What I wish I’d known: Dr Jodie Lording

Army Reservist, HR researcher and small business owner Dr Jodie Lording shares her experiences serving in Reserve, rising to leadership in her 20s and being a woman in a male-dominated field.

At a glance:

  • Jodie has served in the Army Reserves for more than 30 years and was awarded a Conspicuous Service Medal in 2010.
  • She first joined the Reserves as a band member, was later commissioned and reached the rank of Colonel.
  • As a woman in a male-dominated field, she felt pressure to act more ‘masculine’ – but ended up finding an authentic leadership style with support from peers.
  • She’s started a small business and engaged in volunteer pursuits to expand her skill set for her next job.

Colonel Dr Jodie Lording CSM has built a multifaceted career across Defence, academia, small business ownership, volunteerism and more.

We caught up with Jodie, who is an RSL NSW member and still serves in Reserve, to find out what she wishes she’d known about her career beforehand.

Time in Reserve

I had wanted to join the regular Army since year 10, but for various reasons that wasn’t the plan for me.

As I had completed high school with a strong focus on music, a friend suggested I join the Army Reserve and play in the band. After a few hiccups, I joined the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers, an experience I loved. I gained a truck driver’s licence to go on field exercises with the regiment and, with appropriate supervision, occasionally drove an armoured personnel carrier.

I took to the discipline of the Army, perhaps borne from the discipline of music. I was a strong performer on the promotion courses, first becoming a recruit instructor and later a drill instructor at ADFA. After reaching the rank of sergeant and bandmaster at the ripe old age of 26, the  suggested I consider commissioning. And so the second part of my Army career commenced.

I was appointed to the Royal Australian Ordnance Corps and began my life as a logistics officer. I’ve done both Reserve and full-time service, and have been deployed multiple times, most recently in 2018-19 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. I continue to serve in the Reserve and thoroughly enjoy the role of Deputy Commander of the 8th Brigade, where we are responsible for training the next generation of soldiers and officers.

Building a career outside Defence

Aside from my career in Defence, I’ve worked as a professional musician, high school music teacher and studio teacher. This led me into corporate learning and development and human resources. I completed a Master in Adult Education majoring in HR management and later a doctorate examining recruitment and retention issues in the Reserve in Australia and the UK.

I became aware of the NZ Remembrance Army, which works to ensure veterans’ graves are appropriately maintained, and record and maintain service stories as a national resource for research and educational purposes. The lead for the NZ Remembrance Army, Simon Strombom, was more than happy to share their work, processes and policies with me.

We’ve been able to learn many lessons from our ANZAC brothers and sisters that would otherwise have taken us years to sift through. With Simon’s insights, the NSW & ACT Remembrance Army is bringing a name, face and voice back to veterans who have long been forgotten.

I also started my own business, Waterhole Mixers. Small business is hard work; big businesses do not make space for others. But smaller distilleries and other SMEs have been wonderfully supportive.

More authentic leadership

Becoming a sergeant at 26 was a real learning point for me. Because I was a young woman in a male-dominated regiment, I felt I had to behave in particular ways and command respect by being masculine – using swear words and other things that just aren’t necessary.

The lesson was I didn’t need to do that – so I found my own authentic leadership style. There’s a time and place for a more traditional military approach to things, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a good leader.

When I did become an officer, I worked with senior soldiers who I outranked but had more experience than I did. They were helpful in shaping me to be a better officer and leader who didn’t pretend to be someone else.

What I wish I’d known

We hear how members of younger generations jump from job to job and have multiple careers throughout their lives. People say that’s not what Generation X is meant to do. For me, I never saw it as jumping from one thing to the next, but as an accumulation of experiences to gather skills I could use in my next job.

The thing I find hardest is that I don’t necessarily have the same faith in myself that others do. I tend to be quite hard on myself. There’s a degree of imposter syndrome. Women in particular tend to suffer when we start a job and worry, ‘They’re going to find me out’.

Sometimes, it’s not what you think you can do. It’s about what others know you can do that you just haven’t stepped into yet – and it’s only in hindsight that you realise you already had all the skills and capabilities you needed to do a job and do it well.

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