ASML is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of chip-making equipment. Headquartered in Veldhoven, the Netherlands, ASML employs more than 21,000 people.
For a lawyer, the cyclical nature of working at ASML is very unusual. But it's something I relish. You see so many different tasks and challenges. I started at ASML in the middle of a global downturn. My main tasks then were making sure we got paid, helping customers who were struggling and liaising with trustees of companies that had gone bankrupt (which luckily were only a few). Within eighteen months, everything has changed. The upturn came and we started selling lithography systems like crazy. My job became much more about dealing with suppliers to ensure our supply chain could meet that demand. A legal counsel probably wouldn't see that kind of variety in such a small time frame at other big companies; that has to be something you enjoy if you want to work here.
Reacting to up- and downturns - making sure ASML is covered whatever the market conditions - is the biggest challenge for ASML legal counsels. We make sure ASML can hit the gas or brake as necessary by negotiating the right contracts with our suppliers while at the same time making sure that companies in our whole supply chain remains robust. 'Smart lawyering' can result in a nice contract for ASML in the short term but if that means the supplier cannot run a viable business, it's not going to help us in the long term. 'Virtual integration' of our supply chain is more than a buzz word at ASML.
For that, you have to be flexible and see the bigger picture. You might want to have certain clauses in a contract, but negotiating those changes could mean ASML misses a window to get the parts it really needs. You need to know when to comprise and when to stand firm. And you need to be aware of and adapt to cultural differences. You're working with a global supply chain and people negotiate contracts very differently in the US, Europe and Asia. But ASML itself is also a truly multicultural organization!
Before ASML, I was a mergers and acquisitions (M&A) lawyer in the Netherlands and the USA. I wanted a new challenge, so I did an MBA and a banking internship. Then I saw a job advert for ASML, and thought that could be the change I wanted. At my interview, the interviewer asked what would make me unhappy in my new job. I said, with a smile, "Having no interaction with people in the business and never seeing the results of the agreements I negotiated." He guaranteed me that that wouldn't happen, that I would be heavily involved in the business processes.
He was right! On my third day, I was discussing strategy with our Chief Marketing Officer - I thought it was pretty cool to meet a board member so early in my career at ASML. And almost every day I'm in meetings with procurement account managers, suppliers and our R&D partners. I get to see much more than just my legal role, and I really can contribute to getting the newest technology to the market as quickly as possible.
At ASML, it's normal getting involved with things beyond your area of expertise. It gives you lots of freedom to shape your own role and career. Again, you don't often get that as a former M&A lawyer. For me though, I really enjoy that feeling of being part of the business. Seeing trucks coming and going with parts and finished systems, knowing I played a part in - and added value to - the process that made it happen.