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Guest Speakers

Throughout the school year we invite a number of guest speakers to come and address the girls on many different topics. In 2016-2017, speakers have included:

Louise Pitcher – Admissions Officer at École hôtelière de Lausanne
Forms V-UVI were lucky enough to attend a talk by Louise Pitcher, Admissions Officer at École hôtelière de Lausanne, on Monday 19 September. Based in Switzerland, EHL offers a Bachelor of Science in International Hospitality Management.

Louise began the talk by asking how many girls in the room had considered further education outside of the UK, and while a few stood up this number shrunk rapidly when she went on to ask how many girls had considered further education in mainland Europe. There were murmurs of surprise when she then revealed that there are actually more than 2,000 undergraduate degrees taught in English in Europe. For these girls, many of whom are already in the process of applying to university or researching their university options, a whole host of new opportunities had suddenly opened up.

Much of the talk consisted of dispelling myths and misunderstandings of the hospitality sector. No, this course does not limit you to becoming a chef or a waiter. No, you will not be bound to working in the hotel industry for the rest of your life. No, you will not be studying in French!

EHL focuses on the business aspects of hospitality, covering accounting, marketing, finance, law and much more. Throughout the course, there is the opportunity to take up two 6-month internships anywhere in the world, where you can also choose to study the native language. They offer teaching in French, German, Spanish, Russian and Mandarin.


Dr Joanna Bagniewska – ‘Beyond the Panda’
On Thursday 22 September, girls from Forms I-IV seated themselves in St Mary’s Theatre for a talk by Dr Joanna Bagniewska, a zoologist and science communicator. The talk, which had been dubbed “the panda talk” by girls and staff alike (from its original title “Beyond the Panda”), explored the need for wildlife conservation beyond the cute, fluffy flagship species which we normally see in the media.

Dr Bagniewska obtained her MSc in Biology from Oxford University in 2007, and then went on to complete her doctorate in Zoology at Oxford in 2013. So far she has conducted research in five countries and visited over 40 studying a range of different species. Currently she works as a teaching fellow for the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading. As a school we are passionate about encouraging women in STEM, and with her impressive career so far Dr Bagniewska was an exemplary role model for the girls.

The talk covered many aspects of conservation that the girls had perhaps not considered before. It is not so simple to just “save the animals”, human habitation must always be considered first she explained. The cost of animal conservation also came as a surprise to the girls – Dr Bagniewska described how in order to improve the status of all endangered birds, it would take 1 billion USD to cover 10 years. While this may sound a lot, it was then put into perspective when she went on to explain that this was merely 1/20 of what Americans spend on ice cream in one year.

The talk finished with a little insight into what we can all do to help – which included refusing to participate in things such as elephant rides, refusing to visit places such as SeaWorld and trying to cut down on our meat intake where we can.

When the talk finished, Mrs Gardiner Legge stood to express our gratitude to Dr Bagniewska for coming to speak to us, and also commended her on her excellent presentation skills. The girls followed up with many engaging questions on veganism, global warming and genetic modification. It was clear that the girls thoroughly enjoyed the talk, and left with something new to think about.


John Hoskison – ‘Risks and Consequences’
On Thursday 6 October, pupils from Forms IV – UVI attended a talk entitled “Risks and Consequences” in St Mary’s Theatre. The speaker, John Hoskison, started out as a very successful young professional golfer, for whom one wrong yes/no decision drastically changed his life forever.
In 1994 John broke a discipline he had stood by for twenty years, and drank a glass of wine with a colleague before driving home. On his journey home, John hit and killed a cyclist, and he was subsequently sentenced to 3 years in prison.
He spoke of his horror of life in prison, not at the hardships he endured, but how shocked he was to find it was “like a university for drugs and crime” and how rife and easily available drugs and alcohol were to the inmates.
The crux of John’s talk revolved around sticking to your gut decision, the one you know is right, if you’re not sure whether to say yes or no to something. For example, when you’re driving, ignore that text when you hear your phone buzzing on the passenger seat because in the blink of an eye everything can change. The talk was very thought-provoking, and the girls left with a lot to consider.
One pupil wrote to thank John Hoskison: “Your story really strikes a chord with me. It is real. It’s life. What I wanted to say to you is that your story really inspired me to stay safe and cautious in this world that we live in. As a teenager myself, that is extremely challenging. I am constantly feeling pressure to conform – to follow my peers in their behaviour. Thank you so much.”


Seamus Malin – an Independent College Councillor
On Monday 17 October, Forms IV-LVI were spoken to by Mr Seamus Malin, a former Harvard student and an Independent College Counsellor who specialises in helping international students apply to the top US colleges and universities.
The focus of the talk was on the differences between the admissions process here in the UK and in the United States. Mr Malin explained how US colleges tend to look beyond academics, and also consider extra-curricular involvement, personal development and entrance essays on topics such as “tell me about a time in your life when you experienced failure, and how you got through it?”.
The talk was extremely interesting and informative, and perhaps opened up the eyes of a few students who had not yet considered further education across the pond.


