Abraham Ronai – Getinge
You want to be a strong collaborator and part of a high-functioning team? Check your ego at the door, readily take on secondary roles, rely on other people’s subject matter expertise, and be willing to stand back to celebrate successes that aren’t yours—even if you contributed to them in some way.
This is Abraham Ronai’s philosophy.
“It takes a certain level of confidence, a certain personality that enjoys collaboration,” says Ronai, general counsel and chief legal officer for global medical technology company Getinge. “If someone is closed to those types of opportunities and in general to collaboration—well, it isn’t going to work.”
Synergy + collaboration = innovation
Founded in Sweden in 1904, Getinge designs and manufactures equipment for use across the health care and life sciences spectrum. With revenues of more than $2.5 billion and over 25,000 customers, the publicly-traded company’s products and services have been applied in cardiovascular procedures, intensive care units, operating rooms and sterile reprocessing environments.
A specialist in IP matters and global acquisitions involving technology, Ronai joined Maquet—one of Getinge’s three primary business units—in 2010. Today he oversees a global team and manages all global legal functions for Getinge. This includes IP matters, international trade, corporate, compliance, high-stakes commercial litigation and transactions.
But his first and foremost focus: Synergistic collaboration. None of these matters could be resolved without it, he says.
It can be more of a challenge than it seems, he notes: First, it takes hiring experienced, confident and secure subject matter experts with a strong, proven capacity of working in teams. As opposed to the tiered environment of a law firm, a more horizontal in-house team structure necessitates collaboration because business leads and team members have to rely on each other to make informed decisions and resolve crucial business matters, he explains.
Ronai further facilitates the “synergistic collaboration” concept by tasking each team member with both lead and support roles and setting team expectations, specifically as it relates to collaboration.
“Even if you’re a leader, you recognize that your secondary role—everybody’s secondary role—is just as important as your lead role,” he says. “That secondary role is always contributing to and collaborating on other people’s projects, being a second set of eyes. That’s no less important than those projects where you are the lead.”
The many facets of collaboration
Similarly, he emphasizes the different types of collaboration inherent to a legal department: there’s the type that exists between the legal area and other business departments; then there’s the one between the members of the legal department.
To build a strong team, Ronai ensures that he’s not the only one making the hiring decisions. All members of the team have to be on board, particularly the subject matter experts who will be working with that person on slated projects.
“They all need to feel comfortable that the person will complement and work well with them,” he says. Similarly, it’s essential to foster an environment where people aren’t punished for making mistakes—they have to be valued and allowed to experiment and take calculated risks.
“The end product of collaboration is almost always going to exceed what would be produced by independent high-value performance,” Ronai contends. “Especially when it comes to complex matters with a lot of background and history in different parts of a complex organization like Getinge.”
Blending medtech and legal
Despite his proven aptitude as a general counsel and legal strategist, Ronai was initially destined for a different track: That of a mechanical engineer. In fact, he earned his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering with distinction from Cornell University. He also spent time at United Technologies, where he focused on converting jet engines to power plants.
But his time at United Technologies led him to quickly conclude that his personality wasn’t going to mesh with the rather narrow window that engineers at larger companies were typically exposed to—as he puts it, spending months, even years, dedicated to the research and development of something such as, say, a single bolt.
Instead, what caught his interest was the role of United Technologies’ patent attorney. With the company then holding more than 1,000 patents, he recalls how that lawyer was a strategist as well as being technically savvy.
“What I noticed about the in-house department was how involved the lawyers were in high-level matters,” Ronai says. “This required them to understand the bigger picture and positioned them to become valued members of the business team.”
Later, while working toward his law degree at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, he clerked at Datascope Corp.—since acquired by Getinge—which develops and manufactures cardiac assist and patient monitoring medical equipment. That early experience, he says, set him on a track to become a medtech industry executive. This exposure also allowed Ronai to select his coursework to align with his business endeavors. He even took the patent bar while still in law school.
Ronai joined Getinge following two stints at NYC law firms, with in-house experience under his belt, and having served as a patent litigation professor at Concord Law School. After various roles in the global legal department, including lead roles serving Getinge’s various global subsidiaries, he rose ranks to group general counsel position in July 2017.
And while he acknowledges that there is no “perfect structure” when it comes to a global legal department, he certainly strives to get his team as close as possible.
“Most matters that come up in business, especially in the context of our business, are complex,” Ronai says. “There are a lot of different factors, and a lot of different people involved. In that world of complexity and moving parts, with ‘synergistic collaboration,’ you have a better end product and happier employees.”
At the time of publication, Ronai had accepted a new role at Getinge managing the company’s business threatening litigation and company critical intellectual property assets.
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