Athene Blakeman

HomeAthene Blakeman

I’ve been in my role just over 4 years.  I actually got to know Benchmark a couple of years before joining when I was working on the IPO – and knew from that time that I wanted to join the team.

Athene Blakeman

Group Legal Counsel, Benchmark, UK

1. How long have you been with Benchmark?

Just over 4 years.  I actually got to know Benchmark a couple of years before, working on the IPO (when Benchmark became a public company) – and knew from that time that I wanted to join the team.

2. Where were you before and why did you join Benchmark?

I started my career as a corporate lawyer at a big London law firm (Slaughter and May), and was there for 6 years on and off, before joining a smaller company (Travers Smith) for four years.

I did a couple of deals in Africa and completely fell in love with the place.  I will never forget seeing my first water hole, surrounded by warthog, wildebeest, elephants, impala, it was like being in Jurassic Park – so I took some time out and spent 18 months cycling around Zambia and working as a safari guide in Southern Africa.  I also spent much of my legal career wondering whether to retrain as a vet.  When I met Benchmark, I loved the vision and ambition, and the business really spoke to the things I was fascinated by – nature and animals.  I had never looked at another in-house role, but I knew this was what I wanted to do.

Athene is fascinated by animals and nature. She loves travelling, challenging herself and meeting new people

3. Can you describe your role?

I am based in London but spend a good amount of time travelling to visit our other offices and teams.  I am responsible for Benchmark’s legal and IP team, more recently also for the IS and IT function and integration, and I work with Wim Martens on cross-divisional opportunities in the supply chain.  I also spend time with the PLC, Ops and divisional boards, which is great for getting a view of the many things going on right across the group.

4. Tell us about the people you work with

I work with amazing people, from right across the group.  I spend a lot of time with the Legal and IP team.  But on an average day, I will speak with people from several of our divisions, and that variety is what makes things fun.

5. What’s your favourite part of the role?

Two things.  One is meeting our teams across the world, getting to know people and what they do, and appreciating what a tremendous group of individuals we have.  Most recently I was in Ecuador with our Advanced Nutrition, INVE, sales team – I was struck by their dedication and passion for the business, and really enjoyed trying out a few words (quite literally) of Spanish over dinners with the team.

The second is divisional board meetings.  I always learn something new about the business, often it is technical and fascinating.  Also, I find that the environment in those meetings is very creative – I scribble down ideas all day long, some linked to the topics we are discussing, some entirely unrelated.

6. What’s your biggest challenge?

A tough one.  Recognising when something isn’t working where people and teams are involved (the easy bit) and working out how to fix it (the really hard bit).  It’s quite broad.  I guess that’s partly why I struggle to know how to approach it.

7. What makes you happy?

Meeting strangers.  I love meeting new people and talk to everyone I can – taxi drivers, people on trains and planes, on the street and in coffee shops, from all walks of life.