Looking for success in life and your career? Reflection, adaptability, determination and bravery are key

Mixed race businesswoman giving a presentation at a meeting

Article by Judith Codling, Head of Client Services at ZEDRA

Our journeys are filled with highs and lows both in work and in our personal lives, and sometimes we all feel stuck in situations which seem impossible to change.

By sharing my own experiences, I  hope to inspire other women to keep going when things get tough. By learning from your experiences, being open to change, determined and brave, you can follow a path to fit your everchanging personal circumstances.

My story

Reflecting on and understanding things that have happened to me are key to a successful life and career. Looking back at my career, there are probably four key tools I have utilised time and time again:

  • Making the time to consciously reflect on my experiences and seek out the lessons they have taught me and then apply those lessons to my future life decisions.
  • Being open to change and adapting to circumstances as they arise.
  • Finding the strength and determination to overcome obstacles and face challenges head on.
  • Being brave enough to take control of situations and find solutions to problems as they surface.

Where it all started

I began working in pensions in 1989, moving through the ranks in various organisations and eventually working for what is now Aon as a Client Delivery Manager in late 2000.

Up to that point I had been focussed on juggling work and studying – completing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in 2000. I chose an MBA that fitted my schedule, but my supportive employer (British Airways Pension Services Limited) made the real difference and I was able to spend some time in the day conducting research and working on assignments. Without this support, I think it would have been impossible for me!

When life takes new twists and turns

In 2003 I found out that I was expecting twins just as I had secured my dream job, moving away from the world of pensions administration into a consultancy role.

I felt like I couldn’t change jobs and lose the benefits that were provided at that time, so I explained to my potential new employer that I’d have to decline the offer. Surprisingly, my new employer was happy to wait for me to return from maternity leave some 12 months later.

Dealing with unimaginable loss  

Having started off as a very straightforward pregnancy, it became a nightmare (this might be a tissue moment for some of you!) and one of my sons didn’t make it.

As the main breadwinner in my household and due to the maternity provisions in force then, I returned to work when Josh was just five months old.

Changing lanes

Any parent will know that having a small child and working full time is really hard and even with the best childcare in the world, it is challenging. I was lucky to find a great childminder which allowed me to undertake the 90-minute daily commute and nine hour days of my new consulting role. I loved the job and continued honing my skills in pensions consultancy.

One advantage of my commute was that I could study towards a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) qualification which I completed in 2004.

In 2008, after four years with my employer, a change of ownership of the company meant a change of direction for the business. I took this as an opportunity to reflect on my career. Inspired by my CIPD studies, I decided to transition from pensions into HR.

A whole new chapter

One year on, as Josh reached six years old, it was no longer feasible for the childminder to care for him. I once more reflected on my circumstances and evaluated my career path.

I decided to be brave and retrain as a teacher, completing a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in 2009 and gaining my Qualified Teacher Status in 2010. I thought the holidays and working hours would allow me to spend more time with Josh. However, the job proved more challenging than expected with long hours. I take my hat off to teachers – especially those who have taught through the current pandemic!

That said, it did allow me to be at home more as I was able to work a ‘split shift’ – taking time out to do things with Josh and going back to work after he was safely tucked up in bed.

Then life turned full circle

Fast forward to 2015, my 12-year-old no longer needed mum around, so I reviewed my career again and decided to return to corporate pensions. I took a position at the Pensions Management Institute and then moved to Inside Pensions , now part of ZEDRA, and I haven’t looked back!

Having joined as an Assistant in 2016, I was promoted to Head of Client Services in 2019, reporting to our Managing Director.

As you say yes to life, life says yes to you

My story is a great example of being in the right place at the right time with the right skills and knowledge, and being brave enough to take a chance and embracing your adventurous side – something us women are not always as good at as our male counterparts. I would always advocate finding someone you can talk to whether that is a ‘mentor’ about work or a friend or family member about homelife. Being prepared to share your situation makes it so much easier to find solutions which work for you and allow you to make progress however you measure that!

About the author

Judith CodlingJudith is a single working mother with over 30 years’ experience working in a variety of roles and holds both an MBA and Fellowship of the Chartered institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD).

She joined ZEDRA in 2016 and now leads the client service delivery team as well as providing trustee executive support services to several large pension schemes. Judith builds highly effective working relationships with her clients and ensures the proactive delivery of trustee and pension governance related services.

Prior to her current role, she managed the marketing and client relationship function at the Pensions Management Institute (PMI). Judith’s experience includes several years working at two major benefit consultancies, where she was responsible for the management and administration of a large number of pension schemes. She has also held senior management roles at Dunnett Shaw and British Airways Pensions, and taught across all subjects in a primary setting for over five years.  

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