Sharon Inge’s career with Saint & Co started in the late 1980s when she was asked by senior partner Jim Brunton if she would be interested in a job with the firm.

Following a conversation, Jim was so impressed with Sharon’s recent grades in her GCSEs he invited her to embark on a career pathway in accountancy.

Fast forward to the present day, and Sharon has worked her way up to the position of senior manager – still based in the Carlisle office she used to clean – and has trained more than half of the 10 current partners at the firm, including the senior partner.

Sharon said: “I used to help my stepmother in her cleaning job but had an interview for a job at a bank, when Jim said ‘Why don’t you just come to work here? Your grades are better than most other candidates’.

“As this was my first job, Jim arranged a meeting with the manager at Barclays Bank to open my first bank account as they didn’t know how else they would pay me.

“A career in accountancy wasn’t something I’d really considered but it was a great opportunity and I set off on my journey as a trainee accounting technician studying for my AAT qualification.

“The industry was a lot different back then as you had to do everything manually using pen and paper, and there was a huge adding machine on the desk. There was only one computer in the office – and only one computer operator.

“I’ve certainly seen a lot of changes within accountancy during my time at Saint & Co, and it’s been an interesting experience as we have adapted to new technology, tax changes, and business development and modernisation.”

The world of accountancy was male-dominated when Sharon first started at Saint & Co, and she would often be the only woman in the room.


She even recalls visiting clients at Working Men’s Clubs with male colleagues. Her workmate would receive a bottle of whisky as a gift for his hard work – while she was presented with the same gift to pass on to her father!

Sharon continued to progress at Saint & Co but it was another 10 years until she started studying for her Chartered Accountancy status.

She explained: “At the time, everybody who trained to become a Chartered Accountant was a university graduate and, because I wasn’t, I doubted whether I could pass one exam, never mind achieve the certification. I hadn’t even stayed on at school to take A Levels.

“I wanted to start travelling and seeing other parts of the world so earning more money was a factor in wanting to work towards my Chartered status. When I mentioned it to my training partner Peter Boothroyd, he was really supportive of my decision and said the company would fund my studies.

“I did my ACCA Chartered Accountancy qualification which was different to other people’s qualifications as Saint & Co accountants are predominantly ICAEW qualified. I was able to attend the local college for the first level of exams, followed by home study for the following two years – unheard of at that time – but I was given all the encouragement I needed by Saint & Co to make sure I could fit it around my job.”

As a company, Saint & Co enlist an annual intake of trainees or apprenticeships, and that dramatically changes the dynamics of the business by introducing fresh ideas, personalities and working practices that are continually evolving.

Sharon’s role was changed significantly in 2017 when senior partner Peter Boothroyd – another huge influence on Sharon – retired and an internal restructure saw two managerial positions created.

Sharon was appointed to one of the positions and she has continued to develop her role within the company.

“My responsibilities in the office have developed over the years from historically working with sole traders and partnership accounts, to working on limited company accounts, company tax and personal tax. My other specialisms are cash flows and projections, and Estate taxation,” said Sharon. “I’m still involved in staff training and I could be training a future partner of Saint & Co as we speak.

“I never dreamed when I started cleaning the office that I would be working for the company for more than 35 years. What has kept the job so interesting to me is that my role has progressed as well in a business which has changed and developed with the times.

“And I also achieved my dreams of travelling to Central America, Peru and China.”