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Sherina Maye Edwards

By Sherina Maye Edwards

As a young woman of color, it is not always easy to be a leader in an industry with an aging, male dominated and largely non-diverse workforce. Back when I was first appointed as a Commissioner at the Illinois Commerce Commission, it didn’t take me long to discover that my commitment to diversity and inclusion would continuously merit special time and attention. 

The energy sector remains one of the least gender and racially diverse sectors in the economy, despite efforts to promote and encourage women and minorities’ participation. Both women and minorities face structural and cultural challenges and the lack of these two groups in leadership positions in the energy space compounds the difficulty in recruiting and retaining diverse leaders. This is especially important given the role that diversity can often play as key drivers of innovative and inclusive solutions. As such, gender and racial diversity and the broad participation of women and minorities in the energy sector are needed for a successful energy future. 

While social justice typically is the initial impetus behind these efforts, companies have increasingly begun to regard inclusion and diversity as a source of competitive advantage, and specifically as a key enabler of growth. Yet progress on diversification initiatives have been slow. And companies are still uncertain about how they can most effectively use diversity and inclusion to support their growth and value-creation goals.

We know intuitively that diversity matters. It’s also increasingly clear that it makes sense in purely business terms. Research consistently shows that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns. And diversity is probably a competitive differentiator that shifts market share toward more diverse companies over time.

This correlation indicates that when companies commit themselves to diverse leadership, they are more successful. More diverse companies are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns. This in turn suggests that other kinds of diversity—for example, in age, sexual orientation, and experience (such as a global mind-set and cultural fluency)—are also likely to bring some level of competitive advantage for companies that can attract and retain such diverse talent.

I'm not suggesting that achieving greater diversity is easy. Women—accounting for an average of just 16 percent of the members of executive teams in the United States—remain underrepresented at the top of corporations globally. 

Most organizations must do more to take full advantage of the opportunity that diverse leadership teams represent. That’s particularly true for their talent pipelines: attracting, developing, mentoring, sponsoring, and retaining the next generations of global leaders at all levels of organizations. 

The same efforts regarding a diverse workforce in energy should also be placed in encouraging and supporting diverse businesses in energy. There is strength, innovation, and prosperity to be found in embracing a wide range of thoughts, ideas, and perspectives. During my time as a regulator in Illinois, my fellow Commissioners and I required regulated utilities to report their diverse supplier procurement spend on an annual basis. The Illinois Commerce Commission supported the goal of greater access to utility procurement contracts for women-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned, and small businesses. Utility spending with diverse suppliers has since increased tremendously and utilities in Illinois are continuously working to improve their diversity spend. 

I believe that successfully embracing diversity as a business imperative requires that company leadership embrace diversity as a moral imperative. By removing barriers and impediments to market entry, we help emerging and developing businesses grow and expand. The resulting increase in competition will result in lower overall costs, which benefits utilities and the consumer. So again, diversity doesn’t just make sense, it makes dollars. The trickle-down positive effect of diversity gets even better: diverse procurement has a direct and positive economic impact on the communities where corporations do business, as diverse suppliers tend to hire more Black, Latino and other underrepresented employees than their counterparts. In addition, when diverse business owners do business with major institutions like utilities, they generate wealth, create jobs, and communities of color are overall better resourced to thrive and be successful. 

From infrastructure modernization efforts to countless technological innovations changing the way we consume, generate and store energy, it’s certainly an exciting time to be a professional in the energy space. One thing is clear – the future of the energy industry relies on diversity. I am proud to work for a company that gets it and under my leadership we will certainly continue to move that needle forward at INTREN!

Intren CEO Kelly Tomblin moderates CBC EventINTREN CEO Kelly Tomblin was proud to moderate the Chicago Building Congress' 'Challenges & Benefits of Diversity' Event recently held at the Union League Club of Chicago. The panel included Kathi Holst (Roadway Construction & Maintenance Services), Dina Griffin (Interactive Design Architects), James Sykora (ComEd), Bette Lawrence-Water (Benedictine University) and Anne Bigane Wilson (Bigane Paving Co).

