Driving Innovation

From Power Outages in Nigeria to the Smart Grid in Chicago

March 14, 2017

As a young girl growing up in Nigeria, Sainab Taiwo Ninalowo recalls her family and neighbors being unable to access power anytime they wanted it.

“My family would have power for two days and then there would be a rotating outage to enable my neighbors to have power for two days,” Sainab says. “This was necessary to ensure that there was enough power for everyone.”

Now, as a ComEd engineer in Chicago, Sainab takes great pride in the work that she is doing as an engineer for ComEd’s smart grid. She is proud to be able to provide continuous, reliable power to ComEd customers.

“For me, the smart grid reflects ComEd’s commitment to innovation and exploring new technologies in order to provide our customers with reliable power. That’s very important to me,” she says.

The smart grid is the foundation of the energy future, the platform upon which can be built innovative products and services that put power and control in customers’ hands every day. At the helm of ComEd’s effort to leverage new smart grid technologies for its nearly 4 million customers is Sainab.

Sainab is an engineer who developed an interest in the energy industry after an internship with ComEd’s Regional Engineering group in 2011. But her current career isn’t how she initially imagined her future.

“As a kid, I found STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies really interesting, but I wasn’t sure what field to study, so I focused on becoming a lawyer,” Sainab says.

“After my first semester in college, I realized I was better at the STEM classes and that political science just wasn’t for me,” she says. “Consequently, I began taking engineering courses and loved the challenge.”

By 2012, Sainab had accepted a second internship at ComEd and had a major in mechanical engineering. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2012 from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.

After graduation, Sainab returned to ComEd as a full-time engineer in the New Business department where she managed the process of connecting new customers to the grid.

Two years later, she joined ComEd’s Smart Grid and Technology group where she became responsible for developing and implementing innovative technologies and business models for advancing the energy grid.

While focused on making ComEd’s electric grid even smarter, Sainab also plays a lead role in the company’s Community of the Future initiative in the Bronzeville neighborhood located on Chicago’s south side. The initiative involves working with the Bronzeville community to envision and gradually build a “smart community” with a host of energy and smart grid-related products and services that enhance everyday life for the community members.

With all the work that ComEd has been doing to bring the traditional energy delivery system into the 21st Century, this Community of the Future initiative gives Sainab an opportunity to explore an array of new technologies.

“As a young engineer in the industry, the diversity of technology systems and the automation of the grid stimulate my brain,” she says. “I am constantly learning about new technologies and the way they all enhance the grid and how they can make people’s lives better and easier.”

If helping to lay the foundation to the energy future isn’t enough, Sainab is also continuing her pursuit of higher education. She is pursuing a master’s in business administration from DePaul University in Chicago in hopes of accelerating her career growth.

When she is not hard at work, Sainab serves as a volunteer for organizations that are geared to enhancing the careers of current and future engineers. She also is an active member on several boards that focus on advancing women engineers, diverse leadership in the energy industry and scholarships for students at every level who want to become engineers.

Sainab also enjoys nature photography and participating in outdoor activities such as hiking and camping.

”I never thought I’d be helping to update a system that is more than a century old and serves millions of people,” Sainab says. “I am glad I pursued a career in STEM, and I hope I can interest other young women in the many career possibilities available in STEM.”