Kyle Malek is a project manager for alliantgroup, a Houston-based tax consulting company that works with CPA firms and their business clients to identify and claim available federal and state government-sponsored tax credits and incentives.
Long before Malek entered the world of tax consulting and engineering, he grew up in Flemington, New Jersey, a rural part of The Garden State that shielded Malek from the trappings of living in a big city.
“But I didn’t realize that until I actually left,” Malek says.
“There really is not a lot going on in Flemington. A lot of people don’t know this about New Jersey, but it can get very rural once you start getting away from New York City and Philly.”
As a child, Malek showed an aptitude for math and science, but his biggest joy didn’t come from acing advanced chemistry or grasping the Pythagorean Theorem.
Instead, Malek enjoyed helping others, in whatever capacity he could.
“That was always my mentality, even as I went through school and realized that math and science were my areas of strength,” he says.
Yet, for as much as Malek thrived off bringing value to others, there was no denying his scientific prowess, which helps explains why after graduating high school Malek enrolled in the ultra-competitive chemical engineering program at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
“The people who go to school at Lehigh are very intense about their education and their grades,” Malek contextualizes.
“It’s different from going to a state school, in that at a private school like Lehigh, everyone who is going there is serious, and it makes the grading curve that much tougher.”
Despite the rigorous standards set by the engineering brass at Lehigh, Malek wasn’t fazed, but before his senior year he had an epiphany, one that would impact his future career path.
“As I started going through the engineering program, my perspective shifted on what I wanted to do,” Malek mentions.
“I realized that even though I was good at engineering, I started to look at the career and see things in it that I wasn’t attracted to.”
In essence, Malek lost his love for chemical engineering, but he still hadn’t graduated from Lehigh.
“Even though I was becoming less passionate, I still had to work hard to get my degree and finish what I started,” Malek notes.
“But the fact that I lost my enjoyment made it that much harder to complete, and that made me realize how important it is to do something that I like. If I was doing something that I was truly passionate about instead of something that I was good at, it would have been a much more enjoyable experience.”
Malek eventually graduated from Lehigh in the spring of 2018, at which point he accepted an internship, but eight weeks into that venture, Malek was abruptly fired.
“After that I was searching feverishly for jobs, and I finally found something in January,” he recalls.
That something that Malek references was an interview with Houston-based alliantgroup, a company that wasn’t exactly a bus ride away from Flemington.
After a series of interviews, Malek was offered and accepted a position as a modeler.
Not long after, he expanded into a leadership role where he was responsible for the performance and professional development of ten other modelers at alliantgroup.
“I was in charge of making sure they got the resources they needed in order to become the best versions of themselves,” Malek says of the leadership position.
His career at alliantgroup was on an impressive upward trajectory, but over time Malek realized there were too many management concepts he didn’t yet fully understand, at which point he determined that being in a leadership role was no longer ideal.
“I was moving from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence, where I realized there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know, and that I hit the gas too fast in becoming a leader,” he explains.
Consequently, Malek made a lateral move within the company and shifted into project management.
He maintains he still wants to assume a leadership role at some point; just not right now.
“I wanted to move over to better my consultancy and soft skills because I was a very technical minded person coming out of school,” Malek shares.
“Things like EQ [emotional intelligence] and your ability to consult people are very important when you want to move into a leadership role.”
As a project manager, Malek now collaborates with 70 different clients on various tax projects, and he couldn’t be more satisfied with his present job responsibilities.
“This experience is really helping me move comfortably and confidently towards that leadership role,” Malek emphasizes, which prompts one question:
Why does an engineer like Malek, who clearly excels at the technical aspect of his job, want to move outside his comfort zone and inherit a leadership role?
“It all goes back to what I truly think is my purpose, which is trying to help as many people as possible,” Malek says.
“That’s been something that’s been consistent throughout my entire life, and I take that principle very seriously and abide by it every day.”
At the same time, Malek’s calculated decisions are made not only with his best interests in mind, but also those of alliantgroup, a company that invested in his professional development at a time when no one else wanted to take a chance on the Flemington native.
“When I was originally searching for jobs, I had next to no information on how to apply for jobs, or how the process worked. I was going about it extremely inefficiently, and I got denied by over 100 companies,” Malek details.
Yet, once Malek revamped his LinkedIn profile, alliantgroup approached him with an opportunity that may eventually pay enormous dividends for the $440 million company.
“Especially after getting fired from that internship and not having any options, being at alliantgroup made me extremely grateful because not only did I get a job in a space that I was passionate about, but I’m also part of a culture where they really invest in their employees,” Malek says.
“My ultimate goal is to make them hiring me one of the best decisions that they have ever made.” QS
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