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Nicole Small

OCCUPATION: Chief executive officer of Dallas’ Museum of Nature & Science. 


PERSONAL STATS: The Dallas mom of Julia Ava, 4, and Sadie Jordan, 1, has been married to husband Justin, a commercial real estate agent, for 10 years. Small is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with an MBA from the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University. Prior to her appointment at the museum, Small worked for multiple technology and venture capital firms, including Goldman Sachs and McKinsey & Co. 

CURRENT PROJECTS: Small, who was named CEO in 2002, is spearheading a $155 million capital campaign to fund the museum’s new 150,000-square-foot facility that will be constructed in Dallas’ Victory Park (the group will break ground later this fall). 

RULES TO MOTHER BY: One of the important things in our house is that my husband and I try to stay on the same page, especially with a 4-year-old who has learned negotiation skills quite early. I recognize that our kids are kids. We try to rule the house with some discipline, but they also need to explore their world. I work at a science museum, so for me, giving my kids the opportunity to explore is really critical to their development. 

MOM ROLE MODEL: My mom. She balanced instilling the right values in her kids yet also let us find our own way. Unfortunately, she passed away and is not here to give me daily advice on how to do things, but she is definitely who I look to. 

MOST MEANINGFUL MOM MOMENT: I have meaningful moments every day. I mean, just this morning I was watching [my daughters] play and interact. I completely forgot about what I was going to do for the rest of the day. Just watching them together brings great joy. That is what’s important in life at the end of the day. 

HUSBAND’S BEST DADDY CHARACTERISTIC: We always joke in our house that he’s in charge of recreation and I’m in charge of education. He has the ability to entertain them and make them laugh all day long. 

FAVORITE FAMILY HANGOUT: The museum, of course! My 4-year-old just loves the museum — she could stay there for hours. She feels so comfortable there, whether she’s digging in the dino dig or looking for turtles in the lagoon or wandering through the offices to say hi to everyone. She associates it as her place and says, ‘I want to go to my mommy’s museum.’ My girls are the reason I get up and go to work every day — to build a better place for our kids. I take great joy in the fact that they both love to visit. 

DO YOU WEAR DIFFERENT CLOTHES NOW THAT YOU’RE A MOM? On the weekends, yes, when I’m not dressed for the office. I am a better mom if I feel decent about my appearance … but I do admit putting on my pajamas the minute I get home. It’s much easier to get down on the floor and play with the kids! 

HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR CAREER WITH MOTHERHOOD? I have a great husband. I could not go to work and do what I do without him. Also, the job that I have focuses on kids and the institution that I work at values family. I constantly try to keep life in perspective, too, because at the end of the day my family is still the most important thing to me. And, don’t forget to have a sense of humor. You have got to be able to laugh. Otherwise, life gets really hard — especially when you haven’t slept in a year!