As an engineering doctoral student at the University of Warwick, Mario Carandente, SFMBA '22. helped develop a new methodology for the design and assembly of lightweight vehicles. He has since built a stand-out career in the automotive industry. Before entering the MIT Sloan Fellows MBA with a Fulbright scholarship and Royal Academy of Engineering fellowship, Mario led design and engineering functions for high-performance automaker McLaren. His post-Sloan goal is to drive sustainable transformations in urban transportation while working with a wide range of organizations.
You’ve been working on the very edge of the automotive frontier—what do you see out there?
It’s a fascinating landscape. The reality of the automobile is changing. An automotive company is now a technology company more than a manufacturing company. It’s all about the level of tech they can deploy, whether it’s advanced connectivity, pioneering amenities, or autonomous mobility. Expectations are continually changing, too. Extras that were considered luxuries even 10 years ago are now standard. At the same time, we’re finding that millennials, for example, aren’t excited about buying a car at all. Driving experience doesn’t matter to them. They see an automobile as a tool to help them live their lives. They may find mobility innovations like ride sharing, car sharing, e-scooters, and e-bicycles more convenient—especially if they live in urban areas.
As an automotive innovator, what is your idea of a dream car?
It will be green—very green. The dream car of the future will create zero emissions, and if it’s electric, it must be sourced by green energy. We also have to look at the CO2 produced during manufacturing and all along the supply chain. It must have a carbon-free footprint to really be a dream car, given the ravages of climate change. General Motors has a good credo: to deliver on a vision that creates a world with zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion. That’s a tall order, admittedly, but it must be the goal.
So, social responsibility should be a core mission for carmakers?
Today, the responsible automotive leader is looking at the entire mobility system in terms of equity, accessibility, and sustainability. How do we reduce congestion on our roads, which is bad for the environment and our well-being? How do we responsibly integrate charging stations into the infrastructure? How do we increase accessibility so that all people can get to and from their jobs? How can we make automobiles more affordable? Owning a car can cost 30 percent of a person’s monthly earnings. Getting to work, getting the kids to school, getting to social events, all these things are essential journeys during daily life.
Of course, car sharing is not always the answer. Uber and Lyft might be not practical for many people. So yes, those of us in the mobility business must think about the big picture of how all modes of transportation—public and private—can work in concert to serve humanity. It’s not about increasing the number of cars on the road but finding multiple solutions that work in concert, and no car company can develop those multipronged solutions without dedicated efforts from governments.
With the support of a Fulbright scholarship, you decided to take time out midway through a distinguished career in the automotive industry to join the MIT Sloan Fellows MBA. What was the value of taking that gap year?
I came here to increase my knowledge and expertise in two areas—mobility and management. Both are essential for succeeding in the next half of my career. I also wanted to build ethical and motivational perspectives, to think deeply about my personal mission, my role in this world. I could not have known just how much and how deeply I would learn—about the transportation ecosystem, about finance, about climate change. At the same time, the year really helped me to think about my leadership style—and more than that, the person I want to be. The MIT Sloan Fellows MBA learning experience is so powerful because it is shaped by people from different backgrounds, geographies, experiences; by entrepreneurs, creatives, founders, business and military leaders; by experts in healthcare, real estate, finance. I was used to working with engineers, but suddenly I was getting all these other perspectives.
Sounds like you found plenty of chances for collaboration and networking?
The MIT Sloan Fellows MBA gives you so many opportunities to build relationships. I have been able to connect with the most prominent experts in my field. I had the opportunity to collaborate as a teaching assistant with professors Jinhua Zhao, John Moavenzadeh, and Bill Aulet in their Mobility Ventures course, which put me at the nerve center of mobility at MIT. I invited executives from McLaren, the company I was working with before coming to MIT, to give a talk about the future of supercars in the era of electrification and web 3.0. More than 100 people subscribed to meet and talk with them. Just during that short visit, they made strong connections across MIT. My wife also has built important relationships at MIT in her field–sustainable fashion. So many doors are wide open. You have the chance to talk to people who energize you, like Dava Newman, director of the Media Lab, who blew me away with her vision. This network has given me so much new information but also a new confidence in my own knowledge and abilities.
I was able to breathe in knowledge from so many corners of MIT, which I will bring to my new role as a consultant. I built strong connections with other fellows and several members of the faculty that I can rely on going forward. My wife and I have decided to stay in Boston. There’s a European sensibility here. We feel at home—it’s such a multicultural place. And I will probably continue to participate in activities with the MIT Mobility Initiative, the MIT Sandbox incubator, and the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship. The MIT relationship doesn’t last for just that one year as a Sloan Fellow…it is lifelong.