Col. Nicole Malachowski

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First Woman Thunderbird Pilot, Combat Veteran, Fighter Squadron Commander, White House Fellow & Adviser

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7 Video(s) By This Presenter

Col. Nicole Malachowski Profile Video
The Work-Life Balance Myth
Col. Nicole Malachowski
Failure is the Price of Entry
Col. Nicole Malachowski
Promo Video
Virtual Presentation Excerpt

3 Programs By This Presenter

In flying, headwinds slow you down. At their worst, they cause you to change your plans and impact the effectiveness of weapons in combat. Headwinds demand that pilots be resilient and resourceful, literally on the fly. “Headwinds are the perfect metaphor for the change impacting organizations and individuals today,” says 21-year Air Force veteran Nicole Malachowski. A former fighter squadron commander and mission-ready pilot in three operational fighter squadrons and the first woman to fly on the Air Force Thunderbirds, Nicole has the perfect message to inspire audiences to think differently about the headwinds of change they face – organizationally and personally. Drawing on her extraordinary Air Force career, Nicole offers lessons on leadership, followership, and overcoming adversity. She weaves storytelling with breathtaking video from the cockpit of her jet as the Thunderbirds execute precision turns, rolls, and loops – all just 36” from one another at 400 mph and just 300 feet off the ground. Nicole’s keynote helps audiences ignite their own indomitable spirit in order to succeed far beyond what they might dream. “Failure isn’t fatal,” she says, “it’s the price of entry if you want to achieve something great.”

What does it take to be the best? The individuals and teams who achieve at the highest levels have one thing in common: they push the envelope and go to the edge of boundaries. They accomplish as much as possible and do it to a standard of excellence. Pushing the envelope is an aviation term for taking an aircraft to the maximum limits of its abilities. In the business world, pushing the envelope means knowing yourself – certainly knowing your limits – all while using every bit of your ability to maximize your performance, be your best and be consistent. As a combat-tested fighter pilot and a member of the military’s most elite group of aviators (1 in 2,000 USAF pilots become Thunderbird pilots), Nicole Malachowski inspires audiences with lessons learned from a distinguished 21-year career – giving them the courage to push the envelope in their own lives. That means using inevitable failures to launch to the next level…preparing for turbulence, because change is unrelenting, and it is hard, but you must anticipate it…trusting in teammates’ skill and precision, while developing your own…and being mindful of the over-control that leads to performance malfunctions and mutes achievement. Nicole’s presentation provides an unforgettable and practical roadmap for individuals and organizations looking to make the most of their talents and efforts.

Every great accomplishment involves breaking barriers – both culturally and within. Nicole Malachowski is a trailblazer who succeeded in a traditionally male-dominated career field: the world of the fighter pilot. As uncomfortable and risky as stretching the limits of yourself and your surroundings might be, Nicole tells audiences there’s no reason to allow that to dictate your goals and aspirations. She became one of the first women to fly a modern-day fighter aircraft, the very first woman to fly with the Air Force Thunderbird aerial demonstration team, and she was inducted into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame. She is relatable to women and men with a fascinating narrative of exactly what it took to be a woman vanguard and break tradition. Nicole offers actionable tools and real-world lessons about pursuing her dream, making choices, all while building a family and achieving success in a career where few women had gone before. Nicole inspires audiences with a message rooted in her personal mantra – “Nobody wants to lead a scripted life.”


Nicole was hands down the best keynote speaker I have heard. Her message was relevant, poignant and spoke to every person in the room. Many of her themes are now a part of our culture here at Imperva!”

— Imperva

“Book her now! I have worked with many speakers throughout my career and by far Nicole is the best. Easy to work with, engaged and humble. She did her homework and tied in our mission to her remarks and hit the nail on the head on how our audience of over 800 people can work together as a team. She was funny, passionate and drove home her points. We had attendees lined up for 45 minutes afterward to speak to her personally and she was gracious in speaking to every one of them.”

— Savannah Economic Development Authority

“Call sign ‘Fifi’ was an exceptional end-of-year gift for our 700 physician, nursing and administrative leaders. Colonel Malachowski’s story is inspiring and touching as she shares the motivations, breakthroughs and lessons learned through a career of firsts and leadership lessons. She shares her story in a humble and humorous way – you’ll laugh, gasp and shed a tear as she inspires your team to ‘Push the Envelope’. We’ve been hosting leadership sessions every quarter for several years, and Colonel Malachowski delivered our highest rated session yet.”

— Children’s Hospital Colorado

You had a big impact on our team, for which I am grateful. The one thing that stood out to me is your advice to loosen your grip when turbulence hits. My natural reaction is just the opposite. But with our great team, I think your advice is spot on and I am going to focus on loosening my grip when the next rough patch hits. Thanks for making me a better leader.

