It was the most unusual job interview of his life. Raymond Keane had done his homework, studying the organization and its leaders. He expected to explain his résumé and discuss his ambitions. However, soon after making his introduction, Keane was sitting cross legged on the floor, in a suit, playing with toy bricks. He wasn’t taken by surprise. The company, LEGO Systems Inc., was part of the LEGO Group, after all, and Keane came prepared to play.
While the LEGO Group executives did ask Keane some of the standard interview questions, their final request was anything but typical. They pointed to several bins of LEGO bricks and asked the candidate to create something to illustrate his background and experience. Then they left the room.
When the team came back, Keane was ready to discuss his creation—an elaborate spaceship. First, he included a potted plant just for fun, which resonates at a company that promotes play and imagination. Then he talked about his own minifigure, which stands next to a keyboard that represents his lifelong passion for music. Next, he explained the most important and revealing aspect of the build—the two other minifigures who stand next to Keane’s, appearing to learn from their tiny plastic mentor.
Although Keane was at the LEGO Group to discuss a role in their legal department, he earned an undergraduate degree in English. Upon graduation, he took an entry-level job at an insurance company to make ends meet. “I always had a vague idea that I wanted to help people,” he says. “I’ve known for a long time that service is something I’ll take with me no matter what I do.” It didn’t take long for Keane to realize the insurance job was a bad fit. He joined AmeriCorps and volunteered to mentor and teach high school students.
It was a big transition. Keane went from the cubicle to the classroom, where he was teaching music and other subjects while directing a grant-funded program to pair at-risk youth with community mentors. Keane found the experience challenging and rewarding. Social and emotional issues often prevented his students from concentrating. After attempting various failed remedies, Keane finally found something that worked: LEGO bricks. He introduced the colorful toys into the classroom setting, and it didn’t take long for him to notice an improvement. Students channeled their extra energy to the famous bricks and were content to fidget or build as they diagrammed sentences or discussed a book.
“I’ve known for a long time that service is something I’ll take with me no matter what I do.”
In presenting his own LEGO brick-based build, Keane was able to demonstrate his leadership experience and his understanding of the LEGO brand while tying in his passion for coaching others. Like many Americans, Keane grew up playing with LEGO sets, but he also had firsthand experience of the positive corporate culture. In 2015, while working as a legal manager at an insurance company, Keane took his family to LEGO Systems Inc.’s corporate offices for the LEGO 5K Family Road Race and Children’s Fun Run. The annual event raises money for local charitable organizations. In addition to racing, participants can visit bounce houses, food stations, LEGO Master Builder events, the company store, and other fun activities.
Keane says the 5K was a turning point in his professional journey. “People seemed genuinely glad to be there,” he explains. “The volunteers were smiling, the employees were happy, and everyone was having fun. I knew then that the culture was truly special.”
After presenting his spaceship, Keane received a job offer. The LEGO Group invited him to join the organization as a team lead in their legal support function, where he managed employment, corporate, transactional, and IP matters in the US, China, and Denmark.
Keane’s first day on the job was even more unusual than his interview. Upon completing his onboarding paperwork, the new hire was shuttled to Boston Logan International, where he changed clothes and boarded a flight to Denmark to get important face time before his director’s maternity leave. Keane, who had never been to Europe before, enjoyed a private tour of an employee-only museum, and he was struck by the genuine kindness, interest, and personal attention he received from long-tenured employees and high-level leaders.
Back in the US, Keane settled into his job and enjoyed more opportunities to serve and mentor others. “Knowledge sharing has always been big for me, and I’ve been fortunate to find a company that values it as much as I do,” he says. Now, as senior corporate counsel, Keane advises his business counterparts in matters related to litigation, employment law, and commercial transactions.
“Knowledge sharing has always been big for me, and I’ve been fortunate to find a company that values it as much as I do.”
More than five years later, Keane is confident he’s working in the right place. He’s used his expertise to build remote teams to help navigate an organizational response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The experience has also touched on Keane’s passion for service, as the LEGO Group worked to support its community with toy donations and financial contributions to address food insecurity. As employment counsel, he’s helped LEGO Systems Inc. revamp a vacation policy and other initiatives that improve corporate culture and work/life balance.
Like most LEGO employees, Keane has a few favorite playsets. He enjoyed completing a 3,036-piece Tree House made with plant-based materials. The company aims to move to an entirely sustainable brick base in the next decade. Other favorites for his family of five include anything from the Harry Potter Collection.
But perhaps Keane’s favorite build of all time is a custom piece—the small spaceship from his interview, which still sits on his office shelf as reminder of who he is and where he’s been.