In his 2018 book “Everything You’ve Never Tried: Breaking the Rules to Compete and Succeed as a Sales Leader,” business alum Mike Carpenter ’97 recounts interviewing with several of the top accounting firms in Boston after graduating from UML. Asked by one of the firm’s partners where he saw himself when he was 40, the 20-year-old Carpenter, who had already started a web design business in college, confidently replied, “I want to be able to retire.”
He wasn’t far off: Carpenter recently retired at age 46 after a successful two-decade career as a network security sales executive, including 13 years at McAfee and five at CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity company that revealed Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computer server to meddle in the 2016 U.S. elections.
Carpenter isn’t the retiring type, however. The Peabody, Massachusetts, native has already founded a new company, XFactor.io, a platform that automates the go-to-market process for companies using real-time data. (The name comes from a strategy Carpenter developed during his career of identifying a new “X factor” every 90 days that would differentiate him from everyone else.) He’s also writing a second book and has started two real estate projects: an 87-home development in Eagle, Idaho, and several mixed-use buildings in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is raising his family.
“I thought retirement would be relaxed, but I think I'm working harder than I ever have,” he says.
A football player and wrestler at St. John’s Prep (and cornerback on the UML football team for one season), Carpenter found that his grades were always better when he was playing sports. He looks at retirement in a similar light.
“If I don’t stay busy, then all the structure in my life starts to fall apart,” he says.
Carpenter is getting back to work for another important reason: to fund a future charitable foundation.
“I’ve been super fortunate, and I never take it for granted,” he says. “I've been lucky with having incredible teams and people that were open to work with somebody that was different. They’ve allowed me to lead them all these years, and that's where the financial gains came from.”
Carpenter recently married longtime partner Hope Jones (Snoop Dogg performed at the reception). They are raising their 1-year-old and five kids from previous marriages in Alamo, California. (Carpenter has two kids with his first wife, nursing alum Kimberly Carpenter ’99, whom he met at UML).
Originally a psychology major at UMass Amherst, Carpenter transferred to UML his sophomore year to be closer to his parents, the late Gerald and Bette Jean, and switched majors to accounting. “My dad had a small accounting business, and I grew up helping him with taxes, so it kind of came easy to me,” he says.
After college, Carpenter moved to California and co-founded a company called Praetorian Group, a web portal that concentrated on safety services within the public sector. He enjoyed being an entrepreneur and his own boss, but realized he didn’t understand how to scale a business. So at age 25, he sold his stake in Praetorian and joined McAfee, where he climbed to president for the Americas in 2012.
Carpenter sees two common denominators in his success: the X factors and disciplined planning that he learned from his father and at UML.
“All the planning I did every single year throughout my career came from my strong accounting background,” he says.
To borrow an old job interview question, where does Carpenter see himself in another 20 years?
“I want to be doing a lot more foundation stuff, giving back,” he says. “The world needs a lot more of that right now.”