After dropping out of her maths degree, Sharon Lane began an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering. She has worked her way up through the company and is now managing director of Tees Components.
Where do you call home?
I was born in Saltburn and lived in Marske as a child. Now I live on the outskirts of Stokesley.
Tell us about your role?
I am managing director of Tees Components, which is a heavy engineering company in North Skelton. We carry out precision machining of very large, complex metal parts for power generation, marine and defence sectors. As MD, my role is varied – I am responsible for H&S, quality, finance and HR, as well as our core business functions of mechanical engineering.
How did you get to where you are today?
I did A-Levels and went to university but dropped out part way through the maths degree I was studying. I began an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering and learned machine tool operation (lathes and millers) and technical drawing. I studied part-time for a HNC then BEng degree in mechanical engineering. I became a design engineer and later took an MBA by distance learning when I became a senior engineer. I was general manager of Tees Components for 15 years before becoming MD.
What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way?
All of my friends were at university when I did my apprenticeship, and sometimes it was hard being the only one working. There was quite a lot of academic snobbery about apprenticeships too. My sector is male-dominated, and I didn’t have female role models or mentors to help me progress into management. I found it really helpful to instead meet women who were working in senior positions in other sectors and I learned a lot from them.
Describe the moment you first got a feel for success?
I call my lightbulb moment my “spider moment”. It was when I realised that other people who I felt intimidated by, might just be as scared of me as I was of them – that I could control how I reacted to situations, rather than the situation being in control of me. We always have a choice, no matter what is happening, even if our only choice is how we react.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young females?
Write down your dream – where you’d like to be in, say, 10 years’ time. Describe it, really sit down and think about it. Draw a timeline from now to then. Where do you need to be in, say, five years, to be on track for your dream? What do you need to do soon? What are the obstacles and how can you get over them? Who can you ask for help? A dream becomes a goal when we have a plan in place. Make it a reality!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You’re right! Trust your judgement and beliefs. Try not to take things personally or be defensive – people around you are all dealing with their own issues and they’re not perfect any more than you are.
What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?
Impact – who or what can I impact today? Where can I really add value?
Compassion – if I have difficult tasks ahead of me, how can I do them with compassion – for others, or for myself.
Outcome – I always try to focus on what I want to be the outcome/achievement of the day/event.
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