Janelle Solomons, 37, is the HR Manager at Bounty Brands. She works in the fashion apparel division of the company where she helps lead and direct the human resource function, she says. Premium international labels such as Superdry, Hurley, Diesel, Jeep and Vans fall within her gambit.
Recently Janelle graduated with her Master’s Degree in Community Mental Health Promotion from SACAP. With her background in human resources, we’re eager to discover a few things. Why she chose to pursue this particular programme? How she managed to juggle her studies with her fulltime job? And whether her new psychology qualification is helping her achieve what she does in her HR role?
So we asked her. Here’s what she has to say…
Route to rise
Janelle’s experience in the HR field spans almost two decades. Pivotal to her success is the hard work and dedication she continues to employ on her career journey.
“I started my studies by acquiring a Bachelor of Social Science Degree from UCT,” she tells us when we meet up with her. “I then completed my Honours Degree in Industrial and Organisational Psychology from UNISA.”
In May, Janelle added a master’s degree to her impressive list of qualifications. “The choice to pursue my studies at SACAP was an easy one,” she explains. “The Master’s Degree in Community Mental Health Promotion offered me the flexibility required to attend weekly lectures after hours. It also allowed me to explore my interest in understanding community-based approaches to mental health.”
“There were no other tertiary institutions offering a similar master’s degree,” she continues. “My SACAP experience was excellent. I particularly liked that the lecturers were always available. I found them to be very supportive especially if we had questions about the subject matter and required clarity.”
Incentive to study
“My current role involves the development and implementation of HR strategies and translating them into operational plans to achieve the business’ strategic objectives,” Janelle says.
The reason behind her decision to study SACAP’s Master’s in Mental Health Promotion? “I was keen to develop myself further as a leader and to understand how mental health challenges can be addressed through interventions that promote wellbeing,” she explains.
We asked Janelle whether her new qualification is informing what she does at work. “Definitely. The skill of participatory action research, for example, has encouraged me to listen first without making assumptions,” she says. “I’ve learned to strive to understand people and their context, what drives them and how best to engage with them.”
“A key lesson from this approach,” Janelle adds, “is that although I may prepare well, I must be mindful to be flexible, too. I may need to adapt and improvise in the situation while still trying to achieve the desired outcome.”
During her time at SACAP Janelle got involved with Waves for Change. It’s a surf therapy centred project based in Muizenberg that provides child-friendly mental health services for under-resourced communities.
“I co-developed an emotion regulation workshop and toolkit,” she says. “The workshop successfully achieved its objective, which was to teach the organisation about cognitive reappraisal techniques and how to apply them in practice.”
Learning from leaders
Beyond nurturing childhood development, Janelle is particularly passionate about supporting the professional growth of women in the workplace, she says. “As women we tend to put the needs of others ahead of our own. In doing so we sometimes give up the things that we love and silence them. I say to all women… believe you can do it and make it happen!”
Judging by her own career success, it’s a mantra Janelle appears to live by. She also credits personal experience, academically and vocationally, for shaping her leadership perspective. “I have been fortunate to have some of the most amazing mentors,” she says.
“They have taught me to be unafraid of being uncomfortable when others challenge my point of view,” she continues. “They have inspired me to know when to lead from the front, when to stand back and listen and when to stand beside and allow my team to lead with me.”
Janelle embarked on her master’s journey with the intent of developing herself as a leader. Happily, her SACAP experience has inspired more than just personal growth. “I hope to have the opportunity to be more involved in the management of wellness programmes,” she says.
We asked Janelle what her future looks like five years from now. “I’d like to progress into a role with a focus on organizational development and effectiveness, and culture change,” she concludes.
How about you? What’s your five-year plan? If, like Janelle, you want to develop your leadership skills, then SACAP’s master’s programme is an opportunity not to be missed.
The Master of Social Science Community Mental Health Promotion Degree is a two-year part-time degree. It cultivates leaders who can strategically and innovatively address community mental health challenges and enhance community wellbeing.
What’s more, the course helps foster an entrepreneurial mind-set that will help you identify opportunities, overcome and learn from setbacks, and succeed in a variety of settings.