hydroelectric power and
water supply systems. For two of those years,
he was based in Nepal, spending three weeks
of every month in Kathmandu and one in
When the company merged with
a larger firm, he stayed two more years
and then, in 2004, he left to form his own
company, Aqua Energie LLC. “To be
honest, when I started my company it
was a tough time for hydropower.”
He got a call from a Honduran
company that wanted to contract him
to study a hydropower project. Candee
brought in several of his former colleagues,
“the best in their fields,” he says, and the
business took off.
Twelve years later, the international
consultancy firm oversees the research,
design and development of multimillion
dollar hydropower andmultipurpose water
resources projects around the world. The work
hasn’t slowed down. And neither has Candee.
Two years ago, he completed an
MBA in international business from the
University of Sheffield in England. “I
was the oldest student in my class but
graduated ‘Best-in-Class,’” he says.
For Candee, success overseas is
as much a matter of disposition as
professional acumen.
“You have to genuinely love other
cultures and people,” he says. “You can’t
fake it. When you engage in the cultural
and social life of a particular place, when
you take the time to learn the language and
make friends in the community, people
trust you more. That helps you in your
work no question, but it also makes for a
far richer, more satisfying life.”
For Candee, playing team sports in the
community was a great way to meet people
and become immersed in the culture. “I
played golf in Nepal, baseball and rugby in
Caracas and soccer in Honduras,” he says.
Over the last few years, Candee has been
invited to speak to college students interested in
international consulting on behalf of a student
chapter of EngineersWithout Borders.
“Students are very excited and wonder
how to get started,” he says. “They ask
about different cultures and how I adapted.
They rarely ask about the financial
The advice he gives them is simple:
“Embrace the people and the place
where you are. Different nations have
different cultures certainly, and you need
to understand where people are coming
from, but don’t stereotype.”
“People around the world,” he says,
“are more alike than different.”
At Home in the World
Meet Kevin Candee ’77, ’79 (CEE, MENG). Successful Business Owner | Hydropower Expert | Citizen of the World.
“When you engage in the cultural and social life of a
particular place, when you take the time to learn the
language and make friends in the community, people
trust you more. That helps you in your work no question,
but it also makes for a far richer, more satisfying life.”
— Kevin Candee
Kevin Candee ’77, ’79 (CEE, MENG)
For more than 35 years, Kevin Candee
’77, ’79 (CEE, MENG), an expert in water
resources and hydropower, has worked and
lived overseas — from South America and
Eastern Europe to Southeast Asia and, most
recently, in the Ivory Coast of West Africa.
The business owner and
hydraulics professional with a
spirit for adventure has built
a successful career designing,
managing and securing
financing for large hydraulics
projects worldwide. Along the
way, he and his family have
called places as disparate as
Venezuela, Romania and
Nepal home.
“I’ve lived or worked
in more than 40 countries,”
Candee says. “It’s a gypsy
lifestyle I have chosen, I
suppose, but it is one that
suits me very well.”
Going global is on everyone’s
mind these days. But back in
the 1970s, when he was a civil
engineering student at Clarkson,
Candee’s interest in working and
traveling overseas made him
something of an anomaly among
aspiring young professionals.
After finishing his
undergraduate and graduate
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