After spending years in an architecture firm, Beckham took her design skills to the owner side where she was ready to settle into a career at Mercy. But she found herself called back to the firm life two years ago, when she joined SmithGroup (Washington, D.C.), and today is spending her days focused on facility planning and operational design while balancing changes driven by the COVID-19 pandemic (and keeping her cat off work-from-home video calls).

When did you know architecture was the career for you?

The first day of sixth grade, my parent’s house was destroyed by a tornado. Our family rebuilt the house, and I got to help design parts of it. This got me interested in drawing ideas I had in my head and seeing them built.

You were the executive director of facility design for Mercy. What did you enjoy most about that experience?

Engaging the patients and staff in advisory groups, creating operational designs with them, and then following up to measure the improvements. I also loved working with the Sisters of Mercy personally, learning about the organization and designing templates that reflected their history and passion.

Why did you return to the firm environment?

I had worked on the firm side for 15 years prior to going to the client side. Frankly, I didn’t intend to go back to the firm side of the business until I met the people at SmithGroup. It felt like a family and their passion for design was infectious.

Three unexpected items on your desk:
1. a cribbage board
2. at least three rolls of trace. I love to think through my ideas by hand.
3. my cat on my home desk. She likes to make cameo appearances on conference calls.

Outside the office, we’d likely find you …

At the dog park, doing home projects, or at the hardware store to prepare for the home project.

What’s a new habit or hobby you’ve picked up since the coronavirus pandemic?

Eating breakfast. Without the commute, I’m able to actually sit down and have breakfast every morning.

Three healthcare projects you’ve worked on in the last year and your role

1 MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital, in Washington, D.C., facility planning

2 Veterans Administration Mental Health Design Guide update, creating design template and design narratives

3 Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center, Athens, Ga., principal in charge and transitional planning


Morning person or night owl?

Not mornings!

Coffee or tea?

Hot coffee and iced tea

How did you make your first dollar?

Pulling weeds from the bean field on my parent’s farm

Your hidden talents?

Volleyball and math

Your go-to karaoke song?

“Grapefruit Moon” by Tom Waits

If you weren’t an architect you would be…

A psychologist. I enjoy hearing people’s stories and think a career focused on active listening would be intriguing.

Fiction or nonfiction?

Nonfiction for sure. Anything history.

Last time you danced?

Last week, with my dog