The CBC is the only vertically-integrated trade association serving the Chicago area. Its diverse membership includes general contractors; subcontractors; material suppliers; architectural/engineering firms and consultants; real estate and development firms; labor unions/trade associations; governmental and educational entities; legal and accounting professionals; financial, insurance and bonding firms.
Lead Construction Engineer Ali Ataei Lead Construction Engineer Ali Ataei was recently acknowledged for his outstanding work at a key west coast utility customer for his assistance on the first phase of relocating Caltrain’s electric facilities. The 3-year project for San Francisco’s 51-mile commuter rail system supports the city’s migration from diesel commuter trains to electric, providing greener, faster and more reliable service.

Our customer applauded Ali for his tremendous contribution, critical thinking, and reliable follow-through. In many instances, the Caltrain relocation construction took place on weekends from 11pm-5am, and Ali was on site Friday and Saturday evenings often until well after midnight to ensure the crews were organized, focused and prepared.

Additionally, Ali worked closely and effectively with Distribution Operations in coordinating and implementing four to eight major clearances every weekend. Where one major project generally has one or two clearances in its 6-month life, Ali performed at least twice that every week.
 Ali’s hard work and dedication to the utility and this project have contributed to work completed without procedural error and zero safety incidents. He’s an overall a great team member.

The electrified trains are expected to start running in 2022 from San Francisco to San Jose.

Ali is part of L²CMS, the construction management services division for INTREN, LLC. To learn more, please contact L²CMS Director of Operations Sarah Douglas.

Company's Midwest East Division continues to set milestones within construction industry

Union, Illinois (Aug. 31, 2017) – Nationwide utility contractor INTREN continues to exceed industry standards in construction safety by breaking a two-year incident-free record by its Midwest East Division (MWE), which serves utilities in Ohio and the surrounding states.

The company refuses to cut corners on safety and remains focused on its well thought-out, proactive approach to training and reporting. "It starts at the top", states Brian Carlin, Midwest East Division Account Manager. "INTREN has a strong, committed leadership who continue to encourage an engaged and empowered team."

The responsibility for improvements is both organizational and personal, infused with a strong flavor of servant leadership in being a brother's keeper. Dennis Bednarski, INTREN's Regional Vice President-Midwest echoes Carlin's statement: "Our safety efforts are aligned with our strategic plan. Because we have an established foundation for safety, we continue to improve and encourage active engagement of teams across all departments and offices throughout the company."

Due to the complex and demanding environment, systems have been designed to protect against human error through daily onsite briefings. These briefings review customer deliverables and expectations and always include a thorough review of safety protocol. The results have enabled INTREN to successfully meet the demands of the industry with an exceptional level of service and performance that aids in decreasing interruptions and lowering overall costs for their customers.

The MWE Division Civil Department employees delivered over 75,500 man-hours to achieve this remarkable accomplishment seldom seen in the utility construction industry.

Moving into 2018, the company continues to partner with its customers keeping pace with advancing challenges and industry technologies as they follow their motto to "OutPerform. Everyday."


INTREN encourages people to make a free call at least 2 business days before digging to know what’s below

Union, Illinois (Aug. 11, 2017) – With Aug. 11 almost here, INTREN hopes this date on the calendar, 8/11, will serve as a natural reminder for residents to call 811 prior to any digging project to have underground utility lines marked. Every six minutes an underground utility line is damaged because someone decided to dig without first calling 811.

When calling 811, homeowners and contractors are connected to their local one call center, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, spray paint or both.

Striking a single line can cause injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages. Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811. Installing a mailbox, building a deck, planting a tree and laying a patio are all examples of digging projects that need a call to 811 before starting.

“On Aug. 11 and throughout the year, we remind homeowners and professional contractors alike to call 811 before digging to eliminate the risk of striking an underground utility line,” said Matthew Turk Executive Vice President of Business Development and Operations for INTREN, “It really is the only way to know which utilities are buried in your area.”

The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists.

Visit or for more information about 811 and safe digging practices.

