Published: March 4, 2024

“I Came to Leeds to Expand my Leadership Opportunities.”

kim mallek
Kimberly Mallek on the far right of the front row pictured with her EMBA cohort in Vail.

Kimberly Mallek is a design director, consumer packaged goods (CPG) guru, business leader, and second-year Executive MBA (EMBA) student at CU Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. Before starting the EMBA program, Mallek spent years working with leading CPG brands and retailers managing retail promotions and up to 600 SKUs a year for organizations like Walmart, GoGo Squeez, Celestial Seasonings, Harmons Grocery, Wild Oats Markets, and Whole Foods to name a few.

Mallek, who graduates this May, is exploring leadership opportunities that connect her entrepreneurial passion for CPG and natural and organic foods with her client-side experience of working in-house for corporate art departments.

Tell us why you started the EMBA program?

My initial motivation for getting an Executive MBA was to focus on rebuilding our design and consulting practice after Covid. We got hit really hard with the pandemic and lost some of our key accounts. Interestingly, we were in grocery and CPG, which was in extremely high demand at that time.

But the stores couldn't even keep stuff in stock. Everyone was shopping and there wasn't enough bandwidth. Our clients were dealing with supply chain issues and didn’t have time to think about branding. Many of the new accounts we had picked up prior to the pandemic were very small and didn't make it. We couldn't go out and replace them. So I decided to diversify to explore going back to the client side.

When I started to research MBA programs I knew I wanted to stay in Boulder and felt the EMBA degree would be the right degree. For me it was the solution to bridge this gap from being a business owner and self employed for 15 years to being back client side and leading in a corporate structure.

What aspects of the program have stood out to you?

The residencies, with their combination of working and studying in a social environment, are by far the most exciting part of the Executive MBA Program.

In the fall we traveled to Vail for our residency. It is such a special place to go to learn and there is a ton of excitement from the students. During the first year residency, you complete a leadership simulation. It is both physically and mentally intense. Even though it is completely simulated you still felt the pressure. First year is a really great time to do it. You're in your first term, your first residency, and you're really just getting to know this inner cohort. You have to work together, and personalities really shine through. It was a great way to bond for this two year process of working together.

Leeds does a fantastic job of having a few events during the EMBA residencies including opportunities to connect with peers. One night I went to dinner with a group from my cohort and then the next night, I ventured out and met up with students at a sports bar where the CU game was on, so that was super special. It was a great night even with CU losing. Go Buffs!

Kim MallekHow has the combination of residencies and remote learning benefited your experience in the Executive MBA Program?

The flexibility of remote work allows working professionals like myself to juggle their studies with their existing schedules. Then when you meet with your team someone will often say, “Hey, I'll take the lead on this one,” and then just kind of rotate from a leadership perspective.

The in-person learning during the residencies is intense but creates a dynamic setting that makes it easier to apply the information and knowledge. While there is a lot of content to absorb; the discussion and high level of engagement by the other students and passionate faculty, makes the course work more enjoyable to learn.

The remote work and studying is offset by the sense of community and connection created through the week-long residencies. When you're in the room with everyone sharing ideas, you get to learn through other students' experiences. You get to see these interesting things about people that you didn't know. And that's really cool.

Now That You’ve Nearly Completed the Program, What Piece of Advice do you Offer to Future EMBAs?

Mallek’s experience during the week-long residencies mirrors what other students and graduates have gained from the program:Time invested in community building and networking is a critical part of the EMBA and is an important feature of what makes it unique.

Having participated in several residencies, along with a variety of events and activities, Mallek advised that it is helpful to have a plan for networking. Having goals and purpose are simple ways to get more out of the experience.

Additionally, Mallek was adamant that you must go to office hours. “I have been very diligent in carving out the time in my schedule to go to office hours, and it has made me understand the material a lot better.”

We invite you to learn more about Kim Mallek on LinkedIn. You can also learn more about the Leeds Executive MBA Program here.