Heroes Work Here: Judith Codling

10 November 2022

‘It’s not just learning from people who are more senior than you, you can learn just as much from someone who’s just joined, who might see the obvious that those of us who have been here for a while don’t see anymore’

We can all learn from each other, explains Judith Codling, Client Services Director at ZEDRA.

Our culture wouldn’t be what it is today without our ZEDRA people. What we learn through our own ‘Hero’s Journey’ gives us life experiences, insights and tools that positively impact our life, our work, and the lives of others. To celebrate these positive stories, whether they are based on career progression, personal development or overcoming challenges, is part of what ZEDRA stands for.

Judith Codling joined ZEDRA Inside Pensions in 2016, and leads the client service delivery team as well as providing trustee executive support services to several large pension schemes. In the latest in our Heroes Work Here series, she shares her own personal wisdom on drive, overcoming challenges and finding the balance to have success in both your career and life.

Tell us about your early career. What did you learn about yourself through that process?

My early career was in pensions, and the biggest thing I learned was how to be a good team player, a good team leader, and to treat every member of my team as an individual. It’s so important to treat people fairly, but actually that doesn’t mean treating everybody the same. What works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another.

I’m really interested in psychology and that led to one of my career moves, when I worked for Gallup on employee engagement programmes, and became a Gallup strengths coach. I’ve introduced StrengthsFinder© to our small part of the wider ZEDRA business, so that we understand the different talents that people have; this enables them to focus on their talent themes by giving them more of the work that uses those strengths.

So what were your strengths? Did you recognise them early on?

I guess I’ve always had quite a good understanding of people, and I think that’s why in every organisation I’ve joined, whatever level I’ve joined at, I’ve ended up rising relatively quickly. You get there because you always want to do a good job, and I think that says something about how ZEDRA recruits as well. We recruit people who want to do a good job, but not in our image, because we need that diversity. I describe our business as being full of spiky people that make an all-rounded team, and it’s actually putting the spikes together to make them all rounded. Because if we’re all the same we’d miss out on so many opportunities.

What were the challenges and/or opportunities for you, and how did you approach them?

The big challenges in my life have all been outside of work. When I was in my early twenties, my father committed suicide. One of my twin sons died at birth and I also had to deal with a cancer diagnosis. When these things happen, it feels horribly unfair. But you do learn to become more resilient, so the lows aren’t as low. But the negative side of resilience is that it means the highs aren’t as high. So actually finding something that makes you really happy is more challenging, because you’ve got used to insulating yourself.

For the last 20 years, I’ve got very into yoga. That’s something that brings me a lot of joy, and I’m training now to be a yoga teacher. I think it makes you more peaceful.

What character qualities or values did you develop through that experience? Did you have to battle any perceptions or limiting beliefs?

I would be lying if I didn’t say that I have that ‘I’m not good enough voice’ sometimes, particularly when tragic things happen in your life, as you tend to take that responsibility onto yourself. But yoga has helped me to feel that balance. There are things you can influence, and there are things you can’t. And you have to accept that you can’t control everything, and sometimes you just have to deal with what comes along.

So I guess that in trying to deal with that head noise, that voice, I’ve become more philosophical. I often say it about work, when someone says I haven’t managed to get such and such done. Well nobody’s going to die, because you haven’t done a set of minutes for a trustee board meeting. And I guess that is the bottom line. I’m not in a medical profession or a caring profession. So I’m lucky in that if something goes wrong, it probably isn’t the end of the world. There may be some challenges, but at the end of the day, life is more important.

If you could go back in time and give advice to your younger self, what would you say?

Follow a career that you love rather than the one that gives you money. Because you work for a long, long time, and often you’re with your colleagues at work more than you’re with your family. But if you can be in an industry where you feel a calling, it doesn’t matter how much you earn. You need to live your dream, and do something you love. I would say that to all young people now, and I think the younger generation are much better at doing this. We have portfolio careers now, we don’t have that one job for life, like our parents did.

What words of wisdom would you like to pass on to colleagues who are just starting out on their own journey with ZEDRA?

Always ask. No question is a silly question, and if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. It’s not just learning from people who are more senior than you, it’s learning from everyone. You can learn just as much from someone who’s just joined the organisation, who might see the obvious, that everyone who’s been there for a while just doesn’t see anymore. And I would always encourage that attitude in new joiners. If you see something and you don’t understand why we do it that way, then raise it. There might be a good reason why we do what we do, but actually, don’t be afraid to challenge things. Just make sure you do it in the right way.

Do you have a personal ethos or philosophy that makes you the way you are?

My favourite thing ever is the Ritz Carlton credo, ‘We are ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen’. I think that’s so powerful. There’s a lovely story about one of their housekeepers called Rosa, and the last thing she does before she leaves the room is to lie on the bed. And why’s that? She said, ‘I lie on the bed because that’s the first thing my clients do when they come into the room. And if they look up and the first thing they see is loads of dust, then that’s not a great experience. I want them to lie on the bed and see a beautiful room.’
It’s so true. If you treat your staff how you want them to treat your clients, they will treat your clients really well.

Pick four words that describe what you feel you bring to ZEDRA life.

Fun. Resilience. Role model. And inspirational friendship. I think friendship is really important at work, if you have a best friend at work, you’re more productive, you’re more profitable and you’re more engaged.

What do you hope people will gain from reading your story?

To be inspired that you can get through it. Whatever that challenge you’ve got is, you can find a solution.

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