Many great people serve and have served in the Australian Defence Force. 

On International Women’s Day we celebrate the strength, resilience, leadership and success of women in the veteran and defence community and beyond.  

Sandy Fraser is a former intelligence officer in the Navy who now works at Leidos, a technology company that provides solutions to national security, health, and engineering challenges.

We share her journey from military to the civilian world, and some tips and insights into how she continues to make a huge impact on those around her.

What shoes do I wear? I’ve had shoes issued to me for the last 25 years”.

What a perfect metaphor so many will relate to! Transitioning from the military to the civilian world can be challenging.

As a serving member, Sandy had been issued shoes for 25 years. She was also told what shoes to wear, and also what time to rise, what time to eat, and what was on the menu.  It can be smallest of routines that brings home the huge change in lifestyle and identity.

Sandy says the key is the find yourself and understand who you are and who you want to be outside of the military.

“It is a really huge shift, to go from having that structure in your life to being handed a blank piece of paper.”

It is important for veterans to talk about mental health challenges and the change in identity that occurs when transitioning from military to civilian life.

Sandy’s advice: “it is not a loss of identity, but rather a change in identity.”

While in the military, everything is structured. As a civilian, everything is a blank sheet of paper.

“You don’t realise how much that kind of stress puts on you. Until you start to factor in all the other big ticket stress. And all the sudden life is just starting to get very, very difficult.”

In the military, your friends are often the people you work with. Missing those friends, while at the same time changing your career path, sorting housing, schooling, meeting new people and finances outside of the defence force can be overwhelming.

“A soft place to land for veterans”.

We might be biased – as we love the team at Leidos and all they bring as a Corporate Partner of Bravery Trust. So, we’re not surprised by Sandy’s comments that Leidos was a supportive employer as she moved into civilian life.

Being a veteran-led organization, Leidos has a culture of understanding the unique challenges that veterans face. Sandy describes Leidos as a “soft place to land” for veterans.

Leidos has supported Sandy with her career growth and leadership training, placing great value on her military skills set and the breadth of experience she brings.

“I make the complex simple, and I make the simple repeatable.”

Well-practiced communications skills help Sandy to ‘crack the code’ and link Defence with industry and community.  Sandy’s leadership focus is to ensure that both sides have a clear understanding of each other’s needs and requirements.

Sandy uses her insight into the language and culture of Defence to connect teams without the same experience – for example as connecting miliary officers to the software team at Leidos.

She says she’s a perfect fit for Leidos, a company that looks at problems from all angles like a kaleidoscope (that’s where the name originates from).

“Knowing oneself is essential when leading people”.

It’s been a journey, but Sandy has created a successful new chapter of her life since leaving the military.   “Knowing oneself is essential.”

She describes her leadership style as warm authoritative, which involves setting firm and clear boundaries while being caring and concerned.

Thank you, Sandy, for not only sharing your journey, but for your ongoing commitment to help and support others as they transition from the Australian Defence Force into civilian life – a successful leader who’s strength and resilience we are proud to showcase.

Bravery Trust is a registered business name of the Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust, a nationally registered charity.