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How Diane Bryant went from homeless teen to CEO of a multimillion-dollar start-up

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Like many 18-year-olds, Diane Bryant had no clue how she wanted to spend her life. It wasn’t until one of her classmates complimented Bryant on her number-crunching skills that she even considered a career in engineering. 

“I was sitting in Calculus II my freshman year of college and the guy next to me was chatting me up and asked me what my major was,” she recalls. “I didn’t declare a major yet, and he said, ‘Well, you really should be an engineer, because it’s obvious you’ve got some math acumen.'” 

He also told her that engineering offered one of the highest starting salaries for people with bachelor’s degrees, which caught Bryant’s attention. “I was so tired of being poor, and I knew I was not going to live a future in poverty,” she says. She went straight to her counselor after class, declared her major in hardware engineering and never looked back. 

That impulsive decision set Bryant on a whirlwind career path that would take her from the executive offices at Intel and Google to NovaSignal, a Los Angeles-based medical tech start-up where she is now CEO. 

But Bryant had to fight tooth and nail to get there, from experiencing homelessness in high school to confronting sexism at work. CNBC Make It spoke with Bryant, now 60, about her career journey and the skills that helped her get from couch-surfing in Sacramento to the C-suite. 

Homeless at 18 

Four months before she graduated high school, Bryant’s father told her she had to move out. He had a strict rule that the moment she and her sister turned 18, they were on their own. 

“All of my belongings were on the front lawn,” she recalls. “I had to pack everything into my Volkswagen Beetle and hit the road.” 

She spent the rest of her senior year bouncing between her sister’s apartment, friends’ houses and sometimes sleeping in her backseat. After high school, she enrolled at American River College, a local, free community college and found an apartment close to campus. 

“It was incredibly disruptive, but I was committed to survive,” Bryant says of the transition. She had no relatives to rely on for financial support – just her own grit and determination. 

Her first big career break

Reflecting on her life, however, Bryant sees that at each stage of her career, there was someone who was rooting for her and investing in her success. 

Bryant worked three jobs as a waitress at two different restaurants and a hostess at another while she was in college. At one of the restaurants, the same couple would come every Sunday after church for brunch. They repeatedly requested Bryant as their waitress, sometimes waiting 20 minutes for a table to clear in her section, because they thought she was kind and well-mannered. 

When the husband, Bill Baker, learned that she was studying to be an engineer, he offered to help get her an internship at Aerojet, a rocket and missile propulsion manufacturer and one of Sacramento’s largest employers at the time. 

“The recruiter called me and said, ‘If Bill Baker is advocating for you, you’re in the program,'” she says. “That job helped me become a more competitive applicant for Intel – it was at that moment I realized the true power of what an advocate can do for you, when someone is willing to use their reputation and position to help someone less fortunate.”

‘You either adapt or you die’ 

When Bryant first joined Intel in 1985, Silicon Valley was in the thick of its “rough and tumble era,” she says – a time when women also made up a mere 5.8% of engineers in the U.S. 

Often, Bryant was the only woman in the room and quickly realized that to fit in, she had to become “one of the guys.” During her second week on the job, she was in a meeting with all men when one of them cursed – then turned to Bryant and immediately apologized for using foul language in front of a woman. 

“All of the focus was on me, I turned bright red,” she recalls. “So I said, ‘No f—ing problem, and everyone looked so at ease, like, ‘Phew, we don’t have to change our behavior because there’s a woman here.” 

It was then, Bryant realized, that “the only way I’m going to get them to collaborate with me and be successful in this team is if I make these men more comfortable by embracing their direct, aggressive style,” she says. “I thought, ‘You either adapt or you die.'”  

That meant swearing more, ordering scotch at outings with her co-workers and  buying a BMW with manual transmission (“engineers would never drive an automatic”). 

Before Bryant left Intel in 2017, she had served in numerous roles including product line manager and the group president of Intel’s Data Center Group. 

But throughout her career there, she would often have the same debate with herself as she drove home: stay or quit? She loved her job but felt her progress often stalled because of managers who she thought gave her fewer opportunities – and smaller raises – than her male colleagues.

Intel did not respond to a request for comment from CNBC Make It.

But she had two young kids and was the main breadwinner for her family. Once again, Bryant dug into her grit – and when she was miserable in one of her roles, a mentor identified a different job within the company for her, put her in the job and “off my career went again,” she says.

Her secrets to success 

After leaving Intel, Bryant spent a year as Google Cloud’s chief operations officer and served as an advisor and board member to several smaller start-ups before joining NovaSignal as chairman and CEO in 2020. 

Her switch from Fortune 500 companies to leading a start-up was fueled by restlessness and a small existential crisis about the legacy she was building. “I’m not getting any younger, so I was looking for a big, final contribution I could make in the world,” she says. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a job where you’re not just driving the top and bottom line, but also having a strong societal impact?'” 

Andy Bryant, the former chairman of Intel and one of her mentors, advised Bryant to do something she’d never done before: Lead a start-up and help it flourish. 

NovaSignal uses artificial intelligence (AI), ultrasound and robotics to measure blood flow to the brain, which can help identify blood clots and other neurological abnormalities like strokes or dementia. According to Crunchbase, NovaSignal has raised more than $120 million in funding. 

“I couldn’t imagine another job that demands greater empathy,” Bryant says. “We have to empathize with the patients we serve, our customers, physicians, what their standard of care is and how we fit into the bigger picture.”

She also stresses the importance of being an empathetic leader for retention. “I can name each of our 125 employees, what motivates them and what they need to succeed,” she says. “When you have a startup, we usually only have one or two people in each job title – so if we lose one person, we’ve lost an entire organizational function.” 

But the most critical skill she’s brought from her past experiences to the C-suite is confidence – even when she has to fake it some days. “Earlier in my career, I definitely lacked confidence, as most women do,” she says. “But you need to pull yourself together despite the self-doubt you might be harboring, and tell yourself, ‘I’m going to win, I’m going to be successful,'” she says. 

She continues: “It goes back to grit – no matter how many roadblocks are in your way, nobody wants to work for the person who says, ‘I’m doomed’ … you need to be the one to say, ‘I can do it.'” 

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OPEC+ to consider oil cut of over than 1 million barrels per day

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OPEC+ will consider an oil output cut of more than a million barrels per day (bpd) next week, OPEC sources said on Sunday.

Omar Marques | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

OPEC+ will consider an oil output cut of more than a million barrels per day (bpd) next week, OPEC sources said on Sunday, in what would be the biggest move yet since the Covid-19 pandemic to address oil market weakness.

The meeting will take place on Oct. 5 against the backdrop of falling oil prices and months of severe market volatility which prompted top OPEC+ producer, Saudi Arabia, to say the group could cut production.

OPEC+, which combines OPEC countries and allies such as Russia, has refused to raise output to lower oil prices despite pressure from major consumers, including the United States, to help the global economy.

Prices have nevertheless fallen sharply in the last month due to fears about the global economy and a rally in the U.S. dollar after the Federal Reserves raised rates.

A significant production cut is poised to anger the United States, which has been putting pressure on Saudi Arabia to continue pumping more to help oil prices soften further and reduce revenues for Russia as the West seeks to punish Moscow for sending troops to Ukraine.

The West accuses Russia of invading Ukraine, but the Kremlin calls it a special military operation.

Saudi Arabia has not condemned Moscow’s actions amid difficult relations with the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.

Last week, a source familiar with the Russian thinking said Moscow would like to see OPEC+ cutting 1 million bpd or one percent of global supply.

That would be the biggest cut since 2020 when OPEC+ reduced output by a record 10 million bpd as demand crashed due to the Covid pandemic. The group spent the next two years unwinding those record cuts.

On Sunday, the sources said the cut could exceed 1 million bpd. One of the sources suggested cuts could also include a voluntary additional reduction of production by Saudi Arabia.

OPEC+ will meet in person in Vienna for the first time since March 2020.

Analysts and OPEC watchers such as UBS and JPMorgan have suggested in recent days a cut of around 1 million bpd was on the cards and could help arrest the price decline.

“$90 oil is non-negotiable for the OPEC+ leadership, hence they will act to safeguard this price floor,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.



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Avoid these 5 activities during a thunderstorm, says meteorologist

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When it’s raining outside and thunder follows, it’s likely that lightning is pretty close behind and there are some places you shouldn’t be for your own safety — mostly outdoors.

“When thunder roars, go indoors and stay there for 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder,” the National Weather Service advises in its lightning safety rules. The greatest potential harm during a thunderstorm is lightning.

You might think getting struck by lightning is only possible if you’re outside, and that you’re completely safe as long as you’re at home, but that isn’t always the case, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency reports that “about one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur indoors.”

And while you may have seen advice against showering during a thunderstorm trending in the news, there are other activities you should avoid doing at home until after a storm passes as well, according to John Homenuk, a meteorologist and founder of New York Metro Weather.

5 activities to avoid at home during a thunderstorm

Homenuk, the National Weather Service and the CDC all recommend avoiding doing these activities at home during a lightning storm:

  1. Taking a shower
  2. Washing dishes
  3. Standing near windows, doors, porches and concrete
  4. Touching electronic equipment connected to an electrical outlet (i.e. computers, laptops, game systems, washers, dryers or stoves)
  5. Using corded phones

Stay away from water

As a starting point, Homenuk warns against being near or in water during a thunderstorm.

Showering, bathing or washing dishes can all pose a risk if lightning is occurring near your home.

“When lightning happens, it generally travels on the path of least resistance, which is often going to take it into metal which can go through the pipes,” he says. “And obviously that would not be great if you were in the shower.”

The CDC states that the risk of lightning traveling through your plumbing is lower for those with plastic pipes as opposed to metal pipes.

However, the agency still advises you to “avoid any contact with plumbing and running water during a lightning storm to reduce your risk of being struck.”

Washing dishes may pose a lower risk than taking a bath or a shower because your whole body isn’t submerged in water or standing directly under a metal showerhead as the pipes are running, says Homenuk.  

“But still, generally if you can, you [should] wait for the storm to pass instead of utilizing the water and the pipes that can be a pathway for that electricity to travel,” he notes.

These are the safest places to be indoors and out

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The 10 least popular U.S. states to move to in 2022

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A recently released report, moveBuddha, a relocation tech company, ranked the least popular states to move to in 2022.

The 2022 Mid-Year Migration Report used data collected from January 1 to July 5, 2022, via the company’s moving cost calculator.

moveBuddha compared the inflow to the outflow of people state to state to see which places are gaining new residents and which are losing their current population.

No. 1 least popular state to move to in 2022: New Jersey

In-to-out ratio: 0.50

New Jersey topped the list of least popular states. According to the report, the Garden State is losing the most residents compared to those moving in.

Residents in the East Coast state pay the country’s highest property taxes, which may account for the loss in population.

The two other states that make up the New York metropolitan area — New York and Connecticut — are experiencing similar challenges as New Jersey.

Both made the list of states that people are moving out of more than they’re moving in, at no. 4 and no. 5 on the list respectively.

The 10 least popular states to move to in 2022:



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