By now, we’re all tired of hearing about how Covid-19 has shaken up the economy and workforce, sending many traditional nine-to-fivers to work remotely from home. Now, though, it’s time to start looking at how the work environment will function as the pandemic fades (fingers crossed). Remember the office building? Conversations around the water cooler? In-person meetings in conference rooms? While it is unlikely things will ever return to exactly how they were before, there will be rafts of workers returning to those buildings that have sat empty for the past 12 months. Though many never think about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into keeping buildings functioning and safe, the return to the workplace puts one particular role in the hot seat—the facility manager. While before the pandemic, many buildings were dipping their toes into a more connected building model—wherein the tasks required for building upkeep and maintenance are automated for efficiency and savings—this digital transformation is more crucial now than ever.
One of the connected building space leaders is Honeywell, whose name you may recognize for its controls and hardware expertise. However, that barely scratches the surface of Honeywell’s purview today. Not too long ago, I interviewed David Trice, Honeywell’s Chief Product Officer, who previously led Honeywell’s Connected Building business, on Honeywell’s strategy and outlook in the connected building space. This week, I had the opportunity to interview Honeywell’s new GM of Connected Buildings, Usman K. Shuja, who is in the process of taking over for David Trice. Today, I’d like to profile Shuja and share some of my gatherings from our conversation.
An experienced hand
Shuja is not new to Honeywell—he’s currently transitioning from his role as Chief Commercial Officer for Honeywell’s Connected Enterprise (the company’s software business) into Connected Buildings’ GM role. Shuja brings valuable experience as the GM of an AI startup he helped launch in 2013, called SparkCognition, based out of Austin, TX. While Honeywell presents a more extensive charge than SparkCognition’s 300 employees, Shuja says he is looking forward to the challenge. I will say that Shuja’s entrepreneurial experience automatically gains my respect. I was employee number 154 at Alta Vista in the late nineties, which lost out to Google after burning through $2M in cash. It was a disheartening, albeit highly educational, experience, and I admire any entrepreneur who could weather the storm.
One of Shuja’s first investors at SparkCognition was none other than Michael Dell of Dell Technologies, where Shuja also spent time before coming to Honeywell. Between attending the University of Texas, founding SparkCognition and working for Dell, Shuja spent about 20 years in the tech hub of Austin, TX, only recently relocating.
Where does the Connected Building go from…