Dr. Gabriel Harnier has been working at Bayer for 11 years. Today he serves as head of Law, Patents & Compliance. On our Bayer Career Blog, he reports on entry and development possibilities for lawyers. He also gives some personal insights into his own career.
How would you describe your current area of activity?
I started in the Legal department of the Bayer Group in April 2005. My path then led me through various stations – some of them outside the Legal department – to my current function. As General Counsel of the Bayer Group, I hold overall responsibility for the areas of law, intellectual property rights, compliance and insurance. On the one hand this means that I’m closely involved in important matters with legal relevance to Bayer so that I can ultimately provide optimal advice to the Board of Management and the Supervisory Board. On the other hand – and this is very important – a very enjoyable task for me is to ensure the continuous development of my area of responsibility. All of this is line with our slogan “Towards a global in-house law firm.”
In which areas can young lawyers work at Bayer, and what arguments do you believe speak for Bayer as an employer?
Lawyers at Bayer are primarily employed in the Legal department. In addition to general commercial law, they have the opportunity at Bayer to work in areas such as labor and corporate law, M&A, data protection, compliance and IT law. Lawyers also work in other specialist departments, such as Human Resources, Taxes and Finance.
This year Bayer was named best employer by Focus Magazin, and also finished in 30th place in the top 100 list of azur. Furthermore, Bayer is one of five companies that finished among the top 50 employers for lawyers. We attribute our good performance here to our above-average employee satisfaction numbers. These, in turn, result from our interesting fields of work, good development opportunities and advanced training programs, attractive compensation and secure jobs. We are proud of our pleasant working atmosphere, work-life balance and terrific employer offers such as stock option programs, childcare services, etc.
Does Bayer actively promote the retention of interns and trainees? Do applicants have a better chance at launching a career at Bayer if they have completed a traineeship with the company, for example?
It is important for us to acquaint students and trainees with Bayer as a possible employer. Students mainly learn about the conventional areas during their education, and they often are not all that familiar with the occupation of company legal counsel. As a global company, Bayer offers lawyers in particular challenging tasks at a high level.
We therefore present Bayer at various career fairs and offer interns and trainees occupational training positions. For trainees it’s a good opportunity to become acquainted with Bayer, our Legal department and the way we work, and to determine whether they can imagine working for us full time. And we also get to know them as people and are pleased whenever we can attract talented young employees. A number of our colleagues underwent training in our company and were given full-time jobs by us at the beginning of their careers.
Let’s assume an employee from the Legal department would like to spend a year at a different site in a foreign country so as to get to know a new culture – is that fairly straightforward?
We have separate legal departments in 33 countries and work together internationally on global projects. Bayer offers various opportunities for gaining experience abroad. These offers range from conventional business trips to short-term assignments that last from three months to one year. Longer foreign assignments are also possible. Current examples include members of our German in-house legal team, who work in the United States, China and Singapore for approximately two years or longer.
Looking back, what steps in your career at Bayer were particularly formative and valuable for you?
Actually, I can indeed mention two very specific circumstances here. In retrospect, the most decisive moment for me was when I was named head of a team for the first time. It was a very enriching experience to assume responsibility for other employees. That’s because as well as getting to know a new, very important dimension of management through personnel management, you also learn a lot about yourself. Equally formative for me was probably the period of about three years during which I was assigned from the Legal department to the Management Board Staff in order to directly support the Board of Management and its Chairman. During this period, my task was to very quickly develop expertise in areas outside my legal comfort zone, such as communications, business administration and strategy.
What has been your personal experience with Bayer as an employer?
My personal experiences with Bayer as an employer have been very positive. What I believe sets Bayer apart as an employer is that the company has confidence in its employees and encourages them to complete assignments with individual responsibility. I also perceive Bayer as an employer that never loses sight of its employees’ well-being and is committed to a fair relationship with them. Last but not least, what distinguishes Bayer is that the company systematically endeavors to help employees who possess the requisite interest and suitable talent to develop in new areas of activity.
This post is also available in: German