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  • Writer's pictureMirka Karra

FACES #22 with Christos Athanasiadis, Product Innovation Manager at NET2GRID

At the heart of NET2GRID's pioneering endeavors stands Christos Athanasiadis, our Product Innovation Manager, a visionary who has chosen to channel his academic brilliance and technical prowess into shaping the energy landscape. In pursuit of his Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the Democritus University of Thrace and a Master's from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with the highest GPA ever in his school, Christos's journey brought him to NET2GRID’s doorstep. From a Machine Learning Intern to a Product Innovation Manager presenting in front of the esteemed Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), his dynamic roles within NET2GRID reflect his unrelenting commitment to pushing boundaries and sculpting the future of energy. In this spotlight episode, Christos offers insights into his journey, his impactful contributions to NET2GRID's mission, and his drive to inspire others in the realm of EnergyAI.

Visual Image with picture of Christos Athanasiadis and his title

1. Hello Christo - thank you very much for being here with us today. First of all, congratulations on your recent experience in presenting at IREC! How was this experience overall?

Thank you for having me here! Presenting at IREC was a great experience and really rewarding. The Customer Grid Edge committee consists of experts spanning public utilities, energy service providers, equipment suppliers, smart grid researchers - you name it! It was a pleasure to engage with such a knowledgeable group, all deeply committed to advancing smart grids and energy management.

2. Your academic journey has been incredibly successful, with an outstanding GPA - you had the highest GPA (9.79/10) in the history of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, plus other significant achievements. What inspired you to join and stay with NET2GRID, considering you could have pursued opportunities elsewhere, including abroad?

Thank you for your kind words!

My decision to join and stay with NET2GRID is rooted in a combination of factors. Firstly, NET2GRID's mission deeply resonated with my passion for energy innovation and sustainability. The opportunity to contribute to shaping the future of energy consumption and distribution was a driving force in my decision.

The second one is the belief and trust that the company placed in my capabilities. From an early stage, I was entrusted with leading the R&D department, and subsequently, steering the product innovation roadmap allowing me to grow in roles that aligned with my skills and aspirations. The level of empowerment and trust bestowed upon me at such an early stage of my career is truly valuable, and it's something that sets NET2GRID apart.

The final motivator is my personal drive and ambition. There is a great lyric from a J. Cole song, “Whatever you do, you won’t do it partially.” When I commit to something, I put my whole heart into it, striving to excel and give my best. My goal is to lead NET2GRID to the top, as we're shaping the future of energy innovation.

3. You've had diverse roles at NET2GRID, starting as an intern almost 4 years ago, becoming a Machine Learning Engineer, then a Lead R&D Engineer, and now as a Product Innovation Manager. How have these experiences shaped your perspective on innovation within the energy sector, and how do you bring your unique insights to the table?

Starting as a Machine Learning Engineer, I was a tech geek trying to solve complex problems using cutting-edge technologies. Back then, the concept of innovation was synonymous with state-of-the-art.

Transitioning into the role of Lead R&D Engineer expanded my perspective on innovation. Beyond developing new technologies, this role required me to immerse myself in the complexities and challenges of the energy sector. My focus was leveraging existing expertise or developing novel approaches within my team to overcome these challenges and bridge the gap between theory and practice.

Today, as a Product Innovation Manager, I combine these diverse experiences to drive innovation holistically. My journey has taught me that innovation extends beyond technology - it involves understanding customer needs, market trends, and strategic vision. At its core, innovation is not about inventing - it’s about generating value.

4. Your journey includes teaching at Democritus University of Thrace as a Teaching Assistant. How does this role intersect with your work at NET2GRID? How do you balance your academic involvement with your responsibilities at the company?

Not gonna lie, balancing a Ph.D. and an industry career is not easy. It needs a lot of stamina, effort, stubbornness, and a significant share of personal commitments. But it was a conscious decision, one I've never looked back on with regret. In fact, it's become an intrinsic part of who I am today.

This dual role has granted me a unique advantage point. From an industry perspective, I can actively drive the energy transition, bringing innovative ideas to life and dealing with real-world situations. On the academic side, the pursuit of knowledge and experimental exploration fuels my curiosity, pushing me to explore new areas for the sake of discovery.

But there is a great synergy between these two roles: my industry experience makes my academic research more relevant by matching it with what the market needs and insights from research make my professional work even more exciting, uncovering new possibilities and creative solutions. Also, being a teaching assistant at DUTh really helped me to onboard and mentor new talents at NET2GRID!

5. What exciting project or innovation are you currently steering at NET2GRID that you can give us a sneak peek into? How do you anticipate this endeavor making a significant and lasting impact in the field of EnergyAI?

The project that really excites me is our work on distributed energy resources. By analyzing data from smart meters, we're uncovering valuable insights that help utilities manage their distribution networks better. This has the potential to greatly improve how we understand low-voltage networks, increase grid visibility by locating major behind-the-meter assets, and plan for grid improvements. It's also a step toward incorporating renewable energy sources more effectively, making the energy system more sustainable.

6. Looking ahead, how do you envision your work inspiring and motivating others to join the journey into EnergyAI? How do you see innovation shaping the energy landscape in the years to come?

I firmly believe that showcasing the real-world impact of our service on the energy landscape holds the power to inspire and motivate a new generation of innovators to join us on this exciting journey into EnergyAI. As we continue to push the boundaries of technology and data analytics, we're not just solving technical challenges – we're trying to create a more sustainable future.

Looking ahead, the role of innovation in shaping the energy landscape cannot be overstated. The energy sector is undergoing a significant transformation, with electrification and end-users transforming from passive consumers to active prosumers. This shift brings unprecedented challenges to distribution networks, necessitating innovative solutions that ensure the efficiency, reliability, and integration of diverse energy sources.

7. Kickin' it on a different kind of field – we've got to know about your passion for football and the fact that you've had your fair share of moments on the pitch! Spill the details: any memorable goals or epic saves?

Haha, I love your wordplay! Yep, it's true, I've got a deep love for both playing and watching football - or should I say soccer for our readers across the Atlantic? I am a big fan of the Premier League and especially Liverpool FC. Back in the day, I was part of my hometown team until I was 18, but then science and engineering pulled me in a new direction. Now, we've got our very own NET2GRID team, and we hit the field once a week. It's pure bliss connecting with colleagues through football and a post-match beer!

Well, I've scored my fair share of goals, but honestly, what really intrigues me is setting up those assists - keeping track of teammates' positions, finding that open space, and delivering that perfect pass. It’s a mix of skills, creativity and decision-making!


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