Finding a ‘thought partner’ through the Morehead-Cain Mentoring Program: Caroline Lowery ’16 and Naomi Burns ’23

News & Spotlights | March 27, 2023
Caroline Lowery ’16 and Naomi Burns ’23 (sitting on left and right of dog) on a hike in Seattle.

Written by Snehasri (Sri) Pothanker ’26 of the Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team

As a rising senior at UNC–Chapel Hill studying business and data science, Naomi Burns ’23 accepted an internship at Amazon. What started as a Professional Experience program through Morehead-Cain resulted in a full-time job offer. The scholar will join the company’s Seattle offices upon graduation as a program manager.

Naomi’s post-graduate plans began through a mentorship with Caroline Lowery ’16, a senior product manager at Amazon.

When the scholar applied for the Morehead-Cain Mentoring Program in the fall of her junior year, she expected a series of “formulaic, 30-minute chats,” she said.

“I thought I needed to come in with this structured approach of career-related questions and get something tangible out of it,” Naomi says. “Very early on, it became this more organic conversation that we’d jump on every other week and talk about our lives.”

While Morehead-Cain provides tools and resources for mentoring pairs, participants are invited to develop authentic relationships that best fit their needs and personalities.

In addition to sharing an interest in the world of finance, Caroline and Naomi were matched based on their personal interests, as well. They share a love for hiking and being outdoors, which they each attribute to their Outdoor Leadership summer through the Morehead-Cain.

One of their favorite memories together is from when Naomi was in Seattle for her internship. The pair went on a five-hour-long hike after work, involving eight people, four dogs, and a whole lot of physical vigor.

“It was the most authentic Seattle summer experience, and Naomi didn’t once hint at bailing,” says Caroline, who has lived in Seattle for five years. “That was when I knew Morehead-Cain made the right decision on matching us.”

For Naomi, the quality time helped her imagine what her “life could look like” after Carolina.

“I want to round out my life outside of my job to make myself happy,” Naomi says. The senior plans to move to the West Coast in September.

This spring marks the fourth year of pairing scholars with alumni based on shared values and interests through the Morehead-Cain Mentoring Program. Beginning April 20, all rising juniors and seniors will have the opportunity to join the one-year program.

‘Embracing professional movement and flexibility’

Caroline says being a mentor allows her to be the “thought partner” she wished she had as a scholar.

“It would’ve been nice to have someone who’d dealt with similar decisions as me or took a path they didn’t like and then backtracked on it, which I’ve done a thousand times since I graduated,” says the alumna, who earned a degree in economics with minors in business administration and entrepreneurship at Carolina.

Mentoring also allows scholars to see “the minutiae and the back story” for alumni at the presumed height of their careers.

“Alumni seem to have all their failures connected to their next success . . . but there are so many factors that play into a career decision,” Caroline says. As a recent graduate, she worked at the financial services companies Bird, Cascadia Capital, and the Motley Fool (co-founded by David Gardner ’88).

Rather than talking about what would be the “cooler title on LinkedIn,” Caroline and Naomi have expanded career conversations to discuss what it’s like to move cities, experience job disillusionment, and make mistakes.

Naomi says Caroline has encouraged her to “embrace professional movement and flexibility.”

“I think our mentorship has taught me that my career and life path in general doesn’t have to be linear, and I can remind myself that it’s OK to not have everything figured out,” the scholar says.

To be matched with a mentor for the 2023–2024 program, fill out the scholar survey form on the Morehead-Cain Network by June 1. To learn more about mentorship at Morehead-Cain, contact Emily Olson, assistant director of alumni engagement.

About the author

Snehasri Pothanker ’26 of Chicago, Illinois, covers the alumni beat for the Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team. Her stories focus on business, tech, and female and South Asian representation.

Outside the media team, Sri is a member of Build the Hill, a student-run organization that micro-finances interest-free loans to financially disenfranchised entrepreneurs in the Chapel Hill area. The first-year scholar is also a technical consultant for CS + Social Good at UNC–Chapel Hill, working to design a front-end interface for the Environmental Educators of North Carolina.

Notably, Sri’s passion for social justice and innovation has led her to develop a project at the MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute to detect COVID-19 using live cough audio. The technology seeks to make healthcare more accessible and efficient in areas below city poverty levels.

At Carolina, Snehasri is pursuing a double major in business administration and computer science.

“I think our mentorship has taught me that my career and life path in general doesn’t have to be linear, and I can remind myself that it’s OK to not have everything figured out.”
  • Naomi Burns
  • 2023