Wayne W. Lynn directs power distribution system reliability, maintenance and standards at Exelon Corp. Exelon, one of the country's largest electric utilities, owns Commonwealth Edison (Chicago, IL) and PECO (Philadelphia, PA).
Lynn, whose office is near Chicago, says the region is undergoing change. It's up to him to examine the broad capacity plan, ensuring ability to handle new growth. "There are always new facilities going in. It's a vibrant new business for our company."
Before Exelon, he worked at Consumers Energy in Jackson and Lansing, MI. He started in 2001 and moved up to director of systems controls, overseeing all power dispatching for the state of Michigan. Before that he worked at South Carolina Electric & Gas, gaining experience in engineering, transmission and distribution operations.
New and exciting
When he got the call to Exelon in June 2004 Lynn hadn't been looking to make a change. But the job would be a step up, new and exciting, and he and his wife and three daughters already loved Chicago.
Lynn's current job is threefold. The first part is reliability: he investigates repeated power outages to see what caused them and how the problem can be solved.
The second part is overseeing scheduled and corrective maintenance programs for distribution systems. And the third part is checking his group's work as they put together district standards.
"For example, the guy actually designing a local distribution line uses our standards, so it's up to us to consider the capabilities of equipment, facilities, poles and materials to make sure it isn't overloaded or overstressed."
Born and raised in South Carolina, Lynn took honors classes in high school, graduating twelfth out of 365 students.
"Although my dad was only a high school grad, he gave me the inspiration to go in a technical direction," Lynn says. "Nothing was too hard for him; he would analyze the situation and figure it out. I know I got a lot of that passion from him."
In fact, they all did. Lynn and his three older brothers all became engineers.
One of few at USC
Lynn attended the University of South Carolina in the early 1980s. "There weren't many African Americans at the University of South Carolina back then, particularly in engineering. I nearly didn't make it myself."
When he'd been in school for two weeks, the dean called him in and told him he was being transferred to the college of business. "Your schedule's all set up," he said.
Lynn knew it was time to fight for his dream. "I said, 'No, no, no! I want to be an engineer!' And then I said to him, 'I don't know when it will be or where it will be, but I want you to come to my graduation.'
"When I graduated in 1988, the dean came over and reminded me of that invitation. He shook my hand and congratulated me. I'll never forget that day.
"Actually, that dean was a great motivator for me," Lynn reflects. "Every time I saw him in the halls it reminded me that I couldn't give up. Many a night I threw my circuits book or my physics book out the window, but I'd always go downstairs and get them back again."
Once firmly settled in his program, Lynn became a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and an active member of student government. "We started a NSBE chapter, too, and we had to fight for everything we got," he says. "I believed that God had a mission for me and I intended to do all I could to accomplish that."
There still aren't a lot
For three college years Lynn co-opped with the Department of Defense at the Naval Shipyard and Naval Weapons Station in Charleston, SC. He learned how to communicate, worked with electric utilities on the bases and knew the lingo. Although he acknowledges that his college grades weren't great, South Carolina Electric & Gas was glad to hire this eager young engineer.
"When I came into the substation engineering department I was one of the very first African Americans ever, the one and only at that time, so that was interesting. But by that time I had grown used to it; even at the station I was the only African American in the office.
"There still aren't a lot of us in our industry," he notes. "I was at an Electric Power Research Institute conference a couple of months ago. Out of all the senior management there I was the only African American."
Lynn has been a member of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) for years. He was South Carolina state chapter president, an active member in Michigan, and now in Illinois. In fact, his group developed the agenda for this year's national convention.
"I believe in mentoring"
Lynn is chair of the mentoring committee for the Exelon African American Members Association, an employee network group. A mentoring program is one of the group's goals.
"I believe very, very much in mentoring," he declares. "You can get so much power from people giving you advice and being a sounding board for you.
"I have an Exelon mentor now who's not an African American. It's helped me understand how people see things from a different perspective.
"When I was at Consumers the president and CEO of the company was my mentor. I was in shock when he offered to do that, but we developed a very good relationship. It was a guy-to-guy as well as a professional relationship, which was a different dynamic than any other work relationship I'd experienced."