TWO top journalists who work for a flagship BBC programme are encouraging young people in the town to follow their dreams and aim high.

Coincidentally, Lucinda Day and Sima Kotecha are both from Basingstoke and discovered whilst working together on Radio 4's Today programme that they both attended the same school and college.

The pair have praised Queen Mary's College (QMC) for inspiring them to develop their interests.

Lucinda, who grew up in Kempshott and attended Richard Aldworth (now The Aldworth School), said she became interested in current affairs whilst studying A levels at QMC.

The 29-year-old said: "The history and politics department there is very good and the teachers were always encouraging us to watch Channel 4 News and Newsnight. That was probably when I first became interested in current affairs."

Lucinda went on to study an English degree at Cardiff University followed by a masters in journalism at Leeds University.

She landed her job as a producer on the Today programme a year-and-a-half ago, and said: "My job is to look after the big interviews. I have met some pretty interesting people. I met my first president last week - Jimmy Carter. I did American history at QMC and 10 years later I'm meeting a former US president. I think we are all really privileged because we learn so much everyday. Whatever story you get put on you become a mini expert on it."

She added: "When you are covering big stories you realise that history is unfolding around you."

Lucinda said one of her most memorable jobs was working at Wimbledon, when she watched Andy Murray win in 2013.

She said: "I remember thinking, 'this is history'."

Asked what advice she would give to young students starting out, she said: "I would probably say study hard and keep asking for work experience. Don't give up because it can be a hard field to get into but it's the best job."

Sima also went to Richard Aldworth and QMC.

She completed an English degree at Surrey University followed by a masters in media and politics at Goldsmiths College London.

She then went travelling, spending some time in Canada before returning to take a job at BBC Radio Berkshire.

Whilst there, she emailed other BBC stations across the world asking for work, and received a reply from the chief of BBC's New York bureau inviting her to spend six months there.

She said: "I ended up staying for seven years and started working for Talking Movies, interviewing all the A-list celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio. Radio One's Newsbeat then poached me and I ended up being their reporter based in New York. I got to go to Beyonce's 25th birthday party and I met the president, Barack Obama. I went to the Oscars three times and I covered the oil spill in Florida and the earthquake in Haiti. It was amazing."

Sima returned to the UK two-and-a-half years ago when she took a position on the Today programme as a reporter, and also reads the 8pm news on BBC One.

She said her and Lucinda were surprised when they discovered they both come from the same town, adding: "We became really good friends and one day we were going to the House of Commons to do a story and when we were in the car Lucinda said 'I'm going home this weekend' and I said 'where's home?' and she said 'Basingstoke'. My jaw dropped. We grew up really near each other and went to the same schools."

Asked what she enjoys about her job, Sima said: "I love meeting people. One day will be interviewing a man who killed his wife and spent 27 years in jail, and then the next day I will speak to someone who's lost his limbs in Afghanistan. The real people are the best, the stories that make you cry."

The pair hope their successful careers will inspire others from the town to aim high.

Lucinda said: "I probably always thought Basingstoke had a bit of a bad reputation but actually there's a least two other people in the Radio 4 office who are from Basingstoke. In my professional life I have come across people from Basingstoke all the time."

Sima encouraged young people not to take no for an answer, adding: "I really pushed myself to where I am now. It's really hard work and very competitive. My first producer at the BBC told me that I wouldn't be a journalist. She said think about another career. I was really upset but it made me want it even more. Now I have been in the industry for 11 years and work on the flagship news programme."