Ellen Joan NelsonTo get in touch, fill out this contact form or email me: ellen@ellenjoannelson.com

Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards ‘Local Hero’ Finalist (top 3) for 2023, for the volunteer work her and her team (including Chris Parsons, Martin Dransfield and many more supporters) to bring 563 Afghan evacuees to live safely in New Zealand. Read More. and ‘Person of the Year 2022’ – Manawatu Standard. Read More

I am Dr Ellen Joan Nelson an ex-army academic business mum, with deep expertise and experience in leadership, well-being and the future of work.

Ready To Help You Excel

I help organisations do better at retaining their top talent and improving organisational performance. This comes down to leadership and focusing on staff well-being, and modern ways of working.
I have spoken at TEDx (video due out in late 2022), advised many corporate and government organisations, including the NZ Army, and my research and ideas to improve the working world have been published multiple times (view publications). I help organisations to remove structural barriers facing women and parents, which benefits everyone, while simultaneously experiencing improvements in organisational metrics such as: leadership performance, staff wellbeing, retention, productivity, innovation and business performance.
I was part of a volunteer team, including Chris Parsons and Martin Dransfield, that collaborated with the NZ Government and other connections to support the evacuation of 563 people from Afghanistan to New Zealand (view more info here) and I started the #workschoolhours movement (view more info here) and the #belongingautonomypurpose movement (view more info here), and am involved in the Food & Fibre Centre of Vocational Excellence Leadership Development project alongside Rural Leaders. The report for the first stage of this project can be viewed here.

My unique fusion of four quite different aspects to my experience (Army leader, academic, business focused Mum) and expertise allows me to add considerable value and have a wide impact. This is my story and journey.

Leader in the NZ Army

The first ten years of my career were as a leader in the NZ Army. I served on numerous overseas deployments, including Afghanistan, Antarctica, UK, Australia and many nations in the Pacific. As well as serving in the Army, I subsequently researched about, and then advised to, the NZ Army (view more info here) During 2021 and 2022, I was part of a small, volunteer team that supported the evacuation of 563 NZDF allies from Afghanistan to New Zealand (view more info here)

Two Afghan girls we evacuated to NZ

Our volunteer team: Martin Dransfield, Ellen Nelson,
Chris Parsons


Following my MBA (exec) in 2013, I completed a PhD in 2019, focused on the leadership experiences and wellbeing of women in the workforce. Read PhD thesis here. Or Watch video summary of PhD here . I then used these findings to help the NZ Army reduce the barriers facing women, and this advisory work was featured in numerous media stories here . A reference from the Chief of the NZ Army can be viewed here. My post-doctoral research involved informal conversations with more than 500 working parents and the disappointing findings regarding their challenging experiences led me to start the #workschoolhours movement to make socially and commercially smart improvements to the working world. Summary video here . I spoke about #workschoolhours at TEDx Auckland in 2022 (video is due out later in 2022) and have written about this in multiple publications here. During 2022 and 2023, I am involved in the Food & Fibre Centre of Vocational Excellence Leadership Development project alongside Rural Leaders. The report for the first stage of this project can be viewed here.

Business Acumen

I am also very business focused, having completed an executive MBA while managing staff and projects at PTS Logistics, and then spent seven years working as a trusted advisor and consultant with exporters at NZTE (NZ Trade & Enterprise), to grow their international business. I now run my own practice as a speaker and consultant; helping organisations to simultaneously improve social and commercial outcomes.


The final, and most vital, part of my story is my family. I am a Mum, wife, daughter, sister and friend, to the most important people in my life. My insights as a Mum, alongside my military, academic and business experience and expertise, are what drives my passion to make the working world better.

Let's Chat

Ready to start a conversation? Contact me today.
  • “Ellen was a fantastic speaker at a recent KPMG Inclusion and Diversity event. She spoke with passion, enthusiasm and authenticity on the topic of wellbeing, inclusion and belonging in a way which leveraged her PhD analysis to inform practical solutions that could change how we all work more effectively and efficiently into the future. The session was thought-provoking, stimulated significant discussion amongst attendees and was delivered with good humour.”
    - Peter Chew, Director, KPMG.
  • “Ellen was deliberate, clear and convincing with her communications and, as a result, has significantly influenced how Army is now approaching a range of diversity and inclusion challenges, particularly those that relate to gender inclusiveness… To Ellen’s immense credit she has positively contributed to a number of organizational level working groups… Ellen’s contributions to the change, both short & long term, currently being sort by Army in these areas has been both invaluable and greatly appreciated.”

    View reference letter from the Chief of the NZ Army

    - Major General John Boswell, DSD, Chief of NZ Army.
  • “…Ellen’s passion combined with the research she has completed made for an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable session. During the session Ellen captivated the team by using real world examples which connected to her research about the changing nature of leadership. Ellen’s presentation style exemplified the traits she was explaining with regards to being authentic and how when combined with leadership this delivers a more positive outcome. The team were kept rapt as she challenged them to think differently about the future of work, and how the 9-5 construct has shifted and organisations now need to not just have flexible work policies, but to build their systems and processes around this new worker…”
    - Eric Chapman, Director, EY
  • “Ellen was our speaker at Venture Taranaki’s International Women’s Day event 2022. The talk covered everything from personal stories to practical tips for how employers can attach and retain great female talent. Ellen was a relatable and engaging speaker to whom the audience responded well. If you want to open up a conversation on making the workplace great for everyone, Ellen is the woman to help you.”

    - Rachael Berndt. Talent Advisor, Venture Taranaki.
  • “Every organisation should hear Ellen speak. She is so passionate about #workshoolhours and is able to articulate how organisations can solve some of their biggest (people) issues right now and carve out a major competitive advantage in the war for talent. As a parent it was reassuring to hear that so many other parents shared some of my experiences balancing work and family as I do. As an HR practitioner, this talk offered a fresh perspective on many of the issues we are facing right now, backed up by research and evidence that we can take back to our organisations to help solve our current challenges, improve our employee experience and shape the future of work.”

    - Toni Grimshaw, HRNZ Branch President: Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington
  • “Ellen spoke at our Managing Burnout and Fatigue in the Workplace Conference in Auckland. Managing burnout and supporting wellbeing is clearly a topic Ellen is passionate about as she ensured the day was as insightful as possible for our delegates and provided valuable, practical take-aways. We had great feedback from speakers, delegates and all the team onsite. It was a pleasure to work with Ellen and would be delighted to work together in the future.”

    - Catherine McCarthy, Director of Training – Australia, New Zealand & Asia
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