One of the greatest benefits of being a Kenan Scholar is having the opportunity to connect with the Kenan Scholars Board of Mentors, a group of successful professionals in the public and private sectors that are unique to each cohort. On Friday, Feb. 14, the sophomore scholars (Class of 2022) were joined by five mentors who discussed their career experiences and gave advice to these future professionals.
The conversation, facilitated by sophomore scholar Paige Murray, began with a discussion of what the mentors felt most contributed to their success. Keith Bowman, vice president of alliances, Accenture/Avanade, at Blue Prism Limited, stressed the importance of networking. He acknowledged how beneficial making connections has been throughout his career. Developing a positive reputation was also recognized as pivotal to being successful by the mentors. Fanny Laufters, senior field marketing manager at Pendo.io, encouraged students to begin “building your brand” in an effort to establish trust and recognition personally and professionally.
Mentors also described lessons they had learned throughout the years, which included the importance of effective communication and recognizing and addressing unsupportive work environments. Multiple mentors discussed the academic challenges they faced during their college careers and how they overcame them. Holland West, founder and principal of Topsail Insights, emphasized the importance of how professionals view success and failure, stating, “A failure is not a failure if you learn something from it…It’s a lesson.”
The discussion wrapped up with advice for the Kenan Scholars. “Be a life-long learner,” said Elizabeth Kelly, a principal with Holden Health Ventures. Kelly went on to explain there are always opportunities for growth and development and new professionals should seek out guidance from mentors with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. John Hardin, executive director of the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Office of Science, Technology and Innovation, added, “Your reputation matters. It follows you and precedes you.”
“Stay true to yourself,” “Never burn bridges,” “Balance is important,” and “Mentors are crucial” were just a few of the many takeaways from the discussion. The panel conversation was well received by the sophomore scholars as they continue developing as future professionals who leverage the private sector for the public good.