It seems only fitting that Carlo Beckman ’05 MA ’10 works at Linden Lab, the creator of Second Life, a popular online site that allows users to bring their dreams to life by creating alternate worlds in virtual reality. Beckman has reinvented himself many times in his quest to follow his dreams, and Saint Mary’s has been a key player in several of those transformations. At Linden Lab, where he took over as director of customer support last May, his team of 75 employees is responsible for making the Second Life experience as seamless as possible for the nearly 1 million visitors, or “residents,” who live out their fantasies in the online game every month.
His new position at Linden Lab is the culmination of a circuitous route to success. Growing up in the Central Valley, his family was very poor, he said, and “sometimes lived on food stamps.” So after graduating from Madera High School in 1995, he went into a field where money is never in short supply — banking. Rising fast, he became a bank officer by the age of 20. But because of his age and lack of higher education, he noted, he “got no respect.”
“There was a lot of ‘Hey, kid,’ ” he remembers. So he set his sights on getting a degree. His goal was a career in medicine, which he pursued through science courses at the College of San Mateo and San Francisco State University. After his first attempt at dissecting a cadaver, however, he realized that medicine wasn’t for him.
Around that time, he took a risk on the booming technology sector and found his new calling. He left banking, dropped out of college and went to work for VeriSign, an early player in the field of online payments.
Though he loved the work, it was a struggle to get ahead. A mentor at the company offered some sage advice: “If you want to go further, you should get a degree.” So in 2003, encouraged by his wife, Angelica (Garcia) Beckman, a 1997 Saint Mary’s accounting graduate, he enrolled in SMC’s School of Extended Education (SEED) program, a former degree completion program for working adults, and earned a B.A. in management in 2005. Over the next five years, he climbed the career ladder in a succession of management positions at Quicken Health, BOKU and Cryptic Studios. He also enrolled in the M.A. in Leadership program at Saint Mary’s, earning his second SMC degree in 2010 while continuing to work full-time.
Recently, Beckman returned to Saint Mary’s once again — this time to deliver the keynote address at Dine With Alums, an annual event at which alumni share their hard-earned wisdom about the world of work with SMC students preparing to launch their careers. His top career tips for the students were: Find a mentor and decide what you value most. His own values have changed over time, he said. “Five years ago, my goal was to be a C-level executive rolling around in a Mercedes-Benz,” he said. Now, with two young sons and more experience in the world of management, he said he values “work/life balance, a chance to be challenged and to make change.”
The most crucial thing he has learned in his career, he said, is the importance of feedback — both positive and negative — although accepting negative feedback didn’t come easy. “At first, it was difficult for me to hear criticism,” he admitted. “I had never failed at anything. But over time, I learned to embrace constructive criticism. Now I seek it out.” When it comes to positive feedback, he practices what he preaches. At an earlier job, he adopted a regular discipline to make sure he remembered to hand out large helpings of praise: As he left for work each morning, he’d put four small stones in his left pocket. Every time he gave someone positive feedback, he’d transfer one of the stones to his right pocket. And he wouldn’t go home until all four stones were in his right pocket.
The discipline Beckman brings to his management duties may be rooted in two practices he follows outside of work: martial arts and meditation. Beckman has studied martial arts, including karate, kung fu and tae kwon do, throughout his life and is now an avid practitioner of Samurai sword fighting. Meditation is a skill he learned at the feet of Brother Camillus Chavez, Saint Mary’s meditation master. His new goal is to become proficient enough in meditation to “teach other people the skill so they can improve their lives.”
Beckman already helps improve the lives of others through his volunteer work and service to the College. He’s a mentor in Year Up, an intensive training program for young urban adults, and a member of the SMC Latino Alumni Chapter. In May, he became a member of Saint Mary’s Alumni Board of Directors. He looks forward to giving back to the College because, “I loved my courses and I loved my teachers. And it was at Saint Mary’s that I learned to inspire people to achieve a greater good.”