Doeke Geertsma

Co-Founder & CEO, WeAreKeen

1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?

Despite the fact that my parents split up when I was around 6, my youth was free of issues or trouble. I grew up with my dad, he’s my hero. Everybody around me was supportive, I did a lot of sports and had loads of friends. I was definitely the happiest when I was playing outside! I also used to dress up and play explorer / adventurer, we would go into the forest and act as if we found a new country! Loved that stuff 😉

2. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

To jump on an airplane to the otherside of the world 3 weeks after I turned 18. The richness in life you get from traveling and complete freedom is insane. In total I spent around 3 years traveling the world, before I more or less settled down.. Of course it is foremost a tremendous privilege. Hard to stress how much so.. But I guess that’s also one of the main lessons learned on the road. To see people from all walks of life in different places makes you realize how incredibly fortunate we are just b/c we were accidentally born in my case in the Netherlands. It is also the best school in the world on how to be objective. And to meet with so many people was definitely an eye opener for me. Yes the kodak moments are plenty but in the end it’s about people, people and yes the people. Hmm might that have something to do with my current job 😉

In any case I think it is quite fair to say those years have been very formative for me. Specifically in making friends around the world, dealing with hazardous (more than 1 I can assure you..) scenarios and learning that everything usually works out just fine if you treat people like you would like to be treated yourself.

3. At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?

Cheesy but true, when my daughter was born on 17.04.2008. Everything fell into place. I was 29 at the time.

4. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

I’m a sucker for books about (real) life adventurers. So I love books like Papillon and Shantaram. Probably because it’s real, it involves travel and adventure and relies on accidental friendships to overcome perilous situations. I have to admit I always struggle with business books. I have a ton nonetheless haha. A book my mother gave me when I turned 19 was Jonathan Livingston Seagull, like that a lot as well. It’s about breaking free and away from the pack. It took me 10 years in a ‘corporate’ job to gain the guts or perhaps it was confidence to start my own business.

5. Name a well-known person you admire and explain why you hold them high esteem?

I guess there are a few, but I suppose Nelson Mandela is on the top spot. How can anyone be so determined and hold so little grudge towards people who facilited ‘Apartheid’. To not go absolutely nuts in isolation for I don’t know how many years and then find the strength to build bridges in a shattered nation. Incredible stamina, resilience and just pure goodness. Amazing.

6. What personality trait has got you in the most trouble? What kind of trouble does it get you in?

I can get quite excited about something, an idea, a project, sports, a holiday or basically whatever. This also means I sometimes find it hard to let go of ‘my’ idea 😉 I’m super grateful I have two super strong, smart and basically incredible co-founders. Stuff resolves itself when they both argue something different than one-of-my-1000-headspins. Which could otherwise be tricky when it would be just one other co-founder. This could easily end-up in a stand-off of some kind I suppose. Something I learned from my former boss by the way – a good guy.

7. What is your untrainable superpower?

Oeff I’m doubtful about 2 things: I like to enthuse people about stuff I’m passionate about and that can be quite a few things because I also have an insatiable curiosity in a lot of things but I guess mostly people.. I’ll let people close to me decide on this one.

8. When was the last time you felt like an outsider in a group? What/How did you learn?

This happens quite often I have to admit haha. People don’t always notice I think but my personality is somewhat of an extroverted introvert I suppose. I can be completely at ease one moment and sort of lose it right after. For example I love doing presentations and do not really care if there is a small or larger crowd in front of me. But that doesn’t mean I’m at ease within that same group after the presentation. In terms of learning: I think in contrast to when I was younger – I know this is me and I don’t need to change.

9. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?

This must have something to do with mother nature and sustainability. We’ve seen this trend become more or less mainstream in most western countries. But that doesn’t mean that we’re there yet. I think more and more countries and companies will be judged on their ability to align their (business) goals with minimizing impact on nature. And I don’t mean buying off your carbon footprint but the real deal. This will consequently also happen with social entrepreneurship for the better good of the society at large.

10. What’s the last image on your camera roll? Care to explain?

It’s a photo of my youngest daughter getting ready for her first ever field hockey match. The photo is together with one of her best friends. Who happens to be the daughter of one of my best friends since high-school! I can get quite emotional about this type of stuff. My wife thinks I’m getting soft 😉 I just think it’s emotional wealth in its purest form. But then again I’m quite stubborn.

11. What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?

Art. I love art. Mostly contemporary, architecture and street art. I used to be all-in into hip-hop, graffiti, vinyl etc. Then I lost that a bit – during my corporate years?! – and recently fell back in love with it. I went to an amazing museum here in the Netherlands where I bought 3 skateboard decks there from an up and coming artist from South-Africa: Robin Rhode. Super happy with those!

12. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?

I’d love to own a camping, B&B, hotel of some sort with a nice place where people could gather and chill. I suppose this could be the bar. I would be more interested where this bar would be and most importantly what the view would be like. I just love a drink with a good view!

13. If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?

Hustler. But in the right and positive sense. Connecting people, helping and supporting those in need. Making sure everybody gets by and has everything they need. Funnily enough I’ve given this question a lot of thought in the past as well. How would the new world order be made and mostly who would rebuild all the stuff we have and do we need that to happen anyway? I’m a sucker for camping in the middle of nowhere. Every time I do so I’m amazed – and this always happens all over every time – how little we actually need to get by and be happy. As they say: it is the simple things that matter most in life.

14. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? Who gave it and when?

A few weeks into my new job I had a sales meeting with a hot prospect together with the company owner. When we walked out he said: I don’t need to teach you anything, the only difference between you and me is. I had a few thousand sales meeting and you had a few hundred. Just make sure you talk to as many people as possible and everything will be just fine. Quote from Hugo.

15. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

I think I’m quite persistent and don’t give up very easily.

16. What role do you find yourself playing when you join a newly formed team? Can you explain why this happens?

I try to make sure everybody is at ease, feels safe and comfortable. My dad used to tell me when I was younger: you will end up in healthcare, taking care of people. I like to think I do the same thing but then in a goal-orientated and pragmatic setting. I mean, how great is it to take care of someone by landing them their dream job!

17. What hiring heuristic do you generally go with?

I’m usually mostly interested in the ability to self-reflect, level of curiosity and the way people describe themselves via a 3rd person. But mostly I’m always super grateful if someone on our team joins an interview b/c they are the real pros at interviewing and not me.

18. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

Have automation take over human decision making. Technology is here to support humans, not the other way around.

19. If you could add a question for the next person to answer, what would it be?

What does freedom mean to you and why?

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

Anna Ott she’s a rockstar.

Thank you to Doeke Geertsma for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Doeke on LinkedIn

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