November 1, 2016
Woman of substance
Mother, lawyer, teacher, community worker, Sophia O’Brien is one of those hidden gems helping to make the Sunshine Coast a better place. We shine the spotlight on this inspirational woman and share the passion behind her work.
The old adage, behind every successful man is a strong woman (or partner to be politically correct) certainly rings true when it comes to local powerhouse duo Ted and Sophia O’Brien.
While Ted, recently appointed LNP member for Fairfax and founder of Generation Innovation, is a well known face in our community, his wife Sophia is the quiet achiever.
Drawing on her skills as a qualified lawyer, and passionate about creating job opportunities for young people on the Sunshine Coast, Sophia works tirelessly behind the scenes to make it all happen, as well as working full time as a lecturer and course co-ordinator at the University of the Sunshine Coast, completing a PHD and being mum to four-year-old daughter Alexandra.
I love engaging with the students who are all bright eyed and bushy tailed and keen to start their careers and change the world.”
“My life has been consumed by politics for the past few years, but we are lucky that our work fits really well together,” says Sophia.
A love of politics is not the only thing this dynamic partnership has in common, with Sophia growing up between Hong Kong and Singapore, and Ted spending time expanding his family business into Taiwan, their international backgrounds instantly drew them together when they met 12 years ago.
“My dad was an auditor for a big multinational so we moved around a lot. I came back to Australia to study International Relations and Law and imagined I wouldn’t be in Australia very long, probably returning to Asia to work but part-way through my degree I met Ted. He introduced me to the Sunshine Coast and a very different life eventuated. We have been married 10 years and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
A self-confessed bookworm, Sophia is one smart cookie. Graduating from law with first class honours, she won the University Medal and was awarded the Commonwealth Government Prime Minister’s Endeavour Award. As if that’s not enough, she is currently working on a PHD in international law. Told you she was smart!
I am constantly feeling out life as I go. What works at one time won’t work at another. You have to play it by ear sometimes.”
“I’ve always been fascinated by ideas and what they can do to transform societies,” says Sophia. “I was a practicing lawyer for a while but I have been teaching at the USC law school since it opened three years ago. I love engaging with the students who are all bright eyed and bushy tailed and keen to start their careers and change the world.”
Sophia’s other passion is her role as director of Generation Innovation. Developed by Ted, the program is designed to create young entrepreneurs by helping them to unleash their innovative genius.
“The program identifies young people who may not be your typical A-grade students but may have an amazing idea or have great leadership skills. The program helps them develop those skills and become an inspiring figure for people their age. It also helps to create opportunities to find a solution to youth unemployment by helping young people become entrepreneurs and give them the skills, the network and the money to do that. We introduce them to mentors and startup investors so their idea can get off the ground.”
Sophia has also been a staunch supporter of Ted’s political campaign, both financially and emotionally.
“It has been hard, I’m not going to lie,” says Sophia candidly. “I was the main breadwinner during Ted’s campaign and it was a very busy time for him. Traditionally that burden has been on men and it made me realise what a lot of pressure that is, psychologically.
“It also meant Alexandra had to go into full time kindy so that was challenging, but she loves it now and I am lucky academia is a fairly flexible job and allows me to spend time on my research and writing.
“I am constantly feeling out life as I go. You have to find ways to compensate for things and find ways to lighten the load.”
Sophia’s love of the Sunshine Coast and passion to do her bit for the community is abundantly clear and with this formidable team in our corner, the future’s looking bright!