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Six Shining Lights: Sophia Hamblin Wang

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Canberra is a city brimming with high achievers—women who do incredible things on the local, national and international stage.

For our summer Magazine: Shine, we bring you stories of six local luminaries across a range of industries and find out what lights them up professionally and personally.

Sophia Hamblin Wang

Sophia Hamblin Wang recently represented Australia at the first-ever UN Youth Climate Summit in New York and will next year be one of 50 young people invited from around the world to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos.

An Australian National University graduate with a Bachelor of International Business (Honours), Sophia is the Chief Operations Officer of Mineral Carbonation International, a technology platform that transforms CO2 into building materials and other valuable industrial products.

Tell us about you…

I’m 31 and grew up in a tiny 800-person fishing village in Far North Queensland.

For the first six years of my life, I travelled around Australia with my mum, aunty and grandfather in a caravan.

I was raised by my single mum and aunty and have always had those strong, caring female influences in my life.

How did you end up in Canberra?

I came down to the ANU to do my degree and lived at Bruce Hall for two-and-a-half years. I simply loved every moment of my time there and was able to find my tribe and made many lifelong friends in my first years in Canberra.

What started your interest in the environment?

I grew up in Kurrimine Beach, which is right on the Great Barrier Reef. The main industries in my hometown are tourism, fishing and farming.

I’ve always been interested in protecting ecosystems but my interest in climate change was accelerated after 2006 and 2011 when my hometown got hit by two Category-5 cyclones.

How did you end up in your specialised field?

My Honours research was in Corporate Social Responsibility and I’ve always been interested in building business models that have a high social impact and a high return on investment.

I left my career in academia to help start Mineral Carbonation International, a technology platform that transforms CO2 into building materials.

The CO2 can come from industry, or can be sucked out of the atmosphere and utilised into materials like cements and plasterboards.

What are the biggest rewards of your work?

The biggest reward is that our technology is actually working and we’re creating carbonated products every day. It’s highly scalable and therefore has the potential to lock away millions/billions of tonnes of CO2 per annum when scaled up.

What are the greatest challenges?

Right now, it’s free for any factory to just release their emissions into the atmosphere, so the challenge is to convince companies to do something different, invest in innovation, and not just go about ‘business as usual’.

How do you separate work and life?

Apart from my main job at MCi I’m working on five other projects, including being a member of the ACT Climate Change Council, Lecturing at the University of Sydney, Curator of the Global Shapers Canberra Hub, Operations for Health Horizon and Cofounder of Kingfisher Cohousing. In the last year, though, I suffered from some personal setbacks and tragedies, I had to examine my personal boundaries.

What do you love outside of work?

I love to do my Rubik’s cube—I have a PB competition time of 34.21 seconds for a 3×3 solve.

I always have one with me wherever I go! I am a podcast fanatic, I enjoy cooking (and eating) and I absolutely love to dance.

What keeps you up at night?

I am a young woman of colour working in innovation, research commercialisation, chemical engineering and climate change technology.

In the past I have lost sleep feeling impostor syndrome and like I was inadequate. I’ve worked through those feelings now.

MORE SHINING LIGHT PROFILES

Visit hercanberra.com.au/people for more Shining Light profiles.

PHOTOGRAPHY  Tim Bean Photography

This article originally appeared in Magazine: Shine for Summer 2019/20, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here.

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