New career direction for local woman

FRANCES Buchanan.
FRANCES Buchanan.

Lawyer, art gallery owner and IT specialist. Frances Buchanan has had a fascinating career so far.

A student at Robert Gordon University, Frances (40), proved it is possible for one person to be all these things when she graduated last Friday with an MSc in Software Technology.

Frances, who lives in Catterline with husband Stuart and daughters Lily (3) and Daisy (6), originally trained in Scots Law at Strathclyde University in her hometown of Glasgow. Graduating in 1993, she worked as a solicitor in both Edinburgh and Glasgow for 11 years, specialising in civil litigation.

Following the birth of Daisy in 2004, Frances and Stuart – a painter who studied at Glasgow School of Art – went into business together, opening an art gallery in the West End of Glasgow. Named Mansfield Park Gallery, it was established to host exhibitions by contemporary artists living and working in Scotland.

During this time, Frances explored her interest in technology by teaching herself how to design the gallery’s website, plus create a database and accounting system for the business. She also continued to work part-time as a lawyer.

Two years after opening the gallery, the couple sold it on and relocated to Catterline where Frances became a full-time mother and gave birth to her second child, Lily, in 2008. The decision to move to Aberdeenshire was prompted by Stuart successfully securing the Arts Council “Beacons” Residency for two years to undertake art projects at a number of Aberdeen Primary Schools, and the couple’s love of the village of Catterline which they had visited annually before the move.

When she looked into returning to work, Frances decided to retrain, taking the opportunity to follow her interest in IT. By chance, she saw a bursary scheme led by the Scott Trust, owners of the Guardian newspaper, which offered funding for a conversion-to-IT Postgraduate course and specifically encouraged applications from women returning to work after having a family.

She submitted an application and, following a formal interview in London, was selected. With this funding in place, in January 2010, she began her postgraduate degree in Software Technology at Robert Gordon University.

During her time at the university, Frances made many significant achievements, aside from scoring top marks on her coursework. She was selected for a summer studentship at the university’s Institute for Innovation, Design and Sustainability Research (IDEAS) and also carried out a four week placement in the Guardian offices in July 2010 as part of her bursary scheme in which she worked within the Software Development team as well as with Data Journalists. To undertake the placement, she had to delay the completion of her MSc Project which was completed in May of this year.

Most recently, she has had a paper accepted by the International Conference on Information Society, which was discussed at its annual conference, which was held in London in June of this year. The paper she submitted was based on her MSc dissertation which formed the basis for the creation of her web application, ArtBridge, which brought together her interest in both art and technology.

Frances graduated with distinction at an afternoon ceremony held in His Majesty’s Theatre. She was joined by Stuart, Daisy and Lily.

Frances said: “I’m really grateful to the staff at RGU, who have been very accommodating and flexible. They have offered the kind of support women returning to study need, to be able to cope with the demands of both study and family life.”