GOING off to university, as for so many young people, proved to be a pivotal moment in Sharon Lane’s life and future career.

However, it was far from the beginning of the traditional route to success. At one point, in addition to studying a degree in maths and management science, she busied herself with several part-time jobs, including managing a cocktail bar and teaching piano. Academically-bright with a strong work ethic, she found it difficult to adapt to the more laid-back world of academia and was unable to equate her studies to the real world.

With the prospect of disappointing her family and the fact many of her friends were at university, she took the momentous decision to leave after two years – opting to go into the family business, Tees Components.

Her father Clive Wood, who ran the company, based in Skelton, near Saltburn, agreed but there would be no fast-track to the top. Instead, she started an apprenticeship in machining and tech drawing with TTE in South Bank for four years – completing her work experience at Tees Components and Dormor Machine & Engineering Ltd.

At the time, she was very much in the minority. Of 600 TTE trainees, Sharon was one of just four females. She also recalls a great deal of snobbery over being an apprentice at the time.

“Once I was studying engineering as an apprentice, my work involved a lot of maths and all the work I’d done during my degree suddenly all made sense and I was able to apply it to practical situations,” she recalled.

Having finished her apprenticeship, she went to work at the former Darchem plant at Stillington as a trainee design engineer and worked her way up to senior engineer before returning to Tees Components in 2005 where, as general manager, she ran the business alongside her dad.

Since it was founded in 1963, Tees Components has developed into one of the country’s most comprehensive and versatile heavy machinists, operating more than 20 CNC machines producing precision parts 24 hours a day.

It has been involved in many-high profile complex projects including the Channel Tunnel, Wembley Arch, Humber Bridge and Transport for London’s Bond Street station upgrade.

Last year her father retired into the chairman role and Sharon was appointed managing director. This was more than a mere family succession as she had proved her worth to the company, particularly in the wake of the 2009 economic downturn.

“We were heavily reliant on traditional sectors, like oil and gas, and the margins were getting tight,” she said, “Since then I’ve steered the business into new markets and as a result, we have stronger, long-term accounts and new clients in areas such as renewables and defence.

“We aim to be the number one go-to company when it comes to delivering on complex high-risk components that need careful precision handling.”

One of her proudest achievements is the development of the Tees White Gill thrusters, fitted to a variety of ocean-going vessels, including arctic research and naval ships – providing both a back-up form of propulsion as well the ability to maintain highly-accurate positioning.

One of the vessels fitted with the pump-jet thrusters is British Antarctic Survey vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough – originally dubbed ‘Boaty McBoat Face’ during a public naming vote.

Sharon said: “There has been real diversification allowing us to become successfully established in new markets. There has been a lot of investment over the last few years and we are very confident about the future.”

Tees Components is currently working on a project to supply a prototype direct drive 250 kw generator for GreenSpur Renewables in partnership with ORE Catapult, the UK’s leading innovation and research centre for offshore renewable energy.

She said: “This is something that showcases our innovation of our mechanical engineering team the ability to adapt to produce something that’s never been done before.”

Far from giving up on education following her apprenticeship, Sharon spent many years of part-time study to gain an HNC in production engineering and a first-class BEng honours degree at Teesside University. She also has an MBA in business administration and management from Durham University and is currently working towards gaining Chartered Engineer status.

She is passionate about both east Cleveland and – given her early experiences – in encouraging more women to take up engineering and promoting the value of apprenticeships.

Up to 40 per cent of Tees Components workforce started out as apprentices and the company has built strong links with local schools and training providers, including Middlesbrough College STEM Centre, Redcar & Cleveland College and TTE Technical Institute.

Sharon said: “It is part of my role to shout about what a wonderful area this is and to promote it whenever possible so young people have a reason to stay because they know that companies like Tees Components can provide them with an interesting, stable and successful future.”

Five minutes with Sharon Lane

Favourite North-East building and why?

The Winding House on our site, the former North Skelton ironstone mine. It was the deepest mine in Cleveland and the Winding House was built in 1871. We use it now for assembly and testing, and it means a lot to me that we have that industrial heritage.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid?

From the age of 13 I worked in a café; I can’t remember how much I got paid, but it seemed a lot.

What is the worst job you’ve had?

During my apprenticeship, I worked evenings and weekends on the bar in my local pub, and was also studying part-time for my BEng at Teesside university. I was saving as much as possible for my first house, and decided to also take on cleaning the village hall once a week. I got £6 for it, I was always shattered and had to use one of those ancient manual carpet sweepers!

What would you cook for me if I came for dinner?

I’d go to Stokesley Butchers and make you a steak pie … or I’d heat up one from Petch’s!

What would your superpower be?

I usually need a turbo-boost by Wednesday evening.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party.

My grandparents Dennis and Marjorie, and Leslie and Sheila. I’d love for my children to hear their stories about life on Teesside when they were growing up.

Most expensive thing you’ve bought - other than car or house?

For my 40th birthday we splashed out on a trip to Bali; I’ve never spent that much on a holiday before, but it was fantastic.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why?

Gillian Boanas Racing, as you’ll find out where and when our horses are running. Gillian took over Reveleys’ stable in Lingdale in 2017.

Favourite book?

I love Caitlin Moran’s ‘How to Build a Girl’; I also re-read favourite classics. At the moment I’m reading ‘How to Look Good in Glasses and avoid the Seven Deadly Spectacle Sins’, by John Prouse, who is a fantastic eyewear specialist from Loftus, as I need new glasses!

When did you last cry?

Monthly, as I watch the direct debit for gym membership leaving my account, when I haven’t been. Again.

What is your greatest achievement?

I’m so proud of my three children. Being able to cope with change, not being frightened of the world, so they can take part in all life has to offer – I can’t wait to see what they do next

What’s the best piece of advice in business you’ve ever been given?

My dad, Clive Wood, has given me lots of good advice and guidance on my career and in business. When I had just started managing Tees with him, I was late for an appointment. He left me a note saying, “Punctuality is the politeness of kings”, which I still have.

Favourite animal and why?

Chickens and ducks. Our two hens, Foxy Loxy and Speckeldy Label, always seem so contented.

Most famous person on your mobile phone?

I’m not sure I have any… my neighbour Val was on Gardeners World once. Does that count?

What was the last band you saw live?

I’m not really into live music, and haven’t seen any for ages. The last time was probably Jamiroquai or Prodigy in the 90s!

Describe your perfect night in.

Watching a film with my three children and my partner, Mark, with the fire on, the cat curled up in front of it, and a box of chocolates

In another life I would be ...

A barrister

Who would play you in a film of your life?

Diane Morgan.

What irritates you?

Pairing up socks

What’s your secret talent?

I wouldn’t say my level of ability quite counts as a talent, but I paint and also play the piano; after a full day of work, that right-hand creative brain stuff definitely helps me relax.