— Chief Executive Officer | Extra Storage Space

Thank you so much for the amazing speech you gave at our event in Vegas! I wanted to wait to reach out because Ive been getting comments from our post-conference survey and youre by far the highlight of the conference! Everyone left inspired by you and have continued to express how your message resonated and left them inspired!

— Event Planner

From a planner standpoint, you were amazing to work with and I would highly recommend you to any group. You were thoughtful and professional from our first call and I was so impressed that you had researched about our company prior to our conversation. I was even more impressed when you continued to incorporate our company values and culture guide into your presentation. Thank you for creating a presentation for our meeting based off our first call. That was going above and beyond!!! Youre going to be a dynamic speaker for years to come and I am fortunate to have worked with you so soon!!

— Events and Meetings Manager | Extra Space Storage

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 Womens Forum

Nicole! 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!)

— Genentech

Rarely have I found an entire room of business colleagues all so incredibly inspired and engaged by one speaker! Nicoles story has the power of relating to all businesses as well as the individual journeys we are all on. Nicoles compassion, determination and kind spirit shine through in every aspect of her presentation. The outpouring of support, after two standing ovations and many tears, made it clear her message resonated with everyone in attendance. We look forward to Nicole joining us for future conferences and highly recommend her for anyone looking for a truly exceptional experience!

— CEO of Cetera Financial Group

it was the best, most inspiring, heartfelt and meaningful speech I heard all year. Even though I have never flown a jet, given birth to children, or had to deal with a tick-borne illness, you effortlessly translated your words and stories on resilience and dedication into the challenges we face every day. Keep telling your story, it was a pleasure to hear.

— Senior Vice President Commercial Operations, BPG|360

“Days later I am still thinking about you and the unforgettable talk you gave to close our leadership conference. To say it was the highlight of an already exceptional conference would simply be an understatement. You touched so many people with not only your story, but the very essence of who you are as human being. You are a unique mixture of charm, vulnerability, humble strength and resiliencemany of us in the audience, including myself, aspire to be more like you. You left us all with the gifts of inspiration and motivationexactly what we needed to end a conference that was focused on driving performance and connections.”

— Event Planner, PM Hotel Group

You are a spectacular speaker and I have never been to a meeting with our entire team mesmerized by anyone like they were with you. Your story is unbelievable and you are able to deliver it in such a natural and powerful way that had me in awe for days after. I havent been so motivated or inspired by anyone in a long time. I am organizing another meeting in Phoenix where leaders from across North America (hotel owners and managers who oversee Marketing) will be at a two day event and we would like to book you again. The dates are June 19th and 20th and we are flexible on which day it would be.

— Best Western

“During our time together Nicole Malachowski and I traveled across the country to visit and speak with our regional personnel. She shared her unique background, her experience, challenges she faced, and lessons learned over two decades of serving our country. At every stop the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Her unique ability to connect with each and every member of the crowd was impressive. Each individual believed she was talking directly to them and all attendees left walking a little taller. If you are looking for someone to motivate and inspire your audience you cannot do better than Nicole Malachowski. And Ill bet you might walk a little taller, too.”

— Mr. Barney Brasseux, Deputy Administrator, U.S. General Services Administration

“A very special thank you for your incredible keynote at our team meeting this week. You touched my team with your brilliant and meaningful storytelling and have inspired them with your leadership and very practical tips on how to manage headwinds. You captivated their hearts and mindsand it was exactly the kind of closing I wanted to end our week of planning sessions.”

— SVP, CMO | Marketing and Sales, Best Western Hotels & Resorts

“An indomitable spirit whose life journey adds such warmth and depth to her powerful message. She is relatable to women and men with a fascinating narrative of overcoming trials and tribulations all while being an unwitting trailblazer in aviation, in leadership, in social awareness and in medical care”

— VP, Advanced Technology Demonstration Center, Northrup Grumman

“In the world of top-level inspirational and informative keynote speakers, Nicole Malachowski is a standout. IAMC’s audience is full of senior-level professionals who attend a lot of events, and they can be difficult to impress. At our recent conference, she exceeded their elevated expectations, and they left her session energized and uplifted with takeaways that they were excited to implement immediately. Even if you can only book one speaker this year, choose Nicole Malachowski.”

— Industrial Asset Management Council (IAMC)

“Not only is Col. Nicole Malachowski a wonderful woman, she has an incredibly inspiring story. She is captivating and motivational. I think any audience would be lucky to have had the opportunity to hear her speak.”

— Hand & Stone
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