November 04, 2020
Alum Helps Organizations Construct the Workplace of Tomorrow
As Carnegie Mellon alum Harvey Beckham, P.E. (CE and EPP ’90), left his office in March of 2020, everyone around him was also departing. His colleagues were preparing to work from home in response to COVID-19, but Beckham was preparing for something more. Before the pandemic began, he had decided to launch his own business, GPS Partners, offering conception-to-completion project advising services in commercial real estate construction and design. “I was going home like everybody else, but I was going out to a new job, a new adventure, a new everything,” he says.
After 30 years in the field, Beckham was ready to strike out on his own.
He started his engineering career in 1990 in building repair and restoration, lacing up his boots every day to work at job sites across Washington, DC. Within a mere six months, however, Beckham replaced his boots with loafers as he transitioned into project management. It was an area he’d first found a passion for at CMU, fondly recalling time spent working closely with CEE professors like Tung Au and Dave Dzombak. “Starting civil engineering and finding project management and really getting into engineering economics, I loved it,” he says. “It felt like home.”
As Beckham progressed in his career, he went on to earn an MBA and excel across various companies, focusing on interior and workspace construction. By 2001, he had managed projects that included developing a 200-acre corporate campus for MCI WorldCom, converting a historic row home into an office for the Embassy of the Republic of Botswana, and developing cutting-edge medical research laboratories for the National Institute of Health. Before starting GPS Partners, he served as Senior Vice President for a prominent real estate services firm.
In every role, Beckham has had a front-row seat to changes in the workplace. “Planning a workspace went from paint and carpet to something that’s much more technical to put together,” says Beckham.
Yet, he had seen a growing gap between the expertise needed for modern interior projects and the way most interior workspace construction was designed and managed. Professional engineers were rarely involved outside MEP design, and, too often, the crucial early planning needed for success was neglected.
“Since I have started my business, I have absolutely seen the power of the CMU network and my incredible CMU friendships, and I am proud to be a Carnegie Mellon graduate.”
Here, Beckham found an excellent opportunity that perfectly aligned with his experience and passion, and soon GPS Partners (short for Great Project Solutions) was born. GPS began as a professionally based workspace planning firm, offering PE expertise to start and with future growth plans to include design professionals.
Even as the start of his business aligned with the start of a pandemic, Beckham has found that the skills he developed at CMU and honed over his career have positioned him well to meet his clients’ needs. In particular, organizations have a renewed focus on indoor air quality (IAQ) and fluid mechanics (air flow)—topics that were at the heart of Beckham’s civil and environmental engineering classes.
“I lean on that knowledge heavily when talking with clients. I’m not a pandemic specialist, but because I understand airflow and concentrations of pollutants and microns, I can read the CDC reports and synthesize the takeaways,” he says.
Looking to the future, Beckham sees workplaces evolving in other substantial ways using lessons learned from recent months. “Any company designing or redeveloping a space will not only keep COVID and IAQ in mind but also be asking what has been beneficial and what has been detrimental in how employees have been working,” he says. “The result is not going to be the same workplace.”
As Beckham continues to grow GPS Partners to help clients adapt their workspace to meet these changing needs, he has found support and camaraderie from fellow alumni who have offered invaluable insights and shared their experiences running a business. “I have a strong personal network of friends from school who are very accomplished in their careers and have so much to offer,” he says. “Since I have started my business, I have absolutely seen the power of the CMU network and my incredible CMU friendships, and I am proud to be a Carnegie Mellon graduate.”