Alumni Profile: Tiziana Smith

Infinite Careers is a new collaboration between Career Services (CAPD) and the MIT Alumni Association to explore career paths and the non-linearity of career decision making. Read profiles of alumni with unique career paths, hear their stories and network at a series of talks.

Tiziana Smith

Education

  • Harvard, AB in Environmental Science & Public Policy, 2011
  • MIT, Dual SM in Technology and Policy & Civil/Environmental Engineering, 2016
  • MIT, PhD in Hydrology, 2018

Biography

Tiziana Smith

Tiziana is passionate about using science and engineering to help people manage, share, and care for their water resources. She currently works at the International Finance Corporation as a water specialist in water supply and sanitation. Previously, she worked at the World Bank on dam rehabilitation and flood management in India and on water quality, irrigation and climate projects in Vietnam. She holds a PhD in Hydrology and a master's degree in Technology and Policy from MIT, and a bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard. Her doctoral research focused on understanding the tradeoffs between food security and water and land conservation in China.
Tiziana is Mexican American and originally from San Antonio, Texas, where she was first exposed to water conservation and water quality protection as critical environmental and economic sustainability issues. Outside of water and the environment, she is passionate about yoga, meditation, and diversity and inclusion in science education. She is always grateful for the opportunity to support the next generation

Tiziana's Story

What influenced your choice of undergraduate major? How has it shaped your career choices and professional ability?

I actually initially declared a history major, but a few months later switched to Environmental Science and Public Policy. The main drivers behind my choice was that this interdisciplinary major allowed me to explore both science and social science disciplines and dive deeper into environmental issues, which were (and still are!) very important to me.

What influenced your choice of graduate programs? How have they shaped your career choices and professional ability?

I chose the Technology and Policy Program at MIT for similar reasons as my undergraduate major. I was looking for an interdisciplinary program with a strong technical foundation that would give me the flexibility to explore the issues that I care deeply about (environment and water management). TPP challenged me to deepen my environmental science and engineering knowledge, and it also introduced me to a group of amazing peers tackling similar issues in completely different fields. It really taught me the importance of looking at the bigger picture and seeking out solutions in unexpected places. My PhD followed on from my TPP research and has equipped me with the right tools to evaluate technical studies and to communicate their results to non-technical audiences.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently or more of while you were at MIT?

I always took advantage of as many professional development opportunities as possible (e.g. communication, leadership) and wish that I could have done even more!

What professional development experiences or opportunities shaped your early career?

I take communications courses whenever I can. In the fields of environment and water, it is important to be able to communicate the urgency of the problems and challenges without overwhelming or numbing out the audience.

What career advice to you have for current MIT students, or those interested in entering your industry?

If you are interested in international development, my advice is to get practical experience in the field however you can. I did this through various summer internships. I also encourage you to think beyond large multilateral organizations or NGOs and consider working for government or industry in your technical area of expertise.

Do you have any tips for networking or job searching for current students and recent graduates?

At the end of an informational interview, always ask if the person you're interviewing can think of any additional people to put you in touch with.

Do you participate in any volunteer/community service activities? If so, how do you balance your professional and personal responsibilities?

There are a couple of organizations and causes that I am really committed to, but right now I don't have the time to volunteer regularly. Instead, I make sure to maintain a good relationship with them so that they let me know whenever they have short one-off opportunities that work with my schedule.