Google Cloud COO talk at WORMS event
Diane Bryant, COO of Google Cloud after spending 32 years at Intel, gave a phenomenal talk at the INFORMS Analytics conference, invited by Women in OR/MS and sponsored by Intel (a big thank you to Intel for the drink tickets!) From the moment she mentioned joining a jazz band in high school in the 1970s because her friend didn’t want to be the only woman in the band, Bryant managed to hit that sweet spot combining insights and wit that kept her audience engaged and laughing.
Her talk was structured around sponsorship, confidence and inclusion. Starting with inclusion, she mentioned that only 6% of Intel VP at first were women, and then Bryant and her fellow female VPs started a formal advocacy program that brought the number of female VPs to 21%. Another take-away message was the importance of projecting confidence – a skill men appear to be much better at than women. Regarding sponsorship, Bryant underlined the importance of advocacy not mentorship. Mentorship is good when you need advice from someone not in the line of command, but according to research sponsored by Intel, men are sponsored and women are mentored, and guess who have the most successful careers? Bryant told an insightful story there about the days when she was a waitress for Sunday brunch and a Distinguished Engineer at the local company (biggest employer in Sacramento where she lived) only wanted to sit at her table with his wife for Sunday brunch because she was great at refilling his and his wife’s cup of coffee and getting their order out of the kitchen fast. Ultimately, he recommended her for a job at his company – she got offers from two different groups and she didn’t even have to interview, thanks to the strength of his recommendation. Bryant also put forward the Amber principle (the female equivalent to the Peter principle): “women rise to their level of self doubt”. She doesn’t believe in luck to explain people’s career success – allies are needed. My favorite statement of hers was: “You can’t ask the marginalized population to fix the marginalization,” leading her to conclude: “We have to engage the men.”
I also liked the moment when she said: “Diversity is a fact but inclusion is a choice”. She also showed a good quote about Warren Buffett talking about his sister, who he said was smarter than he was, and (WB) stating that he only had to compete against half the talent. Bryant mentioned China where 40% of the talent in STEM is female, vs 23% in the U.S. Finally she pointed out the need to worry not about the hard decisions (the reason you can’t decide is that both outcomes are usually similar) but the easy one where everyone is in agreement, sometimes leading to very bad decisions, such as PR nightmares that came from very poorly thought-out ads.
For me the most touching moment came toward the end when Bryant disclosed that her father, who did time at San Quentin’s maximum security prison, kicked her out of the house when she was 18, although she still had 4 months to go before graduating from high school. She didn’t say, although she could have: and yet, look at her now. Bryant’s resilience in spite of such adversity was an inspiration to everyone in the room. To finish, Bryant had this great anecdote at the end about her son who went to a playdate at a new friend’s house and, seeing that his friend had an amazing house, exclaimed “what does YOUR mother do?” Welcome to the 21st century, where hopefully more women will get the jobs they deserve thanks to the advice of women like Diane Bryant.