Laura Bates – founder of Everyday Sexism Project
On Thursday 17 November, all the girls and a large number of staff members headed to the SMAT for the highly anticipated talk by British feminist writer and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, Laura Bates. The Everyday Sexism Project website was founded in 2012, and acted as a space in which to catalogue instances of sexism experienced on a day to day basis. Within the first week of the website launching, she had already received more than 100 entries.

Laura opened her talk by explaining that she personally did not begin to notice issues of feminism and sexism until she was in her 20s, reassuring anyone in the audience who had not begun to explore these subjects yet.

As well as retelling user submitted stories of incidents of being inappropriately touched or propositioned in public, Laura also went over some examples of sexism in business, politics, the arts, the media and more. She recalled shocking statistics such as the fact that out of the 2,300 pieces of art featured in the National Art Gallery, only a meagre 11 of these come from female artists. Even more shockingly, among chief executives and chairs of FTSE 100 companies, the number of men called “John” is more than double the total number of women in the list.

To close her talk there was a Q & A session, where one girl asked Laura what they could do personally about these issues. Laura sympathised when saying it can be easy to feel like a small fish in a big pond when it comes to the fight towards gender equality, but the most important thing you can do is educate yourself and if you ever see an instance of inequality, not to be afraid to call it out.

To thank her, Mrs de Ferrer gifted her one of her Suffragette brooches, with a small horseshoe in it and tiny Green, White and Violet stones, which stands for Give (green) Women (white) the Vote (violet). Laura Bates kindly stayed to have supper with our Athena society, where they could continue their discussions. We are very grateful for her taking the time to come and speak to all of us at Heathfield about such prevalent issues in today’s society.


Tom Whittaker – International Officer, University of British Colombia
The University of British Columbia is a global centre for research and teaching, consistently ranked among the 40 best universities in the world. Since 1915, UBC’s West Coast spirit has embraced innovation and challenged the status quo. Its entrepreneurial perspective encourages students, staff and faculty to challenge convention, lead discovery and explore new ways of learning. At UBC, bold thinking is given a place to develop into ideas that can change the world.
The Lent term has begun with a new burst of energy, and Form V and LVI were keen to attend a talk by Tom Whittaker, International Officer at the University of British Colombia.
Mr Whittaker explained his educational history and talked the girls through the entry process and requirements for studying in Canada. The girls listened intently and walked away with new information of a path in life they had perhaps not yet considered.


Jonathan Wells – “Life of a Broadcast Journalist”
Jonathan is an experienced broadcast journalist who has worked on a variety of TV, digital and radio platforms across the BBC, including the Six and Ten o’clock News, Radio 1 Newsbeat, BBC News Channel and BBC World. In 2016, he produced a series entitled ‘Living Shakespeare’ – that looked at the relevance of the Bard in the modern world.
On Wednesday 18 January Forms III-LVI filed into the SMAT to listen to Jonathan Wells talk about his life as a Broadcast Journalist. He may have been slightly recognisable to some students, as he is in fact the brother of Miss Wells, our Head of Science Faculty.

Mr Wells spoke of his route into the journalism industry, explaining that while he went through university this is not the only way in. Journalism is also not quite as glamorous as it may seem.

In order to try and connect with the girls on a more personal level, Mr Wells went to the trouble of contacting his female colleagues to ask them for video clips detailing things they wished they had known before they got into this industry, the best piece of advice they were ever told, anecdotes of their experiences etc. It was such a lovely piece and we really appreciated the effort Mr Wells went to, to produce this especially for us.


Caroline Baker – “Setting up and running a business”
It was a pleasure to welcome Caroline back to Heathfield on 25 January to give a talk to the Fifth and Sixth Forms. Caroline, a Heathfield Old Girl, set up her own business, a Family Office, looking after some of the most high profile and high net worth families in the world. She looks back on her time at Heathfield very warmly, stating that ‘Heathfield was the making of me’ and that ‘Heathfield laid the foundations of stability and happiness for me. The very nurturing and secure environment allowed me to become who I am today, to build my confidence and to develop the most incredible group of life-long friends – my closest even to this day’.

Lucy Stafford-Allen (Director of Business) and Isabelle Baldwin, also a Heathfield Old Girl (Property Manager) accompanied Caroline and our pupils really enjoyed talking to them over a delicious buffet supper in the LVI common room.

The message in Caroline’s talk afterwards was clear: how important it is to be resilient and not to be afraid to take risks. Also that you can have principles and still be financially successful. The girls were suitably inspired and impressed. Caroline is keen to employ and help Heathfield girls in any way she can. She knows she will be taking on confident, dependable, hard-working and well-presented young women.


