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Katya Adler Speaker Series

We were thrilled to welcome back alumna Katya Adler as our latest Speaker Series guest, who shared fascinating insights into her life and career, live from Brussels.

Katya attended South Hampstead High School from the age of 11 and went on to study German and Italian at the University of Bristol, before embarking on her career in journalism. She was appointed as BBC Europe Editor in 2014. Speaking via Zoom from her family home in Brussels, alongside her cats, she delivered an exhilarating evening spanning politics, her idols (Kate Adie) and amusing anecdotes – from her professional opinion on Brexit and Biden, to needing the toilet in a minefield.

Recalling one of her first jobs, on an Austrian kids’ TV programme, she recoiled at the memory of singing the ‘hokey cokey’ alongside a small man in a cat costume. However, she went on to cover the Kosovan war with the Austrian army (“petrifying”) before becoming a war reporter in the Middle East, a job that she loved. “You need passion, determination and not to take no for an answer.”

When she took on the job of BBC correspondent in Madrid, she was undeterred by her inability to speak the language. “I taught myself Spanish by listening to political radio and Mexican soap operas… Success is down to hard work, good luck, and not expecting people to reward you.” She is now fluent in several European languages and has a good knowledge of both Arabic and Hebrew.

Describing the twists and turns of her winding career path with incredible passion and pragmatism, she explained how it’s important to have goals and ambitions, but also to have patience and to enjoy the journey. “You need to be humble, to aim high… but most importantly, you have a duty of care to look after yourself.”

In the age of social media, she acknowledged the difficulties in navigating the truth. “You need to be curious, to listen, to do your research and be careful with the information you are given.” Personal challenges have included the toll on her social life whilst commuting between Berlin and London and, later, adapting to motherhood. “Nothing can really prepare you, but you find a way to make it work.”  She also shared stories of when work and home life blur, such as the time she was on the verge of missing her own engagement party whilst stuck in Gaza.

Inundated by questions from the audience, she chatted with warmth, humour and candour before leaving the meeting to continue her work into the evening. Our Deputy Head Girl, Amy, thanked her for being such an inspiring role model and for her wise words of advice. You can access a recording of the talk here.

We were delighted to welcome so many partner schools to our latest event. The Speaker Series has been running since 2017, an opportunity for the school and local community to come together and hear from distinguished guests who deliver talks that open doors, hearts and minds. Previous guests include the former MI5 Director General, Stella Rimington, the philosopher A C Grayling, Olympic Gold Medallists Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh, Michael Gove MP and anthropologist Professor Alice Roberts. 

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