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Adding management skills to her engineering background, MIT alumna aims for social impact 

Lisa Tacoronte, SB ’10, MBA ’17, was an eyewitness to water shortages and power scarcity in the developing world when she attended MIT as an undergraduate.

The mechanical engineering major visited Peru where she helped design an MIT D-Lab project—a pedal-powered washing machine built from bicycle parts. The project exemplified the goals of D-Lab, which offers courses that attack global poverty using math, science, engineering, social science, and management skills. The washing machine, which required no electricity, was simple to build. The D-Lab team members wrote a manual for the local residents to build more machines once they left.

Tacoronte was discouraged after she returned to the country a year later and found that no one had built another machine. She said it seemed as though the local community thought she and her team would build more for them.

“To me, that’s a big problem,” Tacoronte said. “How do you enable people to take ownership … and realize they can do a lot? I believe in empowering individuals to help themselves out of poverty by giving them income-generation opportunities.”

Tacoronte is now pursuing her MBA at MIT Sloan and hopes to eventually create a mission-driven startup. Tacoronte already co-founded one business, Global Cycle Solutions, with former D-Lab classmate Jodie Wu, SB ’09. The company, which Wu runs today, distributes low-cost technology, such as solar lanterns, to farmers in Africa.

Tacoronte and Wu both took the Development Ventures class, taught by Joost Bonsen and Professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland. Tacoronte said it was the first class where she met MIT Sloan students, and they inspired her ambitions.

“They were inquisitive and entrepreneurial. I was analytical and detailed, and they brought a lot of value to our team,” she said.

After graduating, Tacoronte worked in research and development for a medical robotics company. Later, she joined Bain & Company as a management consultant, but realized she needed an MBA to potentially create a business with social impact.

Today, Tacoronte participates in the Design Club at MIT Sloan and is co-president of Sloan Entrepreneurs for International Development, where she helps to connect MIT Sloan students to social impact-based entrepreneurial opportunities in the developing world, as well as to the broader MIT community. She is also a co-director in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club. Although Tacoronte called her path to MIT Sloan “zigzagged,” she said she’s in the right place. She uses both her engineering and consulting skills daily.

“MIT really taught me how to think and how to work under pressure. MIT taught me there are no limits. You can do whatever you want to do … you just have to have the right passion, and seek the right skillset and network,” she said.

For more info Zach Church Editorial Director (617) 324-0804

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