How Intel’s Top Female Executive Used the F Word to Conquer a Male-Dominated Culture
When Intel executive vice president Diane Bryant started at the company 31 years ago as an junior electrical engineer, there weren’t many other women in the same corporate culture, which was very much male-dominated.
But, as Bryant recollected on Wednesday while speaking at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif., she was determined to fit in to what she called a “very rough and tumble era.”
One of her tactics was expletive-based.
“The first thing I did was I started swearing a lot—a lot,” Bryant said. “This one guy throws out the F word, and then stops and turns to me—all eyes on me, 23-years-old—and says ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ And I said ‘no f-ing problem.'”
Bryant, who rose to become Intel’s (INTC) chief information officer and now heads the critically-important server chip unit, explained that in those early days, she even developed a strategy to swear more frequently. “I would literally throw the F word out every now and then just randomly.”
To further fit in, she bought a stick shift BMW and drank scotch. “I didn’t do the bad haircut, the $10 engineering haircut, I wouldn’t go far,” she said. “That was where I drew the line.”
Bryant’s larger point was that she believed it was important to fit in.
“It doesn’t help to be on the outside of the circle,” she said. “You’re never going to have an impact if you’re on the outside. Somehow you have to get to the inside.”
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In her current role, Bryant oversees Intel’s chips that power corporate servers and, increasingly, the massive cloud data centers run by companies like Google (GOOGL) and Amazon (AMZN). The unit posted record revenue of $4.5 billion in the third quarter, up 10% from a year earlier.
With the cloud market accelerating faster than any other part of Intel’s chip business, Bryant’s division is seen as one of the most important sources of future growth.
“Finally, servers are sexy,” Bryant quipped.