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Katlyn Malone: Tech Driven, People Passionate

Where tech and business growth overlap are where you’ll find the expertise and skills of Katlyn Malone

Katlyn Malone: Tech Driven, People Passionate

Where tech and business growth overlap are where you’ll find the expertise and skills of Katlyn Malone

Published 06-16-23

Submitted by Principal Financial Group, Inc.

Principal employee Katlyn Malone at Principal global headquarters.

Originally published on

The first time Katlyn Malone saw the Iowa State University campus was in the fall of 2015 when she and her family drove from Indianapolis to Ames for the freshman’s move-in day. “It was a family event,” says Malone, a Leadership Development Program (LDP) associate with Principal®. “We rented a truck, and my mom, dad, and little brother all came.”

Malone kept a brave face—but she was anxious. She knew no one and was the first in her family to attend college. “When they left, I realized I’m an adult. I didn’t know when they would be back to see me,” she says.

No matter: Malone dug in, putting her talents to good use and navigating the challenge with the same traits she’s used all her life: endless curiosity and boundless energy.

Focused on function and enthusiastic about growth

Malone remembers when her dad gave her a build-your-own-computer kit; she was about 7 or 8 and it was her first inkling that engineering might be in her future. “He and I would work together,” she says. “It started that journey into STEM for me.”

So, too, did her foray into her school’s robotics team; they won competitions in just their first year. “When I built something and it worked—when it clicked—that was the most exciting feeling ever,” she says.

Computer engineering, with its mix of electrical know-how and software programming, checked all the boxes, and Iowa State offered a highly ranked program.1 But the transition after her family dropped her off—“campus was so beautiful and I felt good about my choice”—was, in her words, “a lot.” Take the first-year intro chemistry class with 300 students. “My graduating class was 24, and it was challenging to learn how to navigate that, how to talk to a professor, how to study, who to study with,” she says.

Entering engineering as a woman and a woman of color was also hard. “I didn’t see many females that looked like me and didn’t really find my support group and peers until I was a senior,” Malone says.

By then, she was set to graduate with a double degree in computer engineering and management information systems. “I thought I wanted to be a software developer,” Malone says. “But then my junior year I took business classes and realized there was often miscommunication between tech and business, even though those areas service each other. What if I could be someone who could serve as a liaison between the two so they can function and grow?”

Marketing is fun — and so is leadership.

Malone had internships from her freshman year on; in 2019 she landed one at Principal, where a leader encouraged Malone to meet other teams and see how that connection between tech and business worked in practice. After graduation, she entered the Principal LDP, a three-year commitment with six- to nine-month rotations around the business.

“I’ve gotten to work in spaces I would have never thought to get into,” Malone says. The most fun and most surprising? Marketing. “I have no background in it, but tech is so wrapped around marketing. It opened my eyes.”

Malone flexed her leadership muscles—and found a new spark—during a rotation in Mexico where she was an agile scrum leader for a team of 12. “We had teams that had some disconnect and had to get them to work together to overcome their stuck points. To not only understand the tech but to be a people leader, I really enjoyed that,” she says. "I realized my career at Principal isn’t going to be limited to one area. It’s going to be thoughtful. There are areas and leaders willing to work with me to help figure out what I want. I’m tech driven but people passionate.”

How do you affect change?

Malone opted to stay in the Des Moines area immediately post-graduation, surrounded by a core group of friends from college. Last year, however, she moved back to Indianapolis; her dad had died, and her family was still in the city. “When I left for school, part of me felt like I was abandoning them when they were struggling—I’m one of the pillars of my family,” Malone says. 

And she feels obligated to try to affect change in her hometown. “I come from a community with a lot of challenges; it’s impoverished, it’s a food desert, and schools need help. But it’s shaped who I am, and I want the best for the people here,” she says. “How can I better my community? I have an education and work for a company that offers a number of resources, so how do I take what I’ve learned and bring it back to them?”

She’s not sure what shape those efforts will take, and no matter what, she wants to move back to Des Moines in a few years—this time, with her mom. It’s rare to know what career might be a good fit when you’re in elementary school, but Malone—who just finished an MBA with a focus in information systems and leadership to boot—really did. “To finally figure things out—I love that feeling,” Malone says. “To be able to create something that works is exciting.”

1Iowa State University

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Principal Financial Group, Inc.

Principal Financial Group, Inc.

Principal Financial Group® (Nasdaq: PFG) is a global financial company with 18,500 employees1 passionate about improving the wealth and well-being of people and businesses. In business for more than 140 years, we’re helping more than 51 million customers1 plan, protect, invest, and retire, while working to support the communities where we do business, and build a diverse, inclusive workforce. Principal® is proud to be recognized as one of America’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies2, a member of the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, and a Top 10 “Best Places to Work in Money Management3.” Learn more about Principal and our commitment to building a better future at

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