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Cristian Mercado

Cristian MercadoCristian Mercado, a December 2021 graduate of Purdue's master's in Human Resources Management (MSHRM) degree program, is proof that moms know best.  As a lifelong HR professional, his mother often talked to him about the field and inspired him to pursue a career in it.

“I realized that my perception of corporate America was based in HR theory, as these were normal conversations with my mom,” he says. “We interact with people and see the world in very similar ways.”

His route to the Daniels School of Business was atypical. After earning his undergraduate degree in religious studies and theater from Florida State University, Mercado taught English in Taiwan through the Fulbright Foundation for Scholarly Exchange. He then worked at the PACE Center for Girls as a contracts risk specialist. “I got along well with the HR department and also trained a number of employees,” he says. “It was my introduction to HR practice.”

When he began looking at programs where he could further his career interests in HR, Purdue's business school quickly stood out because of its academic and professional reputation. “One of the things I told my mom when I first arrived on campus was that I knew Purdue was going to take me where I wanted to go if I just put in the work,” Mercado says. “I knew I could trust Purdue and the business school to do their part. I just had to do mine.”

During his time as a master's student, Mercado served as president of the Society for Human Resource Management as well as the lead committee member for the Purdue HR Case Competition and Conference. “Through these two positions, I really got the chance to work on my leadership and management skills,” he says.

Case competitions were another source for skill development. “Case competitions are very unique experiences,” Mercado says. “Any incoming student should take part in them. You get to speak to actual HR problems. You get real-life experience. You learn about consulting, presentation skills, networking, etc. You also meet other future HR professionals.”

Mercado describes his curriculum as robust. “We took specialized classes on staffing, compensation, HR analytics, industrial relations, and many more,” he says. “Gaining knowledge in each of these areas has helped me to narrow down what aspects of HR I am truly interested in.”

Among the faculty, he gives particular credit to Professor Brian Chupp, who teaches the foundational HR course. “He excellently teaches in a way that shows the importance of HR while helping us understand the many hats that an HR professional wears,” Mercado says. “I wouldn't be where I am without his guidance.”

Mercado’s experience with the school's career services office was also key to his success. His career coach reached out to him in the summer before he even started the program, helping him improve his resume for the immediate job search. That experience also helped him adjust his mindset to the job pursuit. By the second week, he and his classmates were already having coffee chats with potential employers, meet and greets, and one-on-one meetings.

Faculty made the job search a priority, relating multiple times that “you’re here to get a job,” he says. Before the first module had concluded, Mercado already had an internship and job offer with IBM to begin in its Human Resource Leadership Development Program upon graduation. “That relieved a lot of stress so that I could focus on academics.”

Beyond an early job offer, Mercado says his biggest takeaway has been the network of friends and fellow HR professionals he made in the program. “I know that no matter where I am in my career, I have people I can reach out to for help and guidance,” he says.

Today, Mercado looks forward to continued learning and development in his new career. “Purdue has molded me into a HR professional who not only focuses on the people, but also the business as a whole,” he says. “That business acumen defines me as a professional and will set me up for success.”