Torrential rainfall and high winds during the night of Tuesday, July 12th caused havoc to more than 11,000 homeowners who woke up without power on Wednesday. INTREN was more than willing and ready to respond to the call to assist the Midwest’s major utility companies in helping to restore power to their customers. In the Northwest Chicago area, INTREN dispatched over 38 crews who worked diligently and safely to replace electric poles ripped down by the storm in several rural locations and townships.

An Intren worker oversees a convoy of Intren trucksTwo Intren workers fix an electric wire on a liftAn Intren worker oversees a power line being lifted into position

A shovel goes into the ground.This April marks the tenth annual National Safe Digging Month, reminding residents to always call 811 before any digging project. National Safe Digging Month is formally recognized by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and has traditionally earned the support from nearly every state governor across the country.

When calling 811, homeowners and contractors are connected to the local one call center, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, paint or both. Every six minutes an underground utility line is damaged because someone decided to dig without first calling 811.

Striking a single line can cause injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages. Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811. Installing a mailbox, building a deck and planting a tree or garden are all examples of digging projects that should only begin a few days after a call to 811.

“As April marks the traditional start of digging season, we are using this month to strongly encourage individuals and companies to call 811 before they begin digging,” said INTREN Executive VP of Operations and Business Development Matthew Turk. “By calling 811 to have the underground utility lines in their area marked, homeowners and professionals are making an important decision that can help keep them and their communities safe and connected.” 

The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists.

INTREN encourages area residents to visit for more information about digging safely.

Construct ProgramAs a founding construction industry member of ComEd’s CONSTRUCT program, which kicks-off its 5th year this week, we at INTREN are excited to be part of the team of the 31 construction industry companies, three local utilities and seven social service agencies in the Chicagoland area.  This year marks the largest class to date – 90 participants will go through a 9-week job training program that provides the training and skills needed to compete for entry-level jobs in the construction-related industry.  Visit INTREN’s YouTube page to see more on CONSTRUCT or read more about CONSTRUCT in ComEd’s recent press release.

Tim Ayers, INTREN’s Director of Safety and Quality, was this year's Keynote Speaker at the 50th Annual Conference for the New England Chapter International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) in Burlington, Vermont.  The Chapter reached out to Tim for his presentation on teamwork and leadership, and received a riveting parallel between the Apollo 13 mission and their own work place challenges.

Tim’s presentation focused on his analysis of the Apollo 13 mission and how the challenges the crew experienced were recognized and dealt with using human performance tools, good planning and procedure adherence.


One clear take away from the Apollo mission was the teamwork and clear concise communication between mission control and the astronauts. Tim’s presentation paralleled this to how our workforce can interface and ensure total success of our mission using these same tools.


While Tim originally developed his presentation for the electric distribution field, ISA identified that his depiction easily transferred to their own workforce.


Attendees came out with the understanding of how this approach led to hazard reduction and risk reduction through teamwork and were energized to work together for the success of their own missions.


The New England Chapter's mission statement is to promote professional arboriculture, research and awareness of the benefits of trees in New England.


The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) promotes the professional practice of arboriculture and fosters a greater worldwide awareness of the benefits of trees.

For more information on INTREN’s safety and quality standards, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Recently, JULIE released a new web-based Remote Ticket Entry (RTE) tool that allows excavators to enter and update dig tickets online. Because this new application is web-based, tickets can now be entered from any web-enabled device such as computers or tablets…even phones!

As one of the top five largest Illinois companies that use JULIE, INTREN generates numerous tickets. The remote ticket entry will make that process safer, faster and more efficient.

When the new tool was released, a focused training effort was organized by Matt Kirchman, INTREN's Project Management Office Director, ensuring all users with an RTE account received training on the new system.

"When the new RTE tool became available, we realized that we had a chance to be an industry leader by embracing new technology to help us perform our work more safely and efficiently," says Kirchman. "Not only did we target the group of employees that were using the old desktop application, but we also looked to find people that were previously phoning in tickets. Our goal was to turn them in to RTE users so that they could better provide the information required to get accurate locates on the ground."

Training wrapped up in October, and the tool is now available to all RTE account holders. For more information, visit the Remote Ticket Entry page on the Julie Illinois One-Call System website.