“Anybody that’s worked in aerospace for a long time will say it’s like a vacuum,” says Nikki Malcom, Board Chair at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA). “It just sucks you in, and you can try to leave, but you’ll get pulled back into it.”
Nikki Malcolm, whose own career in aerospace and defense spans an impressive two decades, has certainly been impacted by the industry’s gravitational force. Nikki began her career, aged 18, at TMX aerospace, a company that provided the materials needed for Boeing commercial and production aircraft. Here, Nikki was offered a strong support system that was focused on nurturing the early stages of her career.
She says: “I had some incredible mentors. [TMX Aerospace] saw something in me and helped me become who I am today.”
Nikki soon secured exciting and dynamic sales roles, which were focused on supporting OEMs and organizations in the industry that were working on materials, testing, and manufacturing.
“The people I work with are some of the most incredible people and the customers and the network that I’ve built over the time that I’ve been in the industry is amazing,” she says. “People are such a huge part of it but [so is] also feeling like you’re contributing to society.
“Aerospace is amazing and getting to be a part of that is incredible, especially in the time that we’re in right now. There’s so much new technology coming out, more than any other time that I can remember in my career, that’s advancing things so fast. That’s really exciting to be a part of.”
Nikki has faith that the industry can return to pre-pandemic levels. The strength of her belief has even inspired her to establish a company during the global crisis.
She says: “I believe in the industry wholeheartedly. I know that we were going to come back, but there was going to be a resurgence in the industry, and so I looked into that and asked myself ‘how can I support the industry?’ How can I utilize my experience to do the most during a time where a lot of companies at that point, couldn’t afford to have a full-time salesperson?”
In October 2020, Nikki established NFM Enterprises, which represents and supports multiple companies in the aerospace and defense industry.
Nikki explains: “The intent [behind NFM Enterprises] was so that companies could have somebody [who possessed] the breadth and depth of experience in sales of over 20 years [but] not have to necessarily pay the full amount that they would [usually have to] pay. So, helping support [businesses to] get through this, and also helping diversify their business because we’re so heavily dependent on one OEM here. [Also] trying to help diversify their businesses just for the long-term success of their supply chain.”
She continues: “COVID-19 made us uncomfortable, and you can make change when you’re uncomfortable. You can make change for the better or for the worst, but you can also see it as an opportunity to make things different.
“Multiple people ask me, ‘what are you doing starting your business in the middle of a pandemic?’ and I say: ‘I’m already uncomfortable. So, I might as well be uncomfortable pursuing something that I want, rather than just sitting here waiting for something to happen. Either way, I’m uncomfortable. So, I’m going to choose my discomfort.’ And so, I think that having started my career so young, I became adaptable to change really easily.”
Nikki’s support for the industry doesn’t end there. She is also the Chair of the Board of Directors at the PNAA, a non-profit organization based just outside of Seattle, Washington. PNAA brings together a coalition of aerospace companies that serve North America’s largest commercial aerospace manufacturing market, which is centered around The Boeing Company. The organization also connects leaders from around the world and businesses within the aerospace supply chain by hosting several annual conferences, workshops, and networking opportunities.
Nikki says: “We’re constantly trying to introduce our membership and the people in the northwest to the new technologies that are coming out within the industry. We also have a scholarship program that we’re really proud of. We get donations for [that] every year and are able to give scholarships to local students to attend aviation-themed or aviation-related colleges.”
In addition to the scholarship programs, the organization participates in STEM projects and donates resources to STEM projects for younger students to help inspire younger generations in STEM programs.
Through her involvement in such projects, Nikki hopes to broaden the limited perception of roles and careers that can be pursed in the industry. She also advocates for the industry becoming more welcoming and more inclusive.
Nikki says: “Historically, we’re a very traditional industry and that, from my perspective, has been a barrier to people coming into the industry. I think that there is so much that people don’t know exists in aerospace and some of those jobs are exciting and really challenging and rewarding. I’m on a mission to change that perception, [not just] saying ‘you have to be an engineer’ but from an educational standpoint, because it doesn’t all look the same.”
Nikki is currently putting together a team of women from different roles across the industry who will visit schools and talk to young girls about aerospace, the various jobs available in the sector and attempting to change the perception that there is one direct path into the industry.
She says: “Almost every role that I’ve taken hasn’t existed before I took it. So, I really got to pioneer some of these roles throughout my career, which is something that I find to be exciting and makes me want to go to work every day.
“There’s all of these different paths at different ages and different education levels and different jobs. There is something out there for everyone, no matter what gets you awake in the morning.”