Coming from humble beginnings with a mother who made endless sacrifices, Janelle Brewster can fully appreciate the contribution of women to the development of Barbadian society.
Brewster, 33, is the revenue assurance manager at telecommunications company LIME. She has held that position since 2011, after previously working in revenue assurance from 2000 until 2008 when she left the department to further advance her skills.
With a passion for what she does, this female manager, like many others, has been giving her all to help protect, promote and grow the company for which she works.
Brewster said her role models are her mother and grandmother, given their persistence and sacrifices over the years. She also admires Maya Angelou, the late African-American literary icon.
“Coming from a humble part of society, I can appreciate the struggles and the sacrifices that my mother and grandmother made for me and my sister. I can really appreciate what she did and the things she gave up, and I can also compare our situation to the situation of young people now where you hardly have mothers like that anymore,” said Brewster.
Pointing out that she is not sexist in any way, Brewster says in any situation leaders in organisations should always remember “the struggles of women whether it is in the workplace or personal”, especially those with children.
“I think that International Women’s Day is a good time to reflect and think about the struggles that women have been through, where they are, as well as how far there is left to actually go,” she said.
“Everything is essentially a moving target. So there is still some way to go as it relates to women and the contribution that women make to the development of young minds and the working environment and anything else,” she added.
She continued: “I am not saying that women without children do not have responsibilities. I don’t have children, but I can’t imagine coming into a work environment where you as a mother say you have to leave and do something for your child that you feel ostracized or you can’t do it, because at the end of the day, the most important thing for me is family.
“As much as the work pays the bills, family comes before everything else. So I still think that managers and supervisors need to be cognisant of mothers, especially single mothers. My mother was a single mother and I know the struggles she had, and if something was wrong with me, I can’t imagine her being in a position where she has to choose or be forced to think that ‘I can’t go because of a repercussion’.”
Growing up, the Christ Church resident wanted to become a doctor. However, given the financial circumstances of her mother, she knew that was unlikely.
“Then I had to come to the realization that unless my mother won the Lotto, that was not going to happen. As a woman as well, she gave us the opportunity to learn and grow and for her it was about giving us the opportunity she didn’t have. So you somewhat made the most of what you were given as a child,” Brewster reminisced.
After graduating from the then Louis Lynch Secondary School, Brewster went on to the Barbados Community College where she studied computer science. Subsequently entering the world of work, she spent her first year in the IT department at LIME in 2000. In 2009, she graduated from the University of Surrey with a MBA, all the time while working.
If anyone asks her what she does, Brewster would simply say, “I work in finance”. But her job is much more than just looking at figures. Her focus on a day-to-day basis is on risk controls and processes. She examines various areas across the business, mitigating against risks and putting controls and supporting processes in place in order to minimize revenue loss.
The most fun part of her job is that she has “the possibility of looking at something new”. “It keeps your mind turning over. Sometimes looking at the same thing over and over can become monotonous. So the possibility of looking at something new is always exciting and I think that might be the best part of the job when you get an opportunity to look at something you haven’t looked at before,” said Brewster.
As she sees it, some aspects of communication represent the most challenging part of her job. She explained: “Because we are a large organisation, although not as large as we were before, and we are heavily reliant on the businesses we have across the region for assistance, especially in my role. That sometimes can be a challenge, because you are smaller and I am essentially dependent on another person and that comes down to the relationship you have with an individual and communication as well.”
Brewster describes herself as a fun-loving, down-to-earth individual who can be serious. She says she sets goals and goes after them.
“I am also a family person. I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I can appreciate a good laugh and, in some instances, I have a tendency of being difficult but it is all in good humour, I guess,” she said with a chuckle.
She goes to work every day “just as an employee”, never thinking of her sexuality. She insists there is a good mix of male and female within the company, and within top management positions.
“My past two managers were females. I have also been exposed to male managers and what I can say is that being a part of LIME, I have always had good managers. So they have always been people that you could learn from. They would encourage you, they would always let you reach for your full potential and give you the opportunities to do so.
“That has been pretty much my working experience at LIME. I spent about 15 years here so that is pretty much all of my working life. It’s been a good start,” she said.
Brewster says it is important that females understand where they want to be, set goals and work towards them.
“The working world is your playground and you have to prepare yourself in order to be able to achieve what you want. It is very competitive and you can’t lose sight of what you want . . . If you don’t set goals for yourself, then you have nothing to aspire to essentially,” she said.
Like any other role in the organisation, Brewster says hers is just as important. She says what is equally important is that all workers, whether male or female, are equipped with the tools they need to adequately carry out their duties.
Saying he is comfortable where she is, Brewster says life for her “is a moving target”.
Outside of the work environment, the NXT Generation Toastmasters Club excites her interest. She says it has helped her to develop her public speaking skills. Brewster was introduced to the club by another female manager at LIME.
“I have been a part of the club since 2011 and it has improved my communication skills threefold. I still need a little encouragement so, even to do this interview, I still needed a little encouragement but to speak to you, I am not afraid, which is something that I would have shied away from before,” she said with a smile.