Debbi FrancisVisible Start Graduate

You get the sense that Debbi is one of life’s good people. She puts back into society.

Debbi is a lovely, gentle, tranquil woman. But beneath her slightly retiring persona lies a woman with mettle at her core. I think Debbi is a dark horse in the best possible way. She’s not someone to be underestimated.

Attending university later than many students and graduating at 27 with a degree in the History of Art, she completed a Postgraduate certificate in journalism before topping it all off with an IDM diploma in Digital Marketing. Just as hardcore as it sounds, Debbi admits it was by far the most arduous qualification she’d worked towards.

Her career began with media roles at The Guardian, BBC and Time Magazine, but after losing her father in 2001 she ventured into the world of digital marketing. Hard times so often prove to be turning points.

Twenty years later, Debbi remains a freelance consultant. Speaking of the leadership she’s experienced over the years, her “best bosses” have recognised her strengths as a creative team player: “I’m 100% about the team. I really, really care about the people I work with, although I also enjoy autonomy. I’ve had two brilliant bosses, and I would’ve gone to the ends of the earth for those women – yes, they were women. Most of the rest weren’t great, and at least one or two were downright psychopaths.”

She’s worked in lots of different settings, for lots of different employers and has found bigger companies to treat their staff the best. In her experience small and family owned businesses have been more problematic. Debbi’s suffered due to the vagaries of the economy, being made redundant four times – each uniquely unpleasant experiences, at least two of them ‘catastrophically awful’. All credit to her — especially as someone who’s said she struggles with depression — that she’s always bounced back. Hard times and all that.

You get the sense that Debbi is one of life’s good people. She puts back into society, volunteering for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and as a gardener at the Royal Horticultural Society at Hyde Hall.

But art, in all its forms, is Debbi’s true passion, and as part of her degree she spent a term in Italy — Rome, Florence, Siena — feasting her eyes! She draws, enjoys printmaking, watercolours and acrylics. She’s also studying memoir writing, which she describes as “a bit like therapy”.

Debbi describes herself as ‘une femme d’un certain age’: single but with a wide circle of wonderful friends all over the country. Oh, and she loves a good party.

She’s busy thinking about her 2022 project: a move to Suffolk, where she plans to write and (“fingers-crossed!”) start a business selling her art. But Debbi won’t need luck. She’s already shown she has the talent and drive to make it happen.

Meeting Debbi has been a delight, and — diaries and COVID permitting — we’ll be meeting up to gorge on all the museums, galleries and theatres London has to offer. And it’s all thanks to Visible Start for the connection.

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Dina SonDaisy Pashley