By Anindita Saraswati Dwiwinata (’22SPS, Strategic Communication)
Current Position: Staff Executive Recruiter, Tesla
SPS Program: ’22SPS, M.S. in Human Capital Management (HCM)—Online, Part-Time
TJ Bonner, a staff executive recruiter for the electric carmaker Tesla, has also worked for Facebook, Uber, and GE during his seven-year career. Committed to lifelong learning but unable to interrupt his full-time work, Bonner enrolled in Columbia’s HCM program for its rigor, flexibility, and network of fellow student-professionals. He spoke about his career path and the powerful lessons he learned in the program, from which he graduated last year.
Why did you choose Columbia’s M.S. in Human Capital Management program?
If I were going to dedicate the amount of time needed to complete a master’s degree, I wanted it to be at the best school possible. Columbia University is obviously a very prestigious school, and I knew the program was going to attract top-caliber students to my cohort and top-caliber professors.
Why did you select the part-time online program option?
I live in Northern California and work full-time, so I chose to enroll in the online program. I was really impressed with the educational technology platform. The coursework is rigorous, but the technology is easy to use.
I was also very pleased and impressed with the caliber of my cohort; I learned not only from my professors but also from my classmates. Everyone in the program comes from a wide range of professional backgrounds, both in and outside of HR, so each person has a different but valuable perspective and advice. The bonds we created weren’t just because we happened to be in the same program; they were created because we could see the quality of each other’s work firsthand. I would be happy to work with every single one of them again and refer them to opportunities in my network.
How did the HCM program impact your career progression?
My understanding of leadership is much stronger than before. Columbia strengthened my understanding of organizations and how they are structured. I now have a holistic perspective of businesses—not just my specific piece of the organization— which, in turn, has elevated my approach to almost everything I do at work. For example, I better assess and match leaders with specific roles. I believe the perspective and the skills gained through my Columbia education will help me throughout the rest of my career.
What does an executive recruiter do?
I work to recruit senior executives into leadership roles across all parts of Tesla, including finance, HR, engineering, sales, operations, and manufacturing. Among others, my clients are the CEO, the chief financial officer, the head of people, and the head of vehicle engineering.
What have you learned from being an HR specialist for big companies?
I’ve learned something new at every company. Different companies have different products and customers, which requires the organization to take on a different culture or talent pool than others. However, there are many HR fundamentals that can be applied to any company, regardless of industry. For instance, a company with many workers in a factory environment, like GE, will have different HR needs than a company like Facebook, where most employees can do their jobs virtually.
What are the most important qualities for succeeding as an HR specialist?
I think there is a baseline of empathy every HR professional needs for success. We are the people tasked with understanding the “human component” of the business. An HR professional can’t be afraid to advocate for the “human component.” They should be willing to challenge their colleagues to always take that into consideration.
Columbia University’s M.S. in Human Capital Management program prepares graduates to be world-class HCM strategists able to address changing needs in building and motivating talented, engaged workforces in the private, public, academic, and not-for-profit sectors. The 36-credit program is available in part-time, full-time, on-campus, and online formats. The part-time degree can up to six terms to complete and full-time degree can take up to three terms to complete.
Fall 2023 application deadlines for the M.S. in Human Capital Management program are February 15, 2023, for the priority deadline; March 15 for applicants with international documents; and June 15 for the final deadline. Learn more here.