Helen van Tuyll – “Life of an Equine Vet”
Helen studied at Heathfield School and then went on to graduate from Massey University, New Zealand in 2007 and went straight to work for Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Kentucky. Initially based in the hospital, she dealt predominately with neonatal foals and broodmares, and also a wide variety of equine medicine cases.
She went on to be employed by some of the major thoroughbred studs in the Bluegrass region, with routine breeding work and stallion care, as well as artificial breeding and embryo transfers of sport horses.
Her final year in America was spent as a veterinarian with the Sports Medicine team, travelling around the States supporting the clients on the Hunter/Jumper circuit.
On returning to New Zealand, Helen worked as an equine veterinarian for Southern Rangitikei Veterinary Services, and returned to England in 2011 to work as a stud and sport horse vet at Bourton Vale Equine Clinic in Gloucestershire. She founded her own practice, VT Vets in 2015.
On Wednesday 1 February, the girls were delighted to have the opportunity to hear Helen van Tuyll speak. Helen spoke of her journey towards becoming an equine vet, explaining that it is such a competitive industry that she had to take quite a roundabout path to get where she wanted.
Afterwards, the girls were thrilled to be able to give Helen a tour of the school, during which she managed to find her own name on a Captains’ board in the Sports Hall.


Victoria Milligan – “Facing Adversity with Positivity and Resilience”
On Wednesday 22 February, Victoria Milligan spoke on resilience and positivity when facing hardship. She discussed her own personal, traumatic experiences, and how she carried on after these life-changing events.

Victoria talked the girls through some steps which helped her deal with her loss, and while her personal experiences may be more unique, she adapted her points to make these applicable to the day-to-day struggles young girls could face. These included setting small, achievable goals, learning to reach out for help, understanding that the perfect images you see on social media aren’t accurate depictions of real life, and learning to appreciate what you have.

We are so grateful to Victoria for taking the time to come and speak to us. The talks were extremely moving, and Victoria herself is an inspiring lady.


Julia van Tuyll and Georgina Symons – “Investing in the Future”
It was our pleasure to welcome back Heathfield Old Girls Julia van Tuyll and Georgina Symons Jones, who spoke about investment and life in the City. Julia and Georgina are phenomenally successful in their respective careers.

Georgia spent twelve years as an Equity Trader, working in London and Hong Kong, and now focuses on sustainable investments, whilst Julia has been working in private equity for over fifteen years in London, New York and Los Angeles. Most recently, Julia was responsible for raising a new $1.5 billion fund to invest in consumer businesses like Jimmy Choo, wagamama, ghd and AllSaints.

Both Julia and Georgina spoke about their career journey so far, giving the girls insights into life in the City and offering valuable advice on how to succeed. In addition to the messages of hard work, resilience and effective networking, they emphasised the importance of being a nice person, adding that people do business with those they like, especially if it means they are handing over $5 million of their money.

This was an informal evening, with a short talk and buffet supper, attended by over thirty girls across all year groups. Mrs Gardiner Legge presented Julia and Georgina with the newly created Old Girl Speaker badges, commissioned especially as a gift for Heathfield Old Girls who come and speak to our current girls.


Emma Deterding – “Life in Interior Design”
There are many girls at Heathfield who enjoy art and design, so it was no surprise that the recent Life in Interior Design talk was eagerly awaited. Emma Deterding, Heathfield Old Girl and founder of Kelling Design, an interior design and property staging company, was a special guest of Evie, the Careers Prefect.

Emma spoke about her life after Heathfield, which included living in Japan and running a catering business before returning to London to set up a property management company, Contact London. After selling this business, Emma started Kelling Design and has designed apartments in the best parts of London, country homes and properties overseas. The girls were impressed to hear about Emma’s experiences in designing the interiors for a magnificent new home in the Lutyens Bungalow area of Delhi, where plots sell for £80 million, not least because Emma was brought in as the Interior Designer before the client had found an architect.

However, before all this, Emma started working at Rymans after leaving Heathfield, where she learnt the importance of getting on with everyone, key business skills and that hard work pays off.

Interestingly, one of the main messages of Emma’s talk was the importance of getting on with people and being a nice person; the soft skills that previous speakers have encouraged. Emma stated this was one of the most important things that Heathfield gave her. She encouraged the girls not to be shy about using their contacts and not to be afraid of taking a different path, stating that university was not right for everyone.

The talk was very well received and the informal setting, the St Mary’s Theatre foyer allowed a large number of girls to spend time speaking to Emma and her guests Frances Stanley (friend, fellow Heathfield Old Girl and school governor) and Georgina Wykeham (née Bowles, and another Heathfield Old Girl). Georgina is now the Managing Director of Kelling Design and Emma continues to work on projects.

Emma has a strong bond with Heathfield, with many family members past and present attending the school, including the Careers Prefect, Evie who invited Emma to speak. Emma was delighted with our Heathfield girls, stating that “they were a fantastically engaged audience and asked me some really insightful questions which made me think”.

We thanked Emma for the gift bags and delicious doughnuts. Emma was presented with one of the newly commissioned Heathfield Old Girl Speaker badges.


Forthcoming Speakers

20 September 2017 Jay Francoise-Campbell, Costumier, Royal Opera House

18 October 2017 Dame Martina Milburn, CEO, Princes Trust