First Woman Thunderbird Pilot • Combat Veteran • Fighter Squadron Commander • White House Fellow & Adviser • Indomitable Spirit! 2019 Inductee, National Women’s Hall of Fame.
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A 21-year veteran of the United States Air Force, Colonel Nicole Malachowski (USAF, Ret.) wanted to fly military jets from the moment she saw them at her first air show when she was five years old. She achieved that goal – and then some. A leader, a combat veteran, the first woman pilot on the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, an instructor, a White House Fellow, and an inductee into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame, Nicole’s Air Force career exceeded her wildest dreams.
In her speeches, Nicole inspires audiences with lessons from her experience that can be tailored to meet program objectives. Nicole brings her experience to the stage and holds audiences spellbound with an easygoing authenticity of someone who’s achieved greatness. She’s been a member and leader of exceptional teams. She has faced overwhelming challenges and adversity and has come out on top. When Nicole’s distinguished military career was cut short by a neurological tick-borne illness that, at its worst, left her unable to walk safely or speak intelligibly, she overcame those challenges, as well.
While other high school students were practicing for their driver’s licenses, Nicole was accumulating flight time – she was sixteen years old when she took her first solo flight. While in high school, she joined the Civil Air Patrol and participated in Air Force Junior ROTC. Nicole’s professional story began when she earned her commission from the United States Air Force Academy in 1996. Following graduation, she attended Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) at Columbus AFB, MS and began her career as a pilot. Competitively selected to fly combat aircraft, she was among the first group of women to fly modern fighter aircraft. She served in combat as an F-15E Flight Commander, Evaluator, Instructor Pilot and Flight Lead. Over her 21-year career, Nicole achieved the rating of Command Pilot with over 2,300 flight hours in six different Air Force aircraft. She was also selected to fly as Thunderbird #3 with the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron – the first woman to fly on any Department of Defense military jet demonstration team. Colonel Malachowski has served as a mission ready fighter pilot in three operational F-15E fighter squadrons and has flown over 188 combat hours, including her proudest moment as a fighter pilot: leading the first fighter formation to provide security for Iraq’s historic democratic elections in 2005.
On the ground, Nicole was a White House Fellow, class of 2008-2009, where she served on the Presidential Transition Support Team (PTST) while assigned to the U.S. General Services Administration. She has served two high-level staff assignments at the Pentagon – one in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD P&R) as well as the Secretary of the Air Force Office of International Affairs (SAF/IA). She also served as the Executive Director of the White House’s national ‘Joining Forces’ initiative where she directly advised former First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden on all topics relating to service members, veterans, and military families to include employment, education, mental health, veterans’ homelessness and more.
Nicole’s operational F-15E assignments include two tours of duty at RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom as well as one operational assignment to Seymour Johnson AFB, NC. She has also served alongside the United States Army 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Red Cloud, Republic of Korea, as an Air Liaison Officer. During her second assignment to Seymour Johnson AFB, NC, she had the honor of commanding the 333rd Fighter Squadron, leading an elite cadre of F-15E Instructors in the training of the next generation of combat aviators. Further, she was responsible for resources totaling over $1.1B and the execution of a $119M annual flying hour program.
Nicole earned a Master of Arts, with honors, in National Security Policy from American Military University and a second Master of Arts, with the highest distinction, in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. While there, she earned the Admiral Stephen B. Luce Award as the class honor graduate, the first Air Force officer in the history of the Naval War College to do so. Nicole has been recognized with several honors for her consistent contributions to community service. As Nicole continues to recover from her neurological tick-borne illness, she embraces any opportunity to educate others about her medical journey and gains energy from educating others about this growing epidemic. She is on the Board of Directors at the LivLyme Foundation and is a Patient Advisory Board Member of The Dean Center for Tick-Borne Illness.
Colonel Nicole Malachowski (USAF, Ret.) was born in Santa Maria, CA and graduated high school in Las Vegas, NV. She and her husband Paul have twin children; son Garrick and daughter Norah. Paul is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and former F-15E Evaluator Weapons Systems Officer.
“Nicole was PHENOMENAL! One of the best speakers we’ve ever had. She was down to earth, had a powerful story and really cared about adjusting her message to fit the audience. If there are ever any groups in the AHA looking for a keynote, I will highly recommend her to them.”
-American Hospital Association
“After the meeting many dealers stated she was the best speaker we have ever had in the 28 years this event has been held. I strongly recommend her to future clients.”
– Group Vice President and General Manager, Lexus Division
Gartner, who’s already booked Nicole many times this year, just released this podcast featuring Nicole speaking about career issues. Check out this link to Charting a Higher Flight Path to Your Career.
CALL SPEAKERS NETWORK WORLDWIDE AT 704-342-0095 to book Nicole Malachowski for your next amazing meeting!
Nicole Malachowski's Programs
HARNESSING HEADWINDS – SUCCESSFULLY NAVIGATING CHANGE & ADVERSITY
Leaders across every industry and experience level share one thing in common: To be successful they need to effectively navigate failure, organizational change, and the unknown. Like headwinds to a pilot, these perceived barriers can force you to change direction, cost you momentum, and even take away options. These headwinds can feel confusing, disorienting, and downright uncomfortable. In this talk, Nicole Malachowski uses the aviation-based idea of headwinds as a metaphor to show how with the right mindset, individuals and teams can learn to harness the energy of these headwinds in their advantage.
Nicole inspires individuals and organizations and bolsters their ability to:
-Overcome personal and professional failures
-Effectively navigate organizational and cultural change
-Endure the discomfort of the unknown
-Increase resilience, reinvention, regroup, and adaptability
-Have courage to rise above self-doubt and cultural paradigms
-Support and mentor others on the team
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE – BEING THE BEST WHEN IT COUNTS
To be successful, leaders from every industry and experience level need to effectively navigate moments of self-doubt, master the role of a trustworthy team player, and embrace moments of personal and professional vulnerability. Using the idea of an aircraft performance envelope as a metaphor, this elite fighter pilot and military leader will share inspiring personal stories and practical tools to ignite individuals and teams to reach beyond commonly-assumed limitations to achieve their maximum capabilities and impact.
Nicole Malachowski’s presentation will bolster the ability of individuals and teams to:
-Overcome self-doubt that often inhibits personal and professional growth
-Model the selfless trust needed to be an effective teammate
-Practice vulnerability and transparency to build trust and galvanize teamwork
-Build accountability, dependability and reliability that drive performance
-Break down silos to unleash creativity and adaptability
BREAKING BARRIERS – CONQUERING SELF-DOUBT AND CULTURAL PARADIGMS
Everyone faces barriers, both personal and professional, that may appear to place limits on what’s possible. When people pursue only what is expected, accept cultural norms that hold them back, and view barriers that appear unsurmountable, their personal and professional lives become limited—scripted. A powerful trailblazer herself, Nicole Malachowski reminds audiences to not let others draw their boundaries, and to break tradition with grace and purpose. She inspires people to see obstacles and challenges as opportunities to grow—a chance to reach new levels of personal and professional excellence.
Nicole delivers actionable insights for pursuing dreams, making choices, and living an unscripted life.
-Define your own possibilities and overcome self-doubt
-Reevaluate traditions, paradigms, and overcome limitations
-Welcome challenges to the status quo
-Why having the courage to ask for help is key to, reaching your potential
-Acknowledge the work-life balance myth
CONQUERING FOG AND FRICTION – LEADING THROUGH TIMES OF CRISIS
“No war plan survives first contact with the enemy” is a truism. In the military, leaders must acknowledge and address the fog (things we can’t see, know, or predict) and friction (the forces which impede progress) of war. In such times, effective leadership is more crucial than ever. Using the challenges and uncertainties of combat as a metaphor for organizational challenges, Nicole Malachowski stresses perspective, priorities and positive leadership as she provides tools for leaders to use in times of crisis—or anytime—to keep their organizations successfully moving forward.
Nicole offers leaders a framework to lead through fog and friction in times of crisis.
-How to proceed regardless of the unknowns your organization facing
-How to maneuver around or through impediments to your organization’s progress
-Understand the leadership challenges that are unique to times of crisis
-Keep focused on your purpose; perspective is critical to manage risk and adapt
-Positivity and calmness are essential. Instill confidence; don’t add to the chaos
THE MACH 2 MINDSET – DECISION-MAKING IN A HIGH-SPEED ENVIRONMENT
One popular pilot saying is “speed is life,” because without enough speed, an airplane is nothing more than an expensive rock. In the business world, especially when technology is involved, speed can be just as crucial. The organization that moves the fastest often realizes the most success. Having flown a high-tech fighter aircraft that can reach speeds of up to twice the speed of sound, Nicole Malachowski offers principles that keep any organization functioning smoothly, efficiently, and at high speed, even when chaos and the unexpected occur.
Nicole’s insights help leaders create a culture where decisions get made quickly.
-Assess the dynamics that slow your organization down
-How turmoil in your operating environment slows you down
-How does a need for speed impact decision-making
-Trust, clear roles, and communication are vital to navigating the unknown at speed
-Practice, planning, and preparation underpin organizations that move quickly
“…she is unbelievable. Powerful, tremendous story, engaging and more…I cannot thank you enough. She is a winner, role-model and legend.”
– Law Firm Vendor Association
“To say that Nicole was a huge hit would be an extreme understatement! She is a powerful storyteller and extraordinary person… please convey to Nicole how well-received she was (although judging by the standing ovation and long ‘selfie’ line after the event, I think she may have realized!).” — Best Western
“We cannot thank YOU enough for bringing your inspiring, moving, profound, vulnerable, INCREDIBLE story to our team. If your ears have been ringing it is 120 people saying you were the absolute highlight of the whole offsite. And many told me you were the BEST speaker they have ever heard. [And these people hear a lot of speakers.]”
– Training Manager, Genentech
Genentech has gone on to book Nicole for three more talks since that first speech.