In September 2023, Bluebeam introduced Usman Shuja as its new CEO, only the third person to hold the title in the company’s more than 20-year history.
Shuja comes to Bluebeam by way of executive roles with Honeywell and SparkCognition, where he was a founding member of a three-person team that built the technology company into a leader in artificial intelligence.
Along the way, Shuja has also served on corporate boards and acted as an advisor to various technology endeavours. In addition, he has taught courses on innovation and entrepreneurship at university level.
Built spoke to Shuja about his insights on how technology can continue to push the construction industry forward, as well as his vision for Bluebeam.
Built: You’ve held several leadership roles in technology throughout your career. What inspires you about working in technology?
Shuja: As a child growing up, I was conditioned to believe that technology and sports were the only two ways to contribute to society. I got plugged into technology and R&D and innovation quite early and had this fascination with how we can use science to advance society. A pivotal moment in my life was when I saw IBM Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in a game of chess; that was a moment that I remember very vividly having an impact on me.
Built: Who is someone you’ve modelled your professional life after, and why?
Shuja:There’s no one person that I have modelled. I’ve always admired the pieces and capabilities of different kinds of leaders. In the early part of my career, I was more fascinated with and inclined to follow technologists and innovators – then I moved more into following entrepreneurs.
As I got into executive positions, there were some leaders I looked up to as well. The founder of SparkCognition, Amir Husain, is an entrepreneur I find inspirational. I learned a lot from Honeywell CEOs Vimal Kapur and Darius Adamczyk on how to run large, complex businesses. In this stage of my career, I am particularly inspired by Ajay Banga, former CEO of Mastercard and now president of World Bank, on how he elevated the vision of and led Mastercard.
Then when I look at it from a technology and innovation in public policy perspective, the late Secretary Ash Carter, John Holdren and Larry Summers are people who have driven economic development and sustained American dominance in technology.
Built: When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?
Shuja: I like to stay active outdoors and spend time with family. I have two young kids, and I like to spend time with them playing sports and doing other activities. I don’t play a lot of sports myself anymore, but I do try to work out or sign up for a triathlon here and there.
Built: What are your first impressions of the construction industry and how technology can make a difference?
Shuja: One of the reasons I wanted to be in the construction industry is because it’s so ripe to evolve, and that’s one of the things that I was looking for – the right industry at the right time.
If you look at the AECO industry’s macro events and trends, things like inflation, high interest rates, lack of skilled labour and the pressures from investors to be more sustainable as well as profitable, it is clear the industry has to evolve. Because of that, now is the right time to digitise it, to be more efficient and more sustainable. I was quite excited about this from the outside looking in, and now that I’ve been immersing myself in the industry in my new role, I am even more excited about the opportunities.
Built: What message do you have for Bluebeam customers who are just learning about you for the first time, about your vision for the company moving forward?
Shuja: First of all, I want to personally thank our Bluebeam customers. We can’t build a company without customers and partners. I want them to know two things.
One, I’m going to focus a lot on innovation and, more specifically, customer-centric innovation. That means we’re going to be collaborating with our channel partners, customers, experts and industry organisations to create solutions to move the industry forward. I would like customers to reach out to me and to Bluebeam to co-innovate and to brainstorm ideas.
Two, we want to focus on serving our customers better. If there’s feedback in terms of solving problems for them, whether through innovation or in other ways, I want to hear it. If there are ideas and an openness to partnering with Bluebeam, we